Respondents stay positive but show more caution in latest HOME survey

A majority of Americans continued to consider it a good time to either buy or sell a home during the third quarter of the year, according to the latest Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey from the National Association of Realtors. However, respondents tended to be more cautious in their optimism as they increasingly said their perception was moderate rather than strong.

The latest HOME survey was based on 2,705 telephone interviews. Approximately 900 qualified households are interviewed each month during the quarter.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said they believe it is a good time to buy a home. This was unchanged from the third quarter of 2018 and down slightly from 65 percent in the second quarter of 2019.

Thirty-four percent said they strongly considered it a good time to buy a home. This share was down from 38 percent in the previous quarter and 39 percent in the previous year.

"Mortgage rates are at historically low levels, so I see no sign of the optimism about home buying fading," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors. "However, the fact that slightly fewer are expressing strong intensity compared to recent prior quarters is implying some would-be buyers have concerns about the direction of the economy."

The quarter's survey showed a pronounced difference in perceptions between younger and older respondents. Three out of four respondents from the Silent Generation (ages 73 and older) considered it a good time to buy a home, along with 72 percent of older baby boomers (ages 64 to 72). Conversely, 49 percent of millennials (ages 38 and younger) and 38 percent of Generation Xers (ages 39 to 53) thought it was a bad time to buy a home.

Other groups who were most likely to think it was a good time to buy a home included respondents from rural areas, homeowners (both 73 percent), those earning more than $100,000 a year (72 percent), and younger baby boomers, or those between the ages of 54 and 63 (70 percent). Fifty-three percent of non-owners who lived with someone else, 52 percent of renters, and half of the respondents from the West considered it a bad time to buy a home.

Seventy-four percent thought it was a good time to sell a home – down from 73 percent in the second quarter of the year and 77 percent in the third quarter of 2018. Forty-five percent said they strongly considered it a good time to sell, down from 46 percent in the previous quarter and 50 percent in the previous year.

Those who were most likely to have a positive outlook on selling a home included those earning more than $100,000 (82 percent), those in the West (81 percent), homeowners, and the Silent Generation (both 79 percent). The groups that were most likely to consider it a bad time to sell included non-owners living with someone else, those earning less than $50,000 a year (both 36 percent), and renters (34 percent).

Sixty-seven percent said home prices in their community have gone up in the past 12 months, up from 63 percent in the previous quarter but down from 70 percent in the previous year. Twenty-seven percent said prices have stayed the same, while 6 percent said they have gone down. Respondents were most likely to say prices have gone up if they lived in the West (78 percent), lived in an urban area (74 percent), or were young (73 percent of millennials).

Forty-six percent said they expect home prices in their community will increase in the next six months, while 44 percent said they expect them to stay the same. Ten percent said they expect prices to decrease. Fifty-five percent of those in the West, 52 percent of millennials and those living in urban areas, and 50 percent of non-owners living with someone else, said they expect prices to increase.

Fewer respondents said they felt it would be easy for them to qualify for a mortgage. Forty percent said they did not think it would be difficult to do so, down from 43 percent in the second quarter of the year and 42 percent in the third quarter of 2018.

Top earners were the only group where more than half the respondents thought it would be easy to qualify for a mortgage, with 72 percent saying so. Forty-seven percent of those earning $50,000 to $100,000, 46 percent of millennials, and 43 percent of respondents from the Midwest and South also held this view. Seventy-four percent of those earning less than $50,000 a year thought it would be difficult to qualify for a mortgage, along with 73 percent of younger baby boomers.

Fifty-two percent of respondents thought the U.S. economy was improving, down from 55 percent in the previous quarter and 60 percent in the previous year. The groups most likely to say the economy was improving were rural respondents (62 percent), those earning $100,000 or more (57 percent), and homeowners (56 percent). Sixty percent of urban respondents, 59 percent of renters, and 53 percent of respondents from the Northeast said they did not think the economy was improving.

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