While nearly seven in 10 Americans agree that now is a good time to become a homeowner, a large number remain reluctant due to their own misguided understanding of the financing process, according to survey results released Monday.
In a poll of more than 2,000 consumers, Wells Fargo found 68 percent feel that now is a good time to buy a home, and 95 percent want to own if they don't already.
The results jibe with Fannie Mae's latest consumer housing survey, in which 64 percent of Americans said now is a good time to buy (matching the survey's record low).
"Although the homebuying process has changed in many ways in recent years ,our survey found Americans still view homeownership as an achievement to be proud of and many believe that now is a good time to buy a home," said Franklin Codel, head of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Production.
On the other hand, while nearly three-quarters of respondents in Wells Fargo's survey said they "know and understand" the financial process involved in buying a home, large numbers also expressed doubt or misguided notions about homebuying requirements. For example, Wells Fargo reported, 30 percent of respondents expressed belief that only people with high incomes can obtain a mortgage at this point, and 64 percent said they believe only those with a "very good" credit score can buy a home right now.
While 64 percent of respondents said they have an understanding about how much of a down payment is needed to purchase a home, nearly half said 20 percent is required. Forty-four percent also said they know little or nothing about closing costs.
While most lenders report that lending requirements at the moment are still high as a result of enhanced regulations and reluctance to take risks, Codel says lenders would be well served to work on educating homebuyers about all programs available to them—especially the millennial crowd, most of which pointed to lack of down payment funds as one of their biggest hurdles to homeownership.
"It is important for prospective homebuyers to feel empowered to ask lenders and real estate agents questions about available options, such as down payment assistance or FHA [Federal Housing Administration] or VA [Veterans Affairs] loans for veterans," he said. "Informing prospective homebuyers about their options is the first step toward helping them realize their goals."
On the other hand, the survey also found most Americans are confident in managing their personal finances, with 82 percent saying they know how to save, invest, and work within a budget. In addition, 63 percent said they have a "rainy day fund," including more than half of millennial-aged respondents.
With so many Americans focused on keeping their financial houses in order, Codel says there's a decent opportunity to turn those consumers into responsible homeowners with an educational push.
"[W]e have an opportunity as lenders, nonprofit agencies and real estate agents to better inform Americans about credit ratings, mortgage costs and housing affordability," he said. "This would help demystify the homebuying experience for many consumers."