Many say they’re not ready to own, despite improved economy outlook

by MPA07 Jan 2015

Americans are becoming more optimistic about the economy, but consumer confidence toward the housing market is lagging, according to results from Fannie Mae’s December 2014 National Housing Survey. The report polled 1,000 Americans via live telephone interview to assess their attitudes on housing and the economy.

Likely bolstered by a strengthening employment sector, the share of consumers who believe the economy is headed in the right direction improved by five percentage points to 41%. Those citing that the economy is heading in the wrong direction declined to 51%, the fifth consecutive monthly decrease. However, even though the share of respondents who think it would be easy to get a mortgage today increased to 52%, tying the all-time survey high, the share who says their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago has remained flat at 25%.

“Despite consistent and robust job growth in recent months, consumer attitudes toward housing remained cautious in the final month of 2014,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Our survey results show that consumer housing sentiment has, on average, been moving sideways amid some improvement in the general view of the economy. It is not surprising that the housing sector continues to lag behind the rest of the economy, given the long-term financial commitment that getting a mortgage represents. Many prospective homebuyers want to be certain that their personal finances can withstand potential downside risks to the economy.”

One notable result in the December survey is that the share of consumers believing that it would be easy to get a mortgage exceeds those saying it would be more difficult by the widest amount in the survey’s history, added Duncan. “While this is a welcome signal, softness in consumer attitudes that drive housing demand will make for a subdued recovery and should persist absent more meaningful and sustained gains in household income.”

Highlights from the survey:

  • The average 12-month home price change expectation fell to 2.3%.
  • The share of respondents who say home prices will go up in the next 12 months rose to 46%. The share who says home prices will go down increased to 8%.
  • The share of respondents who say mortgage rates will go up in the next 12 months rose by 3 percentage points to 48%.
  • Those who say it is a good time to buy a house fell to 64%. Those who say it is a good time to sell increased by 1 percentage point to 40%.
  • The share who says they would buy if they were going to move fell to 61%—an all-time survey low—while the share who would rent increased 3 percentage points to 34%.


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