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Americans’ Financial Optimism Grows; Housing Presents Mixed Picture

Despite growing economic confidence, Americans' housing sentiment remained mixed in October, according to survey findings from Fannie Mae.

Forty percent of American consumers polled in Fannie's latest National Housing Survey said they believe the economy is on the right track at the moment, flat from September's survey but up 13 percentage points over the past year. Meanwhile, the share of Americans who said the economy is on the wrong track slipped to 53 percent from 54 percent last month.

Looking at their own finances, a quarter of respondents said their household income is significantly higher than it was last year, while a rising share said their expenses are significantly lower. Predicting the next year, 45 percent expect their financial situation to improve, up from 41 percent in September.

Housing attitudes were decidedly more mixed. According to Fannie, Americans surveyed last month expect home prices to rise 2.8 percent over the next year, reflecting a bounce after price expectations stagnated throughout the summer.

The share of those anticipating price gains slipped a percentage point to 44 percent. At the same time, the share expecting prices to drop in the next 12 months also fell, declining to 7 percent from 9 percent as recently as August.

Respondents were a little less hopeful on the finance side. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed expect mortgage rates to rise in the coming year—a given, now that the Federal Reserve has turned its attention to bringing interest rates up. With home sales already lagging despite historically low mortgage rates, any shock to home affordability could weigh activity down further.

Meanwhile, half of consumers remain pessimistic about their odds of getting a mortgage as banks show reluctance to opening up the credit box.

All things considered, the share of Americans who say now is a good time to purchase a home fell, dropping to 65 percent. On the other hand, the share of consumers saying now is a good time to sell picked up, hitting a survey high of 44 percent.

Doug Duncan, SVP and chief economist at Fannie Mae, took the latter statistic as a hopeful sign for housing.

"The narrowing gap between home buying and home selling sentiment may foreshadow increased housing inventory levels and a better balance of housing supply and demand," Duncan said. "These results may help drive a healthier housing market in 2015."

About Author: Tory Barringer

Tory Barringer began his journalism career in early 2011, working as a writer for the University of Texas at Arlington's student newspaper before joining the DS News team in 2012. In addition to contributing to DSNews.com, he is also the online editor for DS News' sister publication, MReport, which focuses on mortgage banking news.
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