Fannie Mae: Buyers hesitant to join spring homebuying season?

On the positive side, people are selling

Right as the housing market enters the spring homebuying season, it turns out that buyers might not be ready to commit to homeownership.

According to Fannie Mae’s March 2015 National Housing survey, the share of respondents who said they would buy a home if they were to move decreased 5 percentage points to 60% – a new all-time survey low. 

“Consumers are being patient prior to entering the housing market. Our March survey results emphasize how critical attitudes about income growth are to consumers’ outlook on housing,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae.

“We've seen modest improvement in total compensation resulting from a strengthened labor market. However, income growth perceptions and personal financial expectations both eased off of recent highs, consistent with Friday’s weak jobs report. Simultaneously, the share of consumers expecting to buy on their next move has declined,” he continued.

The latest jobs report didn’t bode well for the economy, with private employers adding just 126,000 jobs to payrolls in March, the worst monthly gain since December 2013 and a big miss from analyst expectations.

This puts job creation for the first quarter at an average and weak 197,000 per month, raising questions about the Federal Reserve’s commitment to raising interest rates by mid-2015 or by the end of the third quarter.

But it’s not all bad news. Duncan added, “We believe the recent setback in consumer sentiment should be short lived if early signs of income growth bear out and occur in proportion to expected interest rate increases. Meanwhile, the wait for housing expansion continues.”

Also bringing some bright news, the share of consumers who believe now is a good time to sell a home reached a new survey high of 46%, narrowing the gap with those reporting it is a good time to buy, perhaps signaling a more balanced housing market.

Other survey highlights include:

  • The average 12-month home price change expectation rose to 2.7%.
  • The share of respondents who say home prices will go up in the next 12 months rose to 48%. The share who say home prices will go down rose to 8%.
  • The share of respondents who say mortgage rates will go up in the next 12 months increased to 52%.
  • Those who say it is a good time to buy a house fell slightly to 66%, while those who say it is a good time to sell rose to 46% – a new survey high.
  • The average 12-month rental price change expectation remained at 4%.
  • The percentage of respondents who expect home rental prices to go up rose to 53%.
  • Those who think it would be easy to get a home mortgage fell by 4 percentage points to 50%, while those who think it would be difficult rose by 3 percentage points to 46%.
  • The share who say they would buy if they were going to move fell 5 percentage points to 60% – a new survey low, while the share who would rent rose to 34%.

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