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TheStreet Open House

Fannie Mae: Despite It All, Americans Want to Buy, Not Rent

NEW YORK (BankingMyWay) -- Despite barrels of ink spilled over the imminent tsunami in apartment rentals, Americans still want to own their own homes, and they have a lot to say about the new-look U.S. housing market.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 65.5% of adult Americans own their own home, a number that really hasn't wavered over the past year.

With housing prices historically soft and mortgage credit hard to get, the conventional wisdom has it that U.S. adults have had it with the housing market and are looking to rent rather than own their own abode.

As Census data show, that conventional wisdom is wrong. In fact, not only do U.S. consumers continue to pursue the American Dream, just over a quarter of them -- 28% to be exact -- prefer to rent versus own their own home, according to a separate survey of 1,000 U.S. adults from Fannie Mae.

In Fannie Mae's August National Housing Survey, U.S. adults are as optimistic, albeit cautiously so, over the housing market. Fannie Mae says lower household income and declining consumer sentiment could undermine further bullishness on the home ownership front.

"Consumer attitudes toward the housing market remain modestly positive, despite signs of increased concern over the direction of the economy," explains Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. "While the latest results showed a pickup in the share of consumers expecting mortgage rates to rise, reflecting the uptrend of long-term interest rates since mid-July, that may soon change. Friday's disappointing jobs report underpins the gradual nature of this year's housing recovery and supports our view that the muted economic recovery is still subject to downside risk and that additional Fed easing will soon be forthcoming."

How do Americans view the domestic housing market? Fannie Mae reveals five key takeaways in its survey:

  • U.S. adults expect home prices to rise in 2013, but only by 1.6%. Even so, a slightly bullish outlook on home prices is a big departure for homeowners, who have been decidedly downcast over housing prices over the past few years.
  • 18% of U.S. adults say it's a good time to sell their home, the highest level since Fannie Mae launched its annual housing survey in 2010.
  • 40% of housing consumers expect mortgage interest rates to rise nest year by an average of 4%. That does not jibe current economic policy from the Federal Reserve, which has said repeatedly it aims to keep interest rates near zero until 2105.
  • 73% of U.S. adults say it's a "good time" to buy a new home. Survey respondents in this category cite low home prices and low interest rates as primary drivers of new home purchases.
  • 60% of Americans remain skeptical on the U.S. economy, saying it's headed in the "wrong direction." That, Fannie Mae says, is the third consecutive rise in that sentiment from consumers, although only 13% of Americans expect their financial situation to "worsen."

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