Latest Fannie Mae survey shows more reticence toward both buying and selling

Although a majority of Americans considered it a good time to buy or sell a home in October, the month also saw an uptick in pessimism regarding these transactions. Respondents were also slightly less likely to expect home prices to appreciate in the coming year and more likely to fear a possible job loss.

Fannie Mae's Home Purchase Sentiment Index fell to 85.2 in October, down 3.1 points from a September figure that matched an all-time high. The index is based on six factors in Fannie Mae's National Housing Survey, namely opinions on whether it is a good time to buy or sell a home, expected changes in home prices and job security, perceived job security, and changes in household income.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they think it is a good time to buy a home, down 2 percentage points from the previous month and 3 percentage points from the previous year. The share of respondents who consider it a bad time to buy rose from 29 percent in October 2016 and 31 percent in September to 35 percent.

Sixty-one percent said they think it is a good time to sell a home, down 3 percentage points from the previous month but a year-over-year gain of 6 percentage points. Thirty-one percent considered it a bad time to sell a home, up 5 percentage points from September but down 5 percentage points from October 2016.

Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, said this trend often happens around this time of year as the summer comes to an end and buyers are more likely to put their searches on hold.

"Indicators of broader economic and personal financial sentiment remain relatively steady," said Duncan. "Overall, these results are consistent with our view that the housing market will continue its slow, upward grind through 2018."

Although respondents were less likely to consider it a good time to buy, they were more likely to believe it would be easy for them to get a mortgage. Fifty-nine percent held this view, up 4 percentage points from September and 7 percentage points from October 2016. The share of respondents who thought it would be difficult to get a mortgage dropped from 46 percent in the previous year and 42 percent in the previous month to 39 percent.

Half of all respondents said they think mortgage rates will go up in the next 12 months, unchanged from the previous year but down 3 percentage points from September. Four percent said they think rates will go down, a drop of 2 percentage points from September and 1 percentage point from October 2016.

Sixty-seven percent said they would buy their next home if they were to move, unchanged from the previous month or previous year. The share indicating that they would rent fell to 25 percent, down 2 percentage points from September and 5 percentage points from October 2016.

Only 3 percent of respondents said they think home rental prices will decrease in the next 12 months, unchanged from the previous month and down 1 percentage point from the previous year. Fifty-eight percent said they expect these prices to increase, up 1 percentage point from September and 4 percentage points from October 2016. On average, respondents said they expect home rental prices to increase by 4.4 percent in the next 12 months – the same expectation as the previous month and up from 3.9 percent in the previous year.

Respondents continued to give lower expectations for home prices, marking the second consecutive month where a smaller share indicated that they think prices will appreciate. Forty-eight percent said they think home prices will go up in the next 12 months, down from 50 percent in September and 54 percent in August; however, this was also a year-over-year increase of 7 percentage points. Only 8 percent said they think home prices will decrease, down 2 percentage points from both the previous month and previous year.

On average, respondents said they expect home prices to grow by 2.3 percent in the next 12 months. This was down from 2.7 percent in September and marked the third month where price appreciation expectations have diminished. However, the average expectation was up from 1.9 percent in October 2016.

Eighty-five percent said they are not concerned about losing their job in the next 12 months, down 2 percentage points from the previous month but up 1 percentage point from the previous year. Fifteen percent said they are concerned about a job loss, unchanged from the previous year but an increase of 3 percentage points from September.

One in four respondents said their household income is significantly higher than it was a year ago, up from 20 percent in October 2016 but down from 27 percent in September. Eleven percent said their income is significantly lower, down 1 percentage point from the previous month and 5 percentage points from the previous year.

Half of all respondents said they think their personal financial situation will get better in the next 12 months, unchanged from September and up 6 percentage points from October. Nine percent said they think their personal financial situation will worsen, the same share as September and down 1 percentage point from October 2016.

Opinions on the American economy improved slightly, with 48 percent saying they consider the economy to be on the right track. This was up 1 percentage point from the previous month and 12 percentage points from the previous year. Thirty-eight percent said they consider the economy to be on the wrong track, down 18 percentage points from October 2016 and 3 percentage points from September.

The National Housing Survey polls a nationally representative sample of 1,000 American adults via telephone interviews each month, asking more than 100 questions to gauge opinions toward the housing market and economy. The survey has been conducted since June 2010.

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