This study investigates land investments and credit access resulting from a land rights formalization initiative in the Lusaka city region, Zambia, through 302 household interviews, key informant interviews, satellite image analysis and focus group discussions. Results reveal that no more than 27% of respondents in Bauleni and 15% in Madido had mortgaged their houses to formal institutions despite a perceived increase in house values due to the legitimization of property ownership. There was no marked increase in access to formal credit but local informal saving and credit associations, with only 30% having accessed credit. The reported and observed increase in immovable land investments such as house structure expansions, fencing of property and renovations by respondents (78% in Madido and 65% in Bauleni) was attributed to the availability of finances and not land rights formalization per se. The importance of socio-economic and local cultural norms in accruing benefits from property ownership is underplayed by land rights formalization proponents. Therefore, while land tenure reforms remain necessary, they are not sufficient conditions for the urban poor to realize the espoused benefits of formalization – induced capital formation.