We use excavations of low-status houses to explore Postclassic political and economic transformations in the lower Río Verde Valley, Oaxaca. Following the collapse of Classic period political institutions, commoners experienced greater economic and political autonomy. Residential excavations at Río Viejo indicate that commoners took advantage of the absence of regional authority to gain greater control over surplus craft products, especially cotton thread, as well as access to social valuables and long distance trade. By the Late Postclassic period, the region was once again dominated by powerful rulers. Yet household excavations at Tututepec show that Late Postclassic commoners continued to control some surplus craft production and had access to social valuables like copper and polychrome pottery via market exchange. We argue that Late Postclassic political relations were a product of negotiations among elites and commoners that in part reflect the greater economic autonomy and political power that Early Postclassic people had acquired.