More than half of renters who wish to buy a home say the biggest imediment is saving enough for a down payment, according to the latest American Dream survey from real estate search and marketing site Trulia released today.

Market research firm Harris Interactive conducted the biannual online survey for the company between Aug. 30, 2011, and Sept. 1, 2011. The survey included 1,392 homeowners and 758 renters.

The majority, 70 percent, of respondents said owning a home is part of their American dream, unchanged from the last survey in January. This attitude toward homeownership rose with age, from 65 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds to 76 percent of those 55 and older.

Among current homeowners, 80 percent said they plan to buy another home in the future and 57 percent said owning a home is among the best long-term investments they could make, Trulia said.

Among renters, 59 percent said they aspired to own a home, but of those, 51 percent said saving enough for a down payment was their biggest obstacle to homeownership at this time.

Those in the 18-to-34 age group were most likely to cite this as their biggest concern (62 percent). Other obstacles cited by respondents include qualifying for a mortgage (36 percent), having a poor credit history (34 percent), inability to pay off existing debt (31 percent), not having a stable job (29 percent), and declining home values (13 percent).

"From saving enough for a down payment to qualifying for a mortgage and having a poor credit history, today’s aspiring homeowners face many financial obstacles in order achieve their American dream of homeownership," said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s new chief economist, in a statement.

"These obstacles keep some would-be homeowners from taking advantage of low mortgage rates; on the other hand, they prevent some people from buying homes they can’t really afford," he said.

"Government homeownership policies can target some of these obstacles to homeownership, but only stronger economic recovery will help households facing multiple obstacles become better able to buy homes."

The survey also found that, among those who said homeownership is part of their American dream, ideal home size has trended smaller over the past year. At this time in 2010, 9 percent said their ideal home size was more than 3,200 square feet compared with 6 percent now. A range of 1,401 to 2,000 square feet was ideal for 32 percent in this survey, compared with 28 percent a year ago.

American’s Ideal Home Size




Y-O-Y % Change

More than 3,200 sq. ft.




 2,601 – 3,200 sq ft.




2,001 – 2,600 sq ft.




1,401 – 2,000 sq ft.




800 – 1,400 sq ft.




Not sure




Source: Trulia

Both the youngest (18-34) and oldest (55 and older) age groups surveyed expressed preferences that indicate they’d prefer to live in urban centers: shorter commutes to work for the former and proximity to restaurants and shops for the latter.

"Long-term housing demand will recover, even though today’s prices tell a different story," Kolko said. "But the homes that people will want in the future will look different than today’s housing stock. Retiring baby boomers won’t want big suburban houses: They care more about easy access to restaurants and retail and will be willing to trade down. High gas prices — which make long-distance commuting more expensive — will accelerate this trend, as would changes to the mortgage interest deduction that reduce demand for expensive homes."

Also today, Trulia announced Kolko’s appointment as chief economist.

"As chief economist, (Kolko) will lead the company’s housing research and provide insight on market trends and public policy. He will also advise the development of Trulia Estimates and create new derivatives of Trulia’s data to help more consumers make smarter decisions about where they want to live," said Ken Shuman, Trulia’s spokesman.

Kolko comes to Trulia from the Public Policy Institute of California where he was the associate director of research and a research fellow. He has also held positions at the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (now known as the Federal Housing Finance Agency), the World Bank, and the Progressive Policy Institute, Trulia said.

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