There’s a unique problem in my apartment building – the building has been built with provision for only seven parking slots in the basement but each of the nine houses here has been allotted a slot, which means there are two obstructing slots. Unfortunately, my slot is at a location where I get blocked by the car belonging to the guy upstairs and so I’m a directly affected party due to this problem.

Currently I’ve managed to get around this problem by parking my car in some corner of the basement but neighbours are cribbing saying it spoils the “look” of the building (as if the look of the basement matters! ).

Coming back to the problem, I was wondering if there exists a solution. Clearly, the shape and orientation of the basement means that not more than seven cars can be parked there in a non-obstructing manner. Now, since every houseowner here was allotted a slot when the building got built, they are entitled to a slot so it is not feasible to request/tell someone to rent their house to someone who doesn’t own a car (2 bedroom houses with parking slots cost some 2 kilorupees a month more than those without parking slots).

Thinking about it, the only solution I realized is by trading a parking slot among affected parties. For example, the slot of my house (B1) is obstructed by the slot belonging to the C2 house. Now, what if my owner tries to buy out C2’s parking space? He can either buy it out outright or he can pay the owner of C2 a monthly fee in exchange for C2 not letting out his house to someone with a car.

And he gets compensated for this by charging a higher rent from me (note that if my landlord buys out the c2 slot, I effectively get two slots, since both belong to me, there is no obstruction). The key to this, however, is the relative pricing of various parking slot combinations.

The key equation is this: if Pn is the monthly rent of a house in this building with 2 bedrooms and n parking slots, then there is a profitable trade between the owner of my house and the owner of C2 if and only if:

P0 + P2 >= 2 P1

If the above equation doesn’t hold, the amount by which my owner gets compensated (by me) for the second parking slot will not suffice to pay the owner of C2 to not let out his house to someone with a car, so the trade I described above cannot take place.

But then, according to Coase theorem, irrespective of initial allocations (here C2 has a parking slot that blocks B1’s slot) there exists a trade in which each party gets the desired outcome. Is there a contradiction with the equation I’ve written above?

Now, thinking about it, the value of both my house and C2 is not actually P1 but a number P1′ which is less than P1. P1′ takes into account the pain of having an obstructed parking slot (I get pained because I can’t take out my car when I want; C2 gets pained because I disturb him every time I want to take out my car), and so effectively both my house and C2 would be overvalued if we were paying a rent of P1.

And if we take P1′ into consideration rather than P1, I’m sure the following equation holds:

P0 + P2 >= P1′

The only other problem here is that when taking a flat on rent, you are unlikely to check for details such as if your parking space is blocked, so it is likely that the deal will take place at P1 rather than at P1′. However, once you move in, you figure out the pain and the owner of the apartment will feel the pinch when his tenants clear out at a rate faster than he would’ve expected which ends up reducing his long-term average rental income. And the deal I described above will take place if and only if he figures out why the fair value of this apartment is P1′ and not P1.

Great post! This is more like the kind of posts you were writing a few years ago.

A suggestion – I think it might be just a little easier for readers to readily grasp your point if you rewrite the equation as –

P2 – P1 >= P1 – P0

yeah that’s how I initially formulated the equation but generally decided to turn it around!

You have misunderstood Coase’s theorem. It does not say that there exists a trade where each party gets its “desired outcome”. That gets you into free lunch territory, because no economist can guarantee a desired outcome regardless of cost.

What Coase’s theorem says is that when people are free to trade and property rights are well-defined, the outcome that is most economically efficient will occur regardless of the initial allocation. In other words, as long as the parking slots are clearly defined as two slots and people are allowed to trade parking slots, one party will end up with both the slots if your inequality holds true, or each will end up with the slots if it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter how the slots are allotted initially.

This is assuming no transaction costs and information asymmetry. As you have correctly pointed out, both exist in this case.