NAR: More people think it's a good time to buy a home

An increasing number of people said they think it's a good time to purchase a home, according to the latest Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey from the National Association of Realtors. At the same time, a declining number of respondents had a positive outlook on the market for sellers.

In the HOME survey for the first quarter of 2019, 65 percent felt moderately or strongly that it was a good time to buy a home. This was up from 63 percent in the previous quarter, though it was down 3 percentage points on an annual basis.

The two oldest age groups of respondents—defined as older boomers (ages 64 to 72) and the Silent Generation (ages 73 to 93)—were most likely to think it was a good time to buy a home, with three-quarters of each group holding this opinion. Three out of four homeowners also thought it was a good time to buy. Conversely, half of the renters in the survey considered it a bad time to buy a home, as did 49 percent of millennials.

"First, inventory has been rising, so those buyers interested in making a purchase will not be limited in choices," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors. "Additionally, more stable home price trends are leading to more foot traffic at various open house gatherings."

Sixty-nine percent considered it a good time to sell a home, the lowest share since the fourth quarter of 2017. The most likely groups to have a positive attitude about home selling were living in the West (77 percent), earning more than $100,000 a year (76 percent), or younger boomers ages 54 to 63 (74 percent). Those who lived with someone else but did not own a home were the most pessimistic, with 42 percent considering it a bad time to sell a home.

Fewer people were reporting recent home price increases, with 61 percent saying prices have gone up in the past 12 months – the lowest share since the second quarter of 2017. Thirty-one percent said prices have stayed about the same, while 8 percent said they have gone down.

Looking ahead to the next six months, 47 percent said they expect home prices to go up. This was down from 48 percent in the previous quarter and 53 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

Among the respondents who were not homeowners, 45 percent said they thought it would not be very difficult or not difficult at all to qualify for a mortgage. This was up from 42 percent in the previous quarter and 36 percent in the previous year. Fifty-five percent said they thought it would be difficult to qualify for a mortgage, down from 59 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 and 64 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

Respondents earning less than $50,000 a year were least likely to expect that qualifying for a mortgage would be easy, with just 29 percent holding this opinion. Thirty-five percent of younger boomers thought it would be easy to qualify, along with the same share of non-owner respondents who live with someone.

"The Federal Reserve's decision to refrain from any foreseeable rate hikes was beneficial to potential buyers," said Yun. "That move directly contributed to mortgage rates declining in quarter one, which provided a second-chance opportunity to those looking to buy who were priced out last quarter."

Fifty-three percent said they think the economy is improving, down from 59 percent in the previous quarter and 60 percent in the previous year to reach the lowest point since the fourth quarter of 2017. Sixty-two percent of rural respondents and 59 percent of those earning more than $100,000 a year said they thought the economy was improving. Fifty-eight percent of urban respondents, along with 56 percent of those living with someone or earning under $50,000 a year, said they though the economy was not improving.

The HOME survey completes approximately 900 telephone interviews each month to collect responses for the quarterly reports. The survey for the first quarter of 2019 is based on 2,710 responses.

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