Affordability, Student Debt Causing Chasm about Buying between Homeowners, Renters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — Despite lackluster economic growth and stark home-price appreciation in several parts of the country in recent months, roughly three-quarters of surveyed households still believe now is a good time to buy a home, but there’s a considerable gap in morale between homeowners and renters, according to the latest installment of the National Association of Realtors® Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey1. The survey also found that roughly half of young adults with student debt are uncomfortable about taking on a mortgage.

In NAR’s second quarter HOME consumer survey, respondents were asked about their confidence in the U.S. economy and various questions about their housing expectations, including questions on if carrying student debt is tempering their ability and appetite to take on mortgage debt.

Through the first half of the year, NAR’s survey found that the share of homeowners and renters who believe now is a good time to buy a home is mostly holding steady, with 80 percent of homeowners (82 percent in March) and 62 percent of renters (unchanged from last quarter) saying it’s a good time to buy. However, the share of renters who think so is down from 68 percent in December 2015, and those under 35 were the least confident that now is a good time to buy.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the survey brings to focus the ongoing disparity in buyer confidence between current homeowners and renters. “Existing-home prices surpassed their all-time peak this spring2 and have climbed on average over 5 percent nationally through the first five months of the year and even faster in areas with severe supply shortages,” he said. “Most homeowners appear to realize that if they’re ready to sell, they’ll likely find a buyer rather quickly and be able to use the sizeable equity they’ve accumulated in recent years towards their next home purchase. Meanwhile, renters interested in buying continue to face minimal choices, strong competition and home prices growing faster than their incomes.”

Adds Yun, “Given these affordability pressures, it’s no surprise respondents earning over $100,000 and those living in the Midwest — the most affordable region of the country — are the most optimistic about buying right now.”

This quarter’s HOME survey also revealed that carrying student debt is causing many to be uneasy about taking on additional debt. According to the survey, roughly two-thirds of non-homeowners and half of respondents under 35 with student debt said they aren’t comfortable also having a mortgage. Furthermore, of those with student debt, non-homeowners and younger adults were less likely to believe they’d be able to qualify for a mortgage if they applied.

“It’s becoming very evident from this survey and our research released last month that the financial and emotional impact of repaying student debt is contributing to a delay in purchasing a home for many would-be buyers,” adds Yun. “At a time of quickly rising rents, mortgage rates at all-time lows and increasing housing wealth, a lot of young adults in their prime buying years are struggling to enter the market and are ultimately missing out on the stability and wealth accumulation that owning a home can provide.”

Mostly unchanged attitudes about direction of U.S. economy, personal financial outlook

A tick under half of all households in the survey believe the economy is improving (49 percent), which is mostly unchanged since the inaugural HOME survey in December 2015. Renters, respondents living in urban areas, and those in the West were the most optimistic. On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of those living in rural areas don’t believe the economy is improving.

Reflecting somewhat lessening confidence that respondents’ financial situation will be better in six months, the HOME survey’s monthly Personal Financial Outlook Index3 of all households slightly decreased (to 57.7 in June) since March (58.1), but is unchanged from June 2015.

Expanding belief that now is a good time to sell

With strong price growth prevalent in most of the country and homes selling at a quickened pace, more current homeowners (61 percent) believe it is a good time to sell compared to the first quarter of this year (56 percent). Respondents in the West were once again the most likely to think now is a good time to sell, while also being the least likely to think now is a good time to buy.

“More homeowners acknowledging this pent-up demand may perhaps mean we begin to see more supply come online in the near future,” adds Yun.

When asked about their outlook for home prices in their community in the next six months, almost all believe that prices will stay the same or rise (93 percent), which is consistent with last quarter (91 percent). Respondents from the West, those living in urban areas and renters are most likely to believe prices will go up in their communities.

About NAR’s HOME survey

In April through early June 2016, a sample of U.S. households was surveyed via random-digit dial, including half via cell phones and the other half via land lines. The survey was conducted by an established survey research firm, TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence. Each month approximately 900 qualified households responded to the survey. The data was compiled for this report and a total of 2,714 household responses are represented.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing over 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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1 NAR’s Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey tracks topical real estate trends, including current renters and homeowners’ views and aspirations regarding homeownership, whether or not it’s a good time to buy or sell a home, and expectations and experiences in the mortgage market. New questions are added to the survey each quarter to reflect timely topics impacting real estate.

HOME survey data is collected on a monthly basis and will be reported each quarter. New questions will be added to the survey each quarter to reflect timely topics impacting the real estate marketplace. The next release is scheduled for Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. ET.

2 Surpassing the peak median sales price set last June ($236,300), the median existing-home price for all housing types in May was $239,700.

3 Index ranges between 0 and 100: 0 = all respondents believe their personal financial situation will be worse in 6 months; 50 = all respondents believe their personal financial situation will be about the same in 6 months; 100 = all respondents believe their personal situation will be better in 6 months.

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