Rising property taxes and energy costs are among the leading worries associated with home ownership, according to an annual survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors trade group’s Housing Opportunity Program.

About 34 percent of respondents stated that property taxes are a top worry, while 28 percent said they were most troubled by energy costs and 14 percent cited rising mortgage interest rates as a leading concern.

The Housing Opportunity Program, created in 2002, has a mission to promote rental and home-ownership opportunities for consumers.

By a 2-to-1 margin, respondents said they believe that high monthly payments, rather than high down payments, are “the greatest obstacle to buying a home,” according to an association announcement about the survey.

About 82 percent of respondents said high energy costs are one of their top three concerns, 53 percent cited lack of affordable healthcare and 42 percent cited lack of affordable housing in their community. About one-third said they worry that the cost of housing is so unaffordable that they will never be able to buy a home and more than 58 percent are concerned that the cost of a home is becoming so unaffordable that it is hurting their local economy, the Realtor group reported.

Between one-fifth and one-third of respondents said they are not seeing enough of their friends and family and they are not as involved in their neighborhood as they would like, according to the survey results. They also report missing out on promotions, having less productivity and cutting back on vacations because they have to work too much to pay for their home or they don’t have the money because of high home costs.

About 68 percent of survey participants said they believe having enough money to pay rent every month is difficult for families in their community — up 7 percent from last year.

Eight in 10 said they would be willing to support more affordable housing for people in their community and a record 68 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who worked to make housing more affordable in their area, up 6 percent in two years, the Realtor group reported.

“Many families are struggling to meet the high cost of home ownership, and increasingly those costs are property taxes and energy utilities,” stated Thomas M. Stevens, NAR president and senior vice president of NRT Inc.

In 2003, the average monthly mortgage principal and interest payment was $840. In 2005, families were paying 23.8 percent more, or $1,040 monthly. In the past year alone, the average monthly mortgage principal and interest payment has gone up 11.5 percent — from $1,015 in April 2005 to $1,132 in April 2006, the Realtor group reported.

The Energy Information Administration estimates that in February 2006 the price of electricity was 12 percent higher than February 2005; natural gas was up 28 percent; and home heating oil was up 25 percent. State and local property taxes for the 2004 fiscal year averaged $1,121 per person, up 13.8 percent from fiscal year 2003 when the average was $985, and 15.7 percent higher than the $969 average for the 2002 fiscal year, according to Census Bureau statistics.

“Americans are increasingly looking to their community leaders to seek ways to take a more active role in addressing affordability issues in their communities,” Stevens stated.

About 57 percent of respondents said they are increasingly concerned that their children or other family members will not be able to afford housing in their communities, and 46 percent said they worry that they and family members will be forced to live in less desirable areas because homes in more desirable areas are not affordable.

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