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Consumer Attitudes on Housing Continue Gradual Upward Trend

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By Pete Bakel

Results from Fannie Mae’s September 2012 National Housing Survey show Americans’ optimism about the recovery of the housing market and with regard to homeownership continued its gradual climb, bolstered by a series of mortgage rate decreases experienced throughout the summer. Consumer attitudes about the economy also improved substantially last month, breaking the progression of waning confidence seen during much of this year.

“Consumers are showing increasing faith in the nascent housing recovery,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae. “Home price change expectations have remained positive for 11 straight months, and the share expecting home price declines has stabilized at a survey low of only 11 percent. Furthermore, the Federal Reserve’s latest round of quantitative easing has caused a large drop in mortgage rate expectations. Friday’s September jobs report, including the strong upward revisions for prior months, a sizable increase in earnings, and a sharp decline in the unemployment rate, should provide further impetus for improving consumer confidence in the housing market.”

Keeping a relatively steady pace with recent periods, survey respondents expect home prices to increase an average of 1.5 percent in the next year. The share who say mortgage rates will increase in the next 12 months dropped 7 percentage points to 33 percent. Nineteen percent of those surveyed say now is a good time to sell, marking the highest level since the survey began in June 2010. Tying the June 2012 level (and the all-time high since the survey’s inception), 69 percent of respondents said they would buy if they were going to move.

With regard to the economy overall, 41 percent of consumers now believe the economy is on the right track, up from 33 percent last month, while 53 percent believe the economy is on the wrong track, compared with 60 percent the prior month. Both the right track and wrong track figures mark the highest and the lowest readings, respectively, since the survey began in June 2010.

Survey Highlights Include:

Homeownership and Renting

• Consumers’ average home price change expectation is 1.5 percent, consistent with recent periods and marking nearly a full year in which home price expectations have been positive.

• Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed expect home prices to go up in the next year, the highest level since the survey’s inception in June 2010.

• Thirty-three percent of respondents say mortgage rates will go up in the next year, a decrease of 7 percentage points since last month.

• Nineteen percent of respondents say it is a good time to sell, the highest level since the survey’s inception.

• Those who say now is a good time to buy dipped slightly to 72 percent.

• The percentage of respondents who say they would buy if they were going to move increased to 69 percent, tying June 2012 at the highest level since the survey’s inception.

The Economy and Household Finances

• Consumer optimism climbed in September, with 41 percent saying the economy is on the right track – the highest level recorded since the survey’s inception and an 8 percentage point increase over last month.

• Forty-four percent of respondents expect their personal financial situation to improve over the next year, up from 42 percent in August.

• The share of respondents who say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago decreased by 3 percentage points to 17 percent.

• Thirty-four percent of those surveyed say their household expenses are significantly higher than they were 12 months ago, a 2 percentage point increase over August.

The most detailed consumer attitudinal survey of its kind, the Fannie Mae National Housing Survey polled 1,000 Americans via live telephone interview to assess their attitudes toward owning and renting a home, mortgage rates, homeownership distress, the economy, household finances, and overall consumer confidence. Homeowners and renters are asked more than 100 questions used to track attitudinal shifts (findings are compared to the same survey conducted monthly beginning June 2010). Fannie Mae conducts this survey and shares monthly and quarterly results so that we may help industry partners and market participants target our collective efforts to stabilize the housing market in the near-term, and provide support in the future.

For detailed findings from the September 2012 survey, as well as a podcast providing an audio synopsis of the survey results and technical notes on survey methodology and questions asked of respondents associated with each monthly indicator, please visit the Fannie Mae Monthly National Housing Survey site.

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