Americans Still See Homeownership as Positive


Despite the trauma of the last few
years, most Americans still believe that owning a home is preferable to renting
according to the latest quarterly National Housing Survey data released by Fannie
Mae.  Many of these respondents, however,
do not act on this belief because they view homeownership as an investment or
because of financial constraints or an inability to get a mortgage.

The Fannie Mae survey is conducted by
telephone every month among a revolving panel of about 1,000 respondents
consisting of renters, homeowners with mortgages, and homeowners without mortgages.  A subset of homeowners with mortgages
self-identify as being underwater with those mortgages.  The panel is asked a number of questions about
their attitudes toward homeownership, the economy, and their own personal
financial situation.  Each month the
survey has a particularly focus and the current survey dealt with attitudes
toward homeownership.

More than 90 percent of homeowners,
whether mortgaged or owning outright, believe that homeownership is preferable to
renting.  Even homeowners who are
underwater on their mortgages are proponents of owning rather than renting as
are more than two-thirds of renters. 
These numbers have remained quite stable across the eight quarters
Fannie Mae has conducted the survey even as housing prices have declined.   

While a slight majority feel that
homeownership has a high investment potential, fewer feel that it is a safe
investment than did so a few years ago. 
Apart from the investment potential, respondents cited safety and the
quality of local schools as the top reasons for buying homes.  African-Americans and Hispanics were more
likely to cite other benefits such as a way to build wealth, civic benefits,
and a symbol of achievement as benefits of homeownership while lower income
groups were more likely to cite the wealth building aspects of homeownership
than were those making higher incomes. 
Sixty-four percent of renters said they would probably purchase a home
at some point in time.

While the majority of respondents viewed
homeownership as beneficial, financial constrains or an inability to secure a
mortgage may keep many from purchasing.  Many
of those surveyed citied the difficulty of getting a mortgage as a reason they
did not own a home including renters, those with lower levels of education
and/or lower income, African-Americans and Hispanics.  The latter two groups also said they were not
confident that they were getting adequate information to select a loan.

spite of the impact of the housing crisis on home values and homeownership
rates across the country, Americans by and large still hope to become
homeowners,” said Doug Duncan, vice president and chief economist of Fannie
Mae. “Some may not be financially positioned to own a home in the near future,
but Americans may begin to revisit that aspiration as employment and household
balance sheets improve over the coming years.”

“A point of concern for the industry
is that some consumers find the mortgage shopping process difficult to
navigate,” Duncan continued. “If potential homeowners avoid the process because
they believe it to be too complex, we will likely see a continued impact on
homeownership rates.”

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