Academic journal article Journal of Sociology

Home Owners, Home Renovation and Residential Mobility

Academic journal article Journal of Sociology

Home Owners, Home Renovation and Residential Mobility

Article excerpt


Contemporary studies into residential mobility focus on mover households, but pay little attention to households that do not move. Conceptually, it is assumed that households make a voluntary decision to move when their current residence no longer meets their needs. This argument does not however account for households who, in the face of residential dissatisfaction, renovate or undertake alterations to better satisfy their needs. This paper presents data for Adelaide, South Australia to look at the extent to which owners renovate their homes. The analysis identifies two groups of renovators--non-mover renovators and mover renovators. Using data from the Housing and Location Preference Survey, an analysis is presented which discusses the factors which may influence renovation activity of these two groups.


In studies of residential mobility it is commonly argued that households choose to move when there is disequilibrium between the current combination of dwelling and location and some preferred combination. Such arguments are reflected in the research by Rossi (1955) who, in a survey of households having moved in the United States city of Philadelphia, concluded that the process of residential mobility is the means by which `families adjust their housing to the housing needs that are generated by shifts in family composition that accompany life cycle changes' (Rossi 1955: 10).

Rossi's model and others of the same genre (McHugh 1984; Varady 1983; Roistacher 1974; McCarthy 1976; Pickvance 1973; McLeod and Ellis 1982; Sandefur and Scott 1981) assume that changes within a household's circumstances lead to residential dissatisfaction, which may inevitably lead to a decision to relocate. Consequently, these studies generally regard the mover household as their frame of reference and have investigated the different characteristics of households who move, arguing that these are fundamentally different from those who choose to stay. `Whilst strong inertia against moving is often recognised, the immobile sector is interesting only insofar as it provides a datum from which comparison with those who move can be made' (Seek 1983: 456).

This simple dichotomy between movers supposedly reacting to residential dissatisfaction, and stayers, whom logic may suggest are satisfied, is flawed for a number of reasons. By assuming that households attempt to maximise their housing utility by moving, this dichotomy does not allow for the full spectrum of outcomes within the housing adjustment process. It does not account for households who, because of their circumstances, cannot move, nor does it account for households who, whilst quite happy with their previous residential environment, are forced to move. The simple dichotomy also does not allow for households to adjust their housing in-situ; that is, make adjustments to existing dwellings rather than moving. As Deane (1990: 67) argues: `Dissatisfaction signals the initiation of a process that may lead to mobility, but given the wide range of exogenous conditions, several paths to stress reduction may be followed, circumventing the mobility decision' (emphasis added).

Noting the flaws in the simple mover-stayer dichotomy, a number of studies attempt to locate the decision to move within broader processes of residential decisions, and in doing so allow for a number of other possible processes and outcomes. An example is the research by Brown and Moore (1970) who propose a three-stage model for voluntary residential mobility. When households perceive a sufficient level of residential dissatisfaction they can:

1 adjust their aspirations and not move;

2 adjust their current housing and not move; or

3 choose to relocate.

Clearly, for certain households the first or second option may be favoured due in part to the household situation at any given time. Households may decide to remain at their present address and simply scale down or change their housing preferences. …

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