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Americans outlook on housing defies overall economic pessimism

Consumers surveyed for Fannie Mae’s recent housing market update remain skeptical about the U.S. economy, while maintaining a sense of optimism about the overall housing recovery.

This contradiction seems unusual, giving the two economic indicators are generally linked.

For the past few years, housing economists, including chief economist Jay Brinkmann with the Mortgage Bankers Association, have made the obvious connection between job security and a sustainable housing recovery.

But today’s market may be in unusual shape and Fannie Mae’s March 2013 National Housing Survey is shedding new light on this phenomenon.

Only 35% of survey respondents to the GSE’s survey believe the economy is on the right track, down three percentage points from February.

Yet, 48% of respondents believe home prices will rise in the next 12 months, and the share that expects prices to drop remains at a survey low of 10%.

Twenty-six percent of the 1,001 Americans surveyed also believe now is a good time to sell a home, while the share of respondents who said they would buy if moving in the near future fell 3 percentage points to 64%, which is still relatively high.

Fifty-percent of the respondents say home prices could rise in the next year, the highest level reached since the survey’s inception. Meanwhile, the percentage who think mortgage rates will rise increased to 46%, the highest level since May 2011.

But relatively positive news on the housing side is not reflective of how consumers feel about the overall economy, the survey suggests.

Only 20% of survey respondents said  their household income is higher than it was 12 months ago, a slight decrease from a month earlier. And the percentage of respondents who believe their personal financial situations will get worse over the next year rose by 4 percentage points to 21%. Meanwhile, 32% reported higher household expenses when compared to 12 months ago, a slight uptick from February.

Lackluster consumer confidence in the face of a housing recovery may give credence to reports such as this metrostudy report from Hanley Wood in which economists suggest the real estate recovery is largely driven by investor activity and not necessarily the creation of demand among traditional homebuyers.

kpanchuk@housingwire.com

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