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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™. Likely bolstered by a strengthening employment sector, the share of consumers who believe the economy is headed in the right direction improved by 5 percentage points to 41 percent. Those citing that the economy is heading in the wrong direction declined to 51 percent, the fifth consecutive monthly decrease. However, although the share of respondents who think it would be easy to get a mortgage today increased to 52 percent, tying the all-time survey high, the share who say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago has remained flat at 25 percent.

“Despite consistent and robust job growth in recent months, consumer attitudes toward housing remained cautious in the final month of 2014,” says 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 to get a mortgage by the widest amount in the survey’s history,” says 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.”

Survey Highlights

Homeownership and Renting

  • The average 12-month home price change expectation fell to 2.3 percent.
  • The share of respondents who say home prices will go up in the next 12 months rose to 46 percent. The share who say home prices will go down increased to 8 percent.
  • The share of respondents who say mortgage rates will go up in the next 12 months rose by 3 percentage points to 48 percent.
  • Those who say it is a good time to buy a house fell to 64 percent. Those who say it is a good time to sell increased by 1 percentage point to 40 percent.
  • The average 12-month rental price change expectation increased to 4.1 percent.
  • The percentage of respondents who expect home rental prices to go up in the next 12 months remained at 53 percent.
  • The share of respondents who think it would be easy to get a home mortgage today increased to 52 percent—equaling an all-time survey high—while the share saying it would be difficult to get a mortgage dropped to 44 percent—a survey low.
  • The share who say they would buy if they were going to move fell to 61 percent—an all-time survey low—while the share who would rent increased 3 percentage points to 34 percent.

The Economy and Household Finances

  • The share of respondents who say the economy is on the right track increased by 5 percentage points to 41 percent.
  • The percentage of respondents who expect their personal financial situation to get better over the next 12 months decreased to 45 percent.
  • The share of respondents who say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago remained at 25 percent.
  • The share of respondents who say their household expenses are significantly higher than they were 12 months decreased to 34 percent.

For more information, visit http://www.fanniemae.com/progress.

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