Defining the American Dream

Homeownership: American Dream or American Nightmare?

Posted on Monday, February 14, 2011

The real estate listing and search site released the results of its biannual American Dream survey this week. The survey has tracked American attitudes toward homeownership since 2009.
Although foreclosures and underwater homes continue to plague today’s housing market, the survey found that 70 percent of Americans still view homeownership as being part of their American Dream. In fact, more than three out of four homeowners (78 percent) say their homes are the best investment they ever made.
Conversely, only 20 percent feel trapped in their “underwater” homes, while 14 percent said they would walk away from their mortgage in a heartbeat if they could.
Pete Flint, Trulia’s co-founder and COO, says it’s “important to get inside the heads of Americans and understand how they really feel about the housing market.”
Flint says so much time has been spent focusing on the foreclosure crisis and negative equity that “we fail to realize that more than 3 out of 4 homeowners are happy with their home purchase and investment.”
Flint himself admits that he was “surprised” by the latest survey results. “Contrary to popular belief, the American Dream of homeownership has not turned into an American nightmare,” he said.
The fact that seven out of 10 Americans still view homeownership as part of their personal American Dream is “a very positive sign for the housing market’s recovery,” Flint said.
Although many of today’s young adults came of age during the housing crash, more than one in four (26 percent) say their views on owning a home have become more positive over the past six months. With 88 percent of 18-34 year old renters aspiring to be homeowners, Trulia says this new generation of buyers will likely play a crucial role in stabilizing the real estate market.
While the outlook seems brighter, it will likely be a while longer before things really turn around. Trulia’s survey found that most would-be homeowners are in no rush to buy. Fifty percent of renters say they won’t be purchasing a home until after 2013. Only 4 percent say they have plans to buy within the next six months.
“Although the American Dream of homeownership remains surprisingly strong, it will not be an immediate reality for most people,” commented Tara-Nicholle Nelson, consumer educator for Trulia.
“Uncertainty has caused most would-be buyers across the nation to play a waiting game with the market, leading them to put their home purchases on hold for at least two years,” Nelson said. “However, new data shows that most renters in the South and West have long-term plans to buy, which is great news for America’s hardest-hit regions.”
While most prospective buyers are holding out for a couple of years, there’s some that have begun at least shopping around.
“In fact, we’re seeing a national resurgence of buyer and seller activity on,” Flint said. “In January alone, we experienced an unprecedented level of site traffic including 11 million unique visitors – which is more than 70 percent year-over-year growth. We’ve seen leads to agents increase 60 percent year over year and are now experiencing 100,000 property views per minute.”
Flint stressed, however, that one grave concern going forward is still foreclosures. He says until the industry gets a handle on the still-rising numbers and banks stop adding repossessed properties to their inventories, we’ll continue to bounce along the bottom. He expects the bouncing to continue for at least the next 12 to 18 months.
Still, Flint said, “Today, I’m more positive about the housing market than I have been in the last three years. I truly believe the worst is behind us.”
By: Carrie Bay, DS NEWS

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