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Homeowner Perception Changing: Most No Longer in Denial about U.S. Housing Slide

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RISMEDIA, February 12, 2009-American homeowners’ perceptions of the value of their own homes moved more in line with reality at the end of 2008, at least when it came to hindsight. More than half (57 percent) believe their own home lost value during the year, according to the Zillow Q4 Homeowner Confidence Survey[1]. This is markedly more than the 38 percent who believed their home’s value was declining when asked during the second quarter of 2008.

In reality, 76 percent of all U.S. homes lost value in 2008, according to analysis of the Zillow Q4 Real Estate Market Reports. With these new findings, Zillow’s Home Value Misperception Index[2] shrunk to 10 in the fourth quarter, from 16 in the third and 32 in the second quarter. An index of zero would mean homeowners’ perceptions were in line with actual values.

Homeowners May Believe a Bottom Has Been Reached

However, when asked what the near future will bring for their homes, most homeowners expressed optimism, and appear to believe that the worst may be over. According to the survey, more than two-thirds (70 percent) of homeowners believe their home’s value will either increase or stay the same in the first six months of 2009. Only 30 percent believe it will decrease.

“It’s clear that the ‘not my house’ sentiment that was so prevalent in earlier surveys is waning, and homeowners are opening their eyes to the unfortunate reality of significant losses in home values across most of the country,” said Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow’s vice president of data and analytics. “That said, there’s a curious optimism for homeowners when asked about the future – most seem to believe we’ve hit a bottom and the worst has passed. Unfortunately, the data tells another story. With year-over-year home value losses continuing to accelerate, most areas of the country will see housing values get worse before they begin to stabilize.”

Meanwhile, homeowners’ optimism for the future does not extend to their neighbors’ homes. While 70 percent of homeowners think their own homes’ values will increase or stay the same in the first half of 2009, only 52 percent believe home values in their local market will increase or stay the same during the same time period. Nearly half (48 percent) think values in their local market will decrease, but only 30 percent believe the same will happen to their own homes.

Homeowners are still more optimistic about their local market than in the third quarter, however, when more than half (57 percent) said values in their local market would decrease in the next six months.

Homeowner Perception by Region

 Homeowner Perception of Home Value Change in Past Year by Region US 2008 Northeast Midwest South West
My Home’s Value Has Decreased 57% 58% 58% 47% 70%
My Home’s Value Has Stayed the Same 18% 20% 20% 20% 11%
My Home’s Value Has Increased 25% 23% 22% 33% 19%
Market Reality: Homes Reporting Year-over-Year Value Changes in Q4, according to Zillow
Actual Percent of Homes that Decreased 76% 71% 73% 70% 90%
Actual Percent of Homes that Stayed the Same (+/-1%) 4% 6% 5% 5% 2%
Actual Percent of Homes that Increased 20% 24% 22% 25% 9%
Q4 Home Value Misperception Index 10 3 5 14 13
Q3 Home Value Misperception Index 16 20 15 13 13
Q2 Home Value Misperception Index 32 29 31 36 23
Homeowner Perception of Own Home’s Value in Next Six Months
My Home’s Value Will Decrease 30% 30% 30% 26% 37%
My Home’s Value Will Stay the Same 43% 43% 46% 45% 38%
My Home’s Value Will Increase 27% 27% 24% 29% 25%

(NOTE: Column percentages may not total 100 percent due to rounding)

Northeasterners Have Firmest Grasp on Realities of 2008′s Housing Market

With a Misperception Index of only 3 – down from 20 in the third quarter – the perception of homeowners in the Northeast was closest to reality. Well over half (57 percent) of Northeastern homeowners believe their own home’s value declined during 2008, while 20 percent believed it stayed the same. According to Zillow’s fourth quarter data, 71 percent of homes in the Northeast declined in value during 2008.

Homeowners in the West, where values were hardest-hit, lost some of their optimism in the fourth quarter, but home values continued to edge downward, leaving Western homeowners’ perceptions among the farthest from reality with a Misperception Index of 13 (the same as last quarter). Southerners’ perceptions were farthest from reality, with a Misperception Index of 14.

For more information or prior quarters’ results, visit the Zillow press room at http://zillow.mediaroom.com, or email press@zillow.com.

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