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Consumers see mixed outlook for housing

posted Sep 17, 2010, 7:43 AM by Jayson Wingfield   [ updated Sep 17, 2010, 7:44 AM ]

WASHINGTON – Sept. 16, 2010 – Fannie Mae’s latest national housing survey finds that most Americans believe the housing market has reached bottom, but they are more cautious about owning a home. Respondents to the Fannie Mae National Housing Survey believe that home prices will hold steady (47 percent) or increase (31 percent) over the next year, and that rental prices will stay the same (46 percent) or go up (39 percent). Across the general population, the average expected rise in rental prices is four times that of home prices (3.6 percent versus 0.9 percent).

Seventy percent of Americans think it is a good time to buy a house, compared with 64 percent in a similar survey conducted in January 2010. But 33 percent – up from 30 percent – of all respondents said they would be more likely to rent their next home if they moved.

“These findings indicate a return to a more balanced and realistic approach toward housing,” said Doug Duncan, vice president and chief economist, Fannie Mae. “While this will likely weigh on the housing recovery in the near-term, it should, over time, help to build a stronger and healthier market focused on sustainable homeownership. Homeowners and renters alike continue to be wary of taking on risk, and they are less confident in the long-term outlook for housing.”

A majority of Americans (67 percent) continue to believe that housing is a safe investment; however, that number is down 16 percentage points from a similar survey conducted in 2003 – the largest drop by far among all investment types tracked since then. Delinquent borrowers and renters are notably more discouraged than mortgage borrowers and underwater borrowers about a home’s safety as an investment and the appeal of buying versus renting. More than 70 percent of all respondents believe it will be harder for the next generation to buy a home, up three points from the beginning of the year.

The Fannie Mae National Housing Survey polled homeowners and renters between June 2010 and July 2010. Findings were compared to a similar survey conducted by Fannie Mae from December 2009 to January 2010 and released in April 2010, and a similar survey conducted in 2003.

Overview of key findings

• A large majority of Americans (78 percent) believe that home prices either will remain flat or go up over the next year, up five points from the beginning of the year. Forty-seven percent believe prices will hold steady, while 31 percent think they will go up. This is a notable shift from January 2010, when these numbers were 36 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

• Thirty-nine percent think rental prices will increase over the next 12 months, while 46 percent said they would stay the same.

• Consumers continue to believe it is a buyers’ market; 70 percent said it is a good time to buy a house, up six points from January. However, 83 percent believe it is a bad time to sell a house.

• A majority of Americans (67 percent) continue to believe that buying a home is a safe investment, although this is down three points since January and 16 points since 2003. Housing ranked second behind putting money into a savings or money market account (76 percent).

• Fifty-four percent think it would be very difficult or somewhat difficult to get a home loan today, down six points since January. However, 71 percent of Americans think buying a home will be harder for the next generation, up three points since January.

Consumers continue to be cautious in housing decisions

• The number of respondents who said they would be more likely to rent rather than buy their next home if they were going to move increased from 30 percent in January to 33 percent in July.

• A majority of renters said they would be more likely to rent their next home if they were to move, increasing significantly from 54 percent in January to 60 percent in July, even though 69 percent of renters think it makes more sense to buy a home.

• Twenty-two percent of mortgage borrowers said they have reduced their mortgage debt significantly in the last year, and 27 percent of mortgage borrowers say they have reduced their non-mortgage debt significantly.

Views on homeownership diverge among sub-groups

• Mortgage borrowers (74 percent) and underwater borrowers (69 percent) are more likely to say owning a home is a safe investment than delinquent borrowers (57 percent) and renters (54 percent). However, this measure has fallen among all sub-groups since January, with delinquent borrowers and renters showing the largest declines, down eight and seven points, respectively.

• Mortgage borrowers (83 percent) and underwater borrowers (77 percent) said they are more likely to buy in the future than rent – both groups increased two points from January.

• The number of renters (37 percent) and delinquent borrowers (52 percent) who said they are more likely to buy in the future declined by seven and four points from January, respectively.

Economic and housing attitudes among minority respondents

• Forty-eight percent of African-Americans and 36 percent of Hispanics believe the economy is on the right track, compared to just 30 percent of the general public.

• Seventy-one percent of African-Americans and 58 percent of Hispanics expect their personal finances to get better over the next year, compared to 44 percent of the general public.

• African-Americans (65 percent) and Hispanics (72 percent) believe that obtaining a home mortgage today would be difficult, compared to 54 percent of the general public.

• African-Americans (75 percent) and Hispanics (76 percent) both still believe that owning a home is a good way to build up wealth that can be passed along to their families, compared to 58 percent of the general population.

A fact sheet containing a complete set of the survey’s key findings can be found (PDF format) at: Fannie Mae National Housing Survey Fact Sheet.

© 2010 Florida Realtors®

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