Survey: More Renters Want to Become Homeowners

For sale sign in front of house in Cincinnati NAR's 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey found that half of renters (51%) now say that becoming a homeowner is one of their highest personal priorities. Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Homeownership as a priority is on the upswing. And a look back shows perceptions about owning weren’t as negative during the recession as the media suggested.

Americans have favored buying over renting, even during the recent Great Recession, and this year is no different. The 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey, by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, found Americans overwhelmingly believe owning a home is a good financial decision, and a majority of renters say homeownership is one of their highest priorities for the future.

During the recession, much media coverage of homeownership focused on the idea that lots of people thought renting was much smarter than buying. But that wasn’t necessarily the case as a look back shows.

The decline in home prices and turmoil in the housing markets did influence consumers’ perception of housing as a sound investment — but not by nearly as much as the media made it appear.

From 2007 to 2011, based on earlier Pulse surveys, the share of people who thought buying a home was a good financial decision dropped from about 85% to 73% and the share of people who were “not so strongly” positive grew. By 2013, we’re back to 80% thinking homeownership is a sound financial decision.

You can interpret that dip two ways. Some would say homeowners were resilient as prices declined. Others would say the recession was a wake up call for investors who viewed the real estate market as a short-term investment.

Regardless of which way you see it, most of us have returned to the much more realistic viewpoint that real estate is a solid, if long-term, investment.

This year’s Home Pulse survey also found:

  • Eight in 10 Americans think buying a home is a good financial decision.
  • 68% believe now is a good time to buy a home.
  • 36% of renters are now thinking about purchasing a home, up from 25% last year.
  • The proportion of renters who say they prefer to rent dropped from 31% to 25%.
  • Half of renters say that eventually owning a home is one of their highest personal priorities, up to 51% from 42%.

Those renters should be in a good position to buy given that home prices are pretty affordable (unless you’re a bus driver in San Francisco). Rising interest rates could come into play, but anything around 6% looks good compared with the double-digit interest rates of the 1980s.
                                                                       
Attitudes toward the housing market have also improved over the years. Nearly four in 10 Americans (38%) said their local market was more active this year, compared with 51% of people who reported a slowdown in local activity last year.

There is also less concern than in the past about the drop in home values; almost half (49%) said housing prices in their area are more expensive than a year ago.