Real Estate Outlook: Housing at Forefront of Concerns

Monday, January 23, 2012   /   by Justin Hoffmann

Real Estate Outlook: Housing at Forefront of Concerns

As the race for the 2012 Presidential Election gets rolling, a new survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows what is on voters' minds.

Topping the list of concerns for voters is the importance of homeownership and the ease of obtaining it. The survey showed that American voters "strongly value homeownership and would oppose efforts to weaken or eliminