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Institutional Ethnography: Preparing Buyers in a Homeownership Society

Case
By: Published: 2014 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 1
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Abstract

This project uses institutional ethnography to analyze the textually mediated relationships between consumers and the professionals involved in real estate: sales agents, insurance agents, mortgage lenders and community development programs. Since 2008, researchers have been debating the causes and consequences of the US financial crisis. A great deal of attention has focused on the government bailout of the banking industry. My interest focuses on policies affecting regular people making economic decisions for their households. When I immersed myself in the world of real estate, I found that prospective buyers faced tightened rules and regulations. New lending requirements have imposed a 43% maximum debt-to-income ratio and higher credit scores, making it harder for prospective homebuyers to obtain mortgages, but less likely they will default in the future. These and other guidelines were published in reports and “interpreted” for consumers by loan originators, agents, and credit counselors. (You can read more about the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's summary of changes on their web site.) I expanded the project to include various sources of financial education available to prospective homebuyers. In this case study, using my own research on preparing buyers in a homeownership society, I discuss the course of a research project as it is developing.

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