Lew Sichelman is a seasoned writer with 50 years of covering the housing and mortgage markets under his belt. His biweekly Inman column publishes on Tuesdays.

While prices seem to be moderating (at least in some markets), mortgage rates are still inching higher, eliminating any benefit would-be buyers might see from a price break. Even so, people are still intent on owning a home, according to a new study.

A survey conducted by Pentagon Federal Credit Union found that 37 percent of adults and 52 percent of millennials are hoping to purchase a home within the next two years. Furthermore, more than half the 95 percent of those who are already owners would like to remodel their home in one way or another.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union is the second largest institution of its kind in the country, serving approximately 1.7 million people worldwide with $24 billion in assets. PenFed, as the institution is popularly known, offers a wide range of financial services, including mortgages.

McLaughlin & Associates conducted the online survey for PenFed in late August among a representative sample of 1,000 adults over age 18. It has an accuracy rates of +/- 3 percent.

A PenFed spokeswomen declined to release the entire study “for competitive reasons.” But in a statement, Craig Chapman, vice president of mortgage sales and business development, said: “Americans are undeterred when it comes to owning their dream home, and we are finding that for many that means renovating their current homes.”

Where do people want their dream home to sit?

When it comes to where the survey respondents would build their dream houses, they are all over the place. Some 30 percent would head to the beach, while 22 percent would build in the city and another 22 percent would choose a farm or ranch-like setting.

Eighteen percent would head to the hills, but just 3 percent want to be next to a golf course. Another 3 percent would like to live in outer space and 2 percent picked under the sea.

In another fanciful question, 26 percent would like to live in a place like the one in California inhabited by the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Another popular choice was the Full House house, picked by 24 percent of the respondents.

The Southfork Ranch outside of Dallas was the first choice of 19 percent of the respondents, followed by the Brady Bunch house at 13 percent, the Little House on the Prairie at 9 percent and the Addams Family abode by 9 percent.

Money talks

The survey was a little more realistic when it came to financing. For example, 65 percent of the owners queried didn’t shop around for a mortgage, despite that possibly being the biggest financial decision people can ever make.

Other surveys have come up with similar results. According to research from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for example, failing to comparison shop for a mortgage costs the average homebuyer approximately $300 per year and many thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. By shopping just three different lenders, borrowers could save more than $3,500 in just the first five years, the CFPB study found.

Research by Freddie Mac found similar results: Borrowers could save an average of $1,500 over the life of the loan by getting just one additional rate quote, the secondary mortgage market giant found. And that savings increases to $2,914 if the borrower receives five rate quotes.

Home finance misconceptions

The survey also identified other common misconceptions about home financing:

  • More than 2 out of 5 participants believe the best mortgage is the one with the lowest rate, even though that’s not always the case. Consumers should consider additional factors, PenFed said, including total closing costs and the broader annual percentage rate.
  • A 58 percent majority think adjustable rate mortgages are only for risk takers. But PenFed pointed out that an ARM is a great loan for those staying in their homes for less than five years. For instance, a 5/5 ARM product has a fixed rate for the first five years and is likely to have a lower payment than a 30-year fixed-rate product during that period. Afterward, though, the rate adjusts and readjust in five-year intervals.
  • Nearly half correctly understand that being pre-qualified is not the same as being pre-approved. But 22 percent said they are unsure about that. Being pre-qualified may give you an idea of what you can afford, the credit union said, but being pre-approved entails a more comprehensive process and makes people more qualified buyers.

Lew Sichelman’s weekly column, “The Housing Scene,” is syndicated to newspapers throughout the country.

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