As the housing downturn spirals into its fifth year, most Americans, regardless of political affiliation, agree that measures to repair the economy should take precedence over policies to improve the housing market, according to a survey released today from real estate search and marketing site Trulia.

Meanwhile, in a separate survey released this week by Yahoo! Real Estate, about half of respondents said the government should pass further legislation to help homeowners with troubled mortgages. Just over a quarter (27 percent) said current laws are sufficient, and the remainder gave no opinion.

As the housing downturn spirals into its fifth year, most Americans, regardless of political affiliation, agree that measures to repair the economy should take precedence over policies to improve the housing market, according to a survey released today from real estate search and marketing site Trulia.

Meanwhile, in a separate survey released this week by Yahoo! Real Estate, about half of respondents said the government should pass further legislation to help homeowners with troubled mortgages. Just over a quarter (27 percent) said current laws are sufficient, and the remainder gave no opinion.

Market research firm Harris Interactive conducted its online survey for Trulia from Nov. 17-21, 2011, gathering responses from 2,028 U.S. adults.

The vast majority of respondents — 78 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats — said lowering unemployment is an extremely or very important public policy goal, and increasing employment growth and lowering the federal budget deficit were also high on respondents’ priority list.

Nonetheless, the majority of respondents (72 percent) said they strongly or somewhat agreed that government policies and programs should encourage homeownership, the survey said.

When asked to consider specific policies, more than three-quarters of all respondents, Republicans and Democrats, said the government should make it easier for homeowners to refinance, whether underwater or not. By contrast, less than half of respondents (46 percent) said the government should raise the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac conforming loan limits.

Housing Policies and Proposals That Americans Strongly/Somewhat Agree With

 Housing Policies and Proposals

All Respondents

Republicans

Democrats

Make it easier for homeowners who ARE NOT underwater to refinance

80%

77%

82%

Make it easier for homeowners who ARE underwater to refinance

78%

69%

82%

Encourage institutions and investors who own vacant homes to rent them out

74%

71%

76%

Re-introduce the first-time homebuyer tax credit

72%

70%

80%

Encourage mortgage loan modification that reduce principal balances

70%

61%

74%

Maintain the mortgage interest deduction at current levels

67%

69%

68%

Raise the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac conforming loan limit

46%

40%

51%

Source: Trulia.

"The partisan split in Washington and the recent housing policy debates are not what Americans want from their government. Democrats and Republicans both think that the government should encourage homeownership," said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist, in a statement.

"Although Washington and lobbyists have been debating the conforming loan limit, Americans would rather see more action to make refinancing easier, and to deal with vacant homes."

The survey results indicated consumer confidence won’t improve until Americans see "real proof" that the economy is improving, Kolko added.

The plurality of respondents, 47 percent, said seeing fewer defaults and foreclosures would give them confidence that the housing market was recovering. Seeing more home sales and fewer vacant homes also ranked highly among confidence builders.

More abstract trends, such as lower mortgage rates and higher homeownership rates, would have less of an impact on confidence, according to the survey.

Top 5 Indicators That Will Give  Americans Confidence About The Housing Market

Fewer defaults and foreclosures

47%

More home sales

38%

Fewer vacant homes

32%

Lower mortgage rates

25%

Rising homeownership rates

23%

NOTE: Survey respondents were allowed to select up to three responses out of 10 options.

Source: Trulia

Trulia’s survey results compliment those of a recently released survey by Yahoo! Real Estate. That survey polled 1,500 U.S. adults who were either current or aspiring homeowners in October.

Only 21 percent of respondents to the Yahoo! Real Estate survey said the upcoming 2012 presidential election will have no influence on the housing market, while 43 percent said it would have a large influence and 36 percent said it would have a small influence.

Respondents’ expectations of political parties’ impact on the housing market did not vary widely. About a third of respondents said neither Democrats nor Republicans would have a positive or negative impact on the market.

Among the remainder of respondents, Democrats fared slightly better than Republicans, with 35 percent of respondents saying Democrats would have a positive impact compared with 27 percent for Republicans.

In Trulia’s survey, 57 percent of Democratic respondents and 73 percent of Republican respondents think the state of the housing market will hurt President Obama’s chance of re-election.

More than half of respondents said they were not at all confident that the president could stabilize the housing market within the next year, compared with 32 percent in 2009, before the 2010 midterm elections. Though confidence fell across both Republicans and Democrats this year, it fell particularly sharply among Republicans.

Americans Not At All Confident that President Obama Can Stabilize The Housing Market Within The Next Year

 

2009

2011

Change

All Respondents

32%

54%

+22

Republicans

57%

87%

+30

Democrats

10%

31%

+21

Source: Trulia

"With the 2012 elections looming, this may be the Obama administration’s chance to turn things around, and how the president handles housing issues will be critical to his campaign," Trulia said.

A survey conducted by real estate marketing company HomeGain, released earlier this month, found that 60 percent of surveyed homeowners and 70 percent of surveyed real estate agents and brokers either strongly disapproved or somewhat disapproved of President Obama’s performance.

HomeGain surveyed more than 2,000 homeowners and more than 400 real estate professionals from Nov. 9-20, 2011.

A 15 percent share of each group (homeowners and industry professionals) believed home prices would increase in the next six months, while the rest predicted they would either stay the same or decline. 

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