Consumers Warm up Early Spring Surveys

March 7, 2012

The weatherman is not the only source of spring-like forecasts this week. Two national surveys released today found that consumers are feeling better about the real estate picture for the first time in months.

Fannie Mae’s February National Housing Survey found that Americans expect home prices to increase by 0.8 percent over the next 12 months, which is down slightly from last month, but 28 percent of respondents expect home prices to increase over the next 12 months, while 15 percent say they expect home prices to decline (down 1 percentage point since last month). Fifty-three percent say prices will stay the same.

The percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to sell rose by 3 percentage points to 13 percent, the highest level in over a year, while the percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to buy dropped 1 percentage point to 70 percent this month. Sixty-five percent of respondents say they would buy their next home if they were going to move, up 1 percentage point since last month, while 29 percent say they would rent, down 1 percentage point versus last month.

On average, respondents expect home rental prices to increase by 3.5 percent over the next 12 months, a slight increase since January.

Forty-five percent of respondents think that home rental prices will go up, a 2 percentage point increase from last month, while 3 percent expect them to go down, a 2 percentage point decrease from last month and the lowest value in over a year.

Americans’ concerns about key economic and housing issues are beginning to subside, according to results from. Consumers’ attitudes have stabilized across most indicators – including personal finances, housing, and employment – demonstrating their sense that downside risks have abated somewhat compared to late summer and fall of 2011. While Americans’ confidence in the direction of the economy has been the most pronounced (35 percent think that the economy is on the right track, up 19 percentage points since November, and 57 percent think the economy is on the wrong track, down 18 percentage points since November), their confidence about personal financial situations, household income, and household expenses, as well as attitudes about homeownership and renting is holding at steady levels. At the same time, Americans’ concern about losing their job in the next 12 months has stabilized since the late fall, with 76 percent of Americans saying they are not concerned in February 2012, compared to 70 percent in November 2011.

“The pickup in the pace of hiring over the past few months has helped soothe consumer concerns, lifting their moods regarding their personal finances, the direction of the economy, and their views on the housing market,” said Doug Duncan, vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae. “As a result, we’ve seen more potential for economic upside, creating a more balanced near-term outlook.”

An even brighter picture was painted by the fourth annual Cotton Report from Cotton & Company, a Stuart, FL real estate marketing company.

The Cotton Report found that 46 percent of respondents and 53 percent of those with household incomes over $100,000 believe we have reached the bottom of the market. Fifty-four percent of prospective buyers are considering primary residences as opposed to vacation homes or investment properties, an increase from 38 percent a year ago.

“For those who have been waiting to make their move, trying to time the bottom of the market, they may have already missed it,” said Stephann Cotton, President and Founder of Cotton & Company. “2011 saw rapid absorption of distressed inventory in major markets like Miami and San Diego. The Cotton Report’s market data supports this growing perception, with a steady reduction in the number of investors actively in the market and fewer buyers expecting for further price reductions.”

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