About 61 percent of homeowners and renters say the economy is on the wrong track, according to the results of a housing survey conducted for Fannie Mae, and about 60 percent of respondents said it is more difficult for them to secure a home loan than for their parents’ generation.

An earlier survey, conducted in December 2003, found that 43 percent of respondents believed that the economy was on the wrong track at that time, and 49 percent said it was more difficult to secure a loan at that time than it was in their parents’ generation.

About 61 percent of homeowners and renters say the economy is on the wrong track, according to the results of a housing survey conducted for Fannie Mae, and about 60 percent of respondents said it is more difficult for them to secure a home loan than for their parents’ generation.

An earlier survey, conducted in December 2003, found that 43 percent of respondents believed that the economy was on the wrong track at that time, and 49 percent said it was more difficult to secure a loan at that time than it was in their parents’ generation.

The latest Fannie Mae National Housing Survey, conducted from Dec. 12, 2009, to Jan. 12, 2010, by Penn Schoen Berland in partnership with Oliver Wyman, included 3,451 telephone interviews with U.S. adults.

The survey is intended to assess confidence in the economy and homeownership as an investment, and to gauge views on the housing finance system.

Buying a home is no longer considered the safest investment, the survey reveals. "Putting money into a savings or money market account" was ranked as safe by 74 percent of survey participants, compared with 70 percent who said buying a home was safe.

Buying a home was considered the safest investment (with 83 percent of participants considering it safe) in the 2003 survey, while putting money into a savings or money market account was selected as safe by 79 percent of participants in that survey.

In the latest survey, 61 percent of renters (vs. 79 percent in the 2003 survey) said buying a home is a safe investment, compared with 76 percent (vs. 88 percent in the 2003 survey) of those with a mortgage.

Buying stocks ranked lowest, with 17 percent (vs. 25 percent in the 2003 survey) of all survey respondents selecting this choice as a safe investment.

About 64 percent (vs. 66 percent in the 2003 survey) of respondents said it is a good time to buy a house — that share ranged as high as 71 percent among those with a mortgage and as low as 58 percent among renters.

Survey respondents include 887 homeowners, 1,110 mortgage borrowers, 908 renters, 338 underwater borrowers (who report owing at least 5 percent more on their mortgage than their home is worth), and 400 delinquent borrowers.

About 37 percent of respondents said they expect housing prices will rise in the next year (vs. 64 percent in the 2003 survey), while 36 percent expect prices to remain about the same and 23 percent expect prices to drop.

About 70 percent of renters said it is harder to buy a home today than it was in their parents’ generation, compared with 52 percent of homeowners.

And survey participants expect the tough lending environment to continue. About 68 percent of all respondents expect it will be harder for their children, or the next generation in general, to buy a home than it is today.

That share is higher among delinquent borrowers (72 percent), homeowners with a mortgage (71 percent), and homeowners (69 percent).

About 68 percent of delinquent borrowers surveyed said they are sacrificing a great deal to own their home, compared with 35 percent of underwater borrowers, 27 percent of owners with a mortgage, and 20 percent of all borrowers.

About 90 percent of delinquent borrowers said they expect it would be difficult for them to get a loan today, compared with 78 percent of renters, 46 percent of owners and 60 percent of all survey participants.

Credit history was cited by the highest share of survey participants (22 percent) as the biggest obstacle to securing a home loan, followed by income (19 percent), job or job security (15 percent), having enough for a downpayment (15 percent), finding an affordable interest rate (9 percent), and total personal debt (8 percent).

Credit history was a particular problem for renters and delinquent borrowers, with 33 percent of renters and 34 percent of delinquent borrowers citing credit history as the largest barrier to securing a loan.

If they seek a new loan, 76 percent of respondents said they are confident that if they were buying or refinancing their home they would get the information they need to choose the right loan. That share falls to 61 percent among delinquent borrowers, and is higher for those who earn $100,000 or more annually (89 percent) than for those earning less than $25,000 per year (65 percent). …CONTINUED

Most delinquent borrowers (51 percent) said they are not satisfied with the features of their current mortgage, compared with 16 percent of underwater borrowers and 9 percent of all owners with a mortgage.

And those borrowers with an adjustable-rate mortgage are less satisfied with the features of their mortgage (68 percent satisfaction) than those with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (93 percent satisfaction).

Similarly, 65 percent of ARM borrowers believe they made a good decision on their mortgage, versus 86 percent among those with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

About 47 percent of underwater and delinquent borrowers have considered stopping their mortgage payments altogether, the survey found, compared with 39 percent of delinquent borrowers, 9 percent of underwater owners and 6 percent of all owners with a mortgage.

