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Consumers Feeling Much Better About Buying a Home

After plunging to nearly the lowest level in its history in April, an index measuring consumer sentiment in the housing market bounced back significantly in June. Renters were especially optimistic about home buying.

The share of consumers who think it’s a good time to buy a home increased from 52% to 61% month to month, according to the Fannie Mae survey, while fewer Americans said it was a bad time to buy. Renters drove much of that improvement.

“The share of renters who say it’s a good time to buy a home is now at its highest level in five years, suggesting favorable conditions for first-time homebuying, consistent with the recent rebound in home purchase activity,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae senior vice president and chief economist.

Current homeowners are also getting slightly more optimistic about the sales market, especially given the lack of housing supply. The percentage of respondents saying now is a good time to sell a home increased from 32% to 41%, although nearly half still think it’s a bad time to sell.

Home sales jumped dramatically in May, after grinding to a halt in March and April. While new listings are coming on the market, the total inventory of homes for sale at the end of May was 19% lower than May 2019, according to the National Association of Realtors. Pending sales in May, which represent signed contracts on existing homes, jumped a record 44% compared with April.

“However, this activity may cool again in the coming months, depending on the extent to which it can be attributed to consumers having chosen to delay or to accelerate homebuying plans due to the pandemic,” said Duncan. “We believe the continuing uncertainty regarding the coronavirus’ containment suggests an uneven and potentially volatile course toward economic recovery.”

Consumers are still very concerned about their job security, even as the employment picture improves slightly. Renters and homeowners with a mortgage are particularly worried, according to the survey, given the sudden record-high unemployment brought on by the pandemic.

More Americans now think home prices will strengthen, which is a double-edged sword in the market. Home prices were already elevated going into the pandemic, and affordability was weakening despite record-low mortgage rates. On that front, more respondents said they expect mortgage rates to rise over the next year.

Article by Diana Olick, CNBC.com, July 7th, 2020.

 

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