The share of adults who think buying a home is a good financial decision has fallen for the third consecutive year, according to a yearly survey of the 25 most populated metropolitan statistical areas.

American Strategies and Myers Research & Strategic Services LLC conducted the 2010 Housing Opportunity Pulse Survey on behalf of the National Association of Realtors, interviewing 1,209 adults by telephone Sept. 12-17, 2010. A quarter were renters and 70 percent were homeowners.

Overall, 77 percent of respondents said they thought buying a home was a good financial decision in general; 16 percent said it was not a good decision; and 6 percent said they didn’t know.

The percentage of Pulse survey respondents who stated that buying a home was a good financial decision has been falling since the first time the question was asked in 2007, when it was 87 percent. This year’s survey has seen the steepest yearly drop, from 83 percent last year.

Job insecurity may play a role, the association said. Seventy percent of respondents — the highest proportion in the survey’s eight-year history — said job layoffs and unemployment were a big problem in their area, while only 9 percent said they were either a slight problem or no problem at all. 

"On the one hand, the market does not appear to be getting worse; but on the other hand, there is no sense that the market is improving either. Economic uncertainty abounds, and the fragile job market remains the largest barrier to the housing market recovering," an executive summary of the survey said.

"While there are some positive trends, for most Americans the … outlook for the housing market in the months ahead is more of the same."

The survey also asked if respondents believed "now is a good time to buy a home." Of all respondents, 68 percent said yes, while 26 percent said no (the remainder either refused to answer or responded that they "don’t know," mirroring the results of a recent Fannie Mae poll that found 70 percent of Americans thought it was a good time to buy.

"Homeowners (74 percent) are much more likely to agree that now is a good time to buy than renters (51 percent), suggesting some disconnect between those already in a home and having suffered a drop in value, and those who are not homeowners," the Pulse survey summary said.

More than a third of respondents (39 percent) said housing affordability was a big problem in their area, but nearly as many, 34 percent, said it either wasn’t a problem or was a slight problem. That contrasts to the height of the housing boom in 2005, when those figures were 51 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

Of seven obstacles to home affordability suggested in the survey, the one foremost in respondents’ minds was having enough confidence in their job security — 83 percent said this was a huge or medium-sized obstacle for people in their area.

Having enough money for a downpayment and closing costs was a big concern for 79 percent of respondents, while 78 percent said having a full-time job but still not making enough to afford a home or apartment close to work was a big obstacle.

Tougher lending requirements also loomed large: 73 percent said having enough confidence that they would be approved for a home mortgage would be a big obstacle, while 74 percent feared banks making it too hard to qualify for a home mortgage loan.

Homeownership was a priority for 63 percent of renters and not a priority for 36 percent, the survey found. Compared to last year, more renters said they preferred to rent (30 percent this year vs. 24 percent last year), while fewer said they were thinking more about buying (26 percent this year vs. 33 percent last year). The share of people who said homeownership is just not affordable remained roughly flat at 40 percent.

Of those who said they preferred to rent, 40 percent said it was because they couldn’t afford to buy, while 28 percent said it was because it was less risky and involved less responsibility. About 10 percent said it was because the market is too poor right now and 8 percent said it was because they don’t have to worry about a home losing value.

The share of people worried about the drop in home values in their area was the same as last year: 74 percent. The share of respondents concerned about people falling behind on their mortgages was essentially flat from last year at 82 percent, as was the share of those worried about the high price for homes and rent, at 70 percent.

More respondents worried about the number of homes and condominiums for sale in their area than last year: 51 percent this year vs. 41 percent last year.

More than half (51 percent) of respondents worried that home costs had dropped, compared to those who thought prices were too high (36 percent). Both figures echo last year’s results.

In the latest survey, 63 percent of respondents said house prices in their neighborhood had fallen in the past year, while 22 percent thought they had risen. Ten percent said they were about the same. Last year, 73 percent of respondents said prices had fallen.

Most respondents (69 percent) expected home prices to stay the same in the next three months — the same percentage as last year. Nearly the same share (70 percent) also expected home sales to stay the same in that time period.

Compared to last year’s survey, slightly fewer adults thought the pace of buying and selling homes had slowed down: 51 percent this year vs. 58 percent last year.

And slightly more stated that housing activity had stayed about the same: 31 percent this year vs. 26 percent last year. Fewer respondents stated that selling a house was harder today compared to a year ago, though the majority still thought home selling was more difficult (69 percent this year vs. 79 percent last year).

The share of respondents worried that they or members of their family may have their home repossessed or foreclosed because they are unable to pay rising monthly mortgage payments was the highest since the question was first asked in 2006: 35 percent. Still, most respondents (64 percent) said that was either not a concern or a small one.

Most respondents (55 percent) thought they could sell their house for what they paid for it — same as last year. Most (53 percent) also disagreed with the statement: "I would like to move, but I do not think I could sell my house in the current market."

Slightly more than half of respondents (51 percent) said foreclosures were a big problem in their market, while 43 percent said they were a slight or nonexistent problem. The same share also said the rate of foreclosures in their area had stayed about the same in the past year.

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