Also, 64 percent of delinquent borrowers said banks should not foreclose on people who are unable to pay their mortgage, compared with 38 percent among underwater owners and 54 percent of those with a mortgage.

Eight percent of all respondents said it’s OK for people to stop making payments on their mortgage — that share was 20 percent among delinquent borrowers.

A higher share of all respondents (15 percent) said financial distress does makes it OK to stop paying their mortgage, and that share was 39 percent among delinquent borrowers.

About 56 percent of delinquent borrowers say they are "very stressed" over their ability to make debt payments, compared with 39 percent of underwater owners and 12 percent of all owners with a mortgage.

In assigning blame for unaffordable home loans, 53 percent of all survey respondents said the person taking out the mortgage is most at fault. That share fell to 33 percent among delinquent borrowers.

And 48 percent of all survey respondents said that the bank should foreclose on homes if the owners are unable to pay their mortgages. That compares with a 29 percent share for delinquent borrowers, 41 percent of renters and 54 percent of owners with a mortgage.

Respondents, on average, said that 18 percent of income should go into savings, and 32 percent of total personal income is the maximum amount that should go toward mortgage payments each month.

About 9 percent of all survey respondents said they had previously declared bankruptcy and 2 percent said they had previously been foreclosed upon. Among renters, 11 percent said they had declared bankruptcy and 4 percent had been foreclosed upon. Among delinquent borrowers, 13 percent said they had declared bankruptcy and 2 percent said they had been foreclosed upon.

Among those who had been foreclosed upon, 11 percent of all respondents said it occurred less than one year ago, 16 percent said it was one to two years ago, 20 percent said it was three to four years ago, 12 percent said it was five to seven years ago and 36 percent said it was more than seven years ago. …CONTINUED

Asked how long they think it would take before their credit score would recover to its previous level after a mortgage default, 35 percent said five to 10 years, 17 percent said three to five years, and 18 percent said they didn’t know.

Homeowners participating in the survey were asked how often they check the value of their home. About 34 percent said "never or almost never," 25 percent said once every few years, 29 percent said once or twice a year, 6 percent said every few months and 4 percent said every month or more frequently.

Delinquent and underwater borrowers were the most likely to check frequently, with 23 percent of delinquent borrowers and 17 percent of underwater borrowers checking at least every few months.

For those who check their home value at least every few years, 50 percent of this group of respondents said they check what nearby homes are selling for, 31 percent said they ask a Realtor, and 29 percent look at online valuation sites like Zillow, the survey found.

About 54 percent of renters said one of the major reasons they have not bought a house is that they don’t believe their credit is good enough to qualify for a mortgage, while 47 percent of renters said they don’t think they can afford the purchase or upkeep of a home and 41 percent "don’t think it’s a good time economically to buy a home."

Additionally, 34 percent of renters said they don’t expect to be in the same area for an extended period of time, 30 percent said it’s cheaper per month to rent than to buy, and 25 percent said the homebuying process "seems too complicated."

Seventy-five percent of renters said owning a home makes more sense than renting due to potential rent increases and home-value appreciation, which is the same share as among underwater borrowers. The share was 92 percent among those with a mortgage.

Among all respondents, 65 percent said they would be more likely to buy a home if they moved, compared with 30 percent who would rent a home. About 81 percent of those with a mortgage said they would buy a home if they moved, compared with 44 percent of renters.

The survey found that 67 percent of renters are more likely to buy than rent in the future, which compares with 62 percent of all respondents and 68 percent of underwater and delinquent borrowers.

But that percentage drops in the near-term. About 52 percent of renters said they’re likely to buy a home in the next three years — half of those respondents said they were "very likely" to purchase in that time frame.

Neighborhood safety is a key factor in home purchases, said 43 percent of respondents — the highest share among multiple choices in the survey. Quality of schools ranked second with 43 percent of respondents.

Price of the home was next on the list (28 percent), followed by ability to pay mortgage and quality of the home (each at 22 percent), distance to family and friends (19 percent), length of commute (18 percent), likelihood the home will appreciate (16 percent), property taxes (15 percent), size of the home or property and ability to add on to the size of the home (each at 14 percent), and energy efficiency (11 percent).

Of those living in urban areas, 53 percent said they would be most likely to move to a suburban or rural area. Among those living in suburban areas, 41 percent said they’d be most likely to move to urban or rural areas. And among those living in rural areas, 25 percent said they would consider moving to urban or suburban areas.

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