Consumers ease off housing recovery gas pedal

Americans still want in on housing despite fiscal issues

October 7, 2013
HousingWire.com

Although consumers continue to remain relatively upbeat, their attitudes around housing may have hit a brick wall, decreasing over the past three months.

Americans tempered their optimism toward the housing market in September, indicating growing caution surrounding the fiscal policy debate, according to Fannie Mae’s recent housing results.

However, it’s important to note that the survey results did not reveal the full effect of the government freeze and the pending debt ceiling debate.

While the majority of the mortgage market doesn’t expect the government shutdown to impact the industry short term, fears may surface given a prolonged decision by Congress to reach a compromise.

“Our September National Housing Survey results show that the improvements in consumer housing attitudes witnessed in recent months softened ahead of the government shutdown,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae.

He added, “Americans’ awareness of policy uncertainty leading up to the October 1st shutdown and the pending debt ceiling debate appears to have grown as indicated by an apparent cautionary holding pattern in overall consumer housing and personal finance sentiment.”

How and when these fiscal issues are addressed will impact consumer attitudes in the future, influencing the volatile housing market.

For instance, 55% of Americans continue to believe the economy is on the wrong rack, narrowing 16 percentage points in September, according to Fannie Mae.

The gap could widen, depending on the outcome of the debt ceiling debate, with many experts believing the nation’s borrowing authority will be exhausted by Oct. 17.

The average 12-month home price change expectation came in at 3.1%, decreasing 0.3% month-over-month.

Meanwhile, the share of people who believe home prices will go up in the next 12 months fell to 52%, down three percentage points.

Additionally, 63% of Americans believe mortgage rates will go up in the next 12 months, increasing 3 percentage points from last month.

On an interesting note, the share of respondents who would buy if they were going to move increased to a survey high of 69%.

Quicken Loans chief economist Bob Walters pointed out that he is seeing a reverse effect in the market where housing demand is picking up.

Americans are actively engaging in the market due to rising interest rates and home prices, causing a sense of urgency.

“The only thing that would derail what is happening now is backslide in job numbers,” Walters concluded. “However, we are still seeing fairly steady gains and until we see that reverse, there’s going to be a demand for housing.”

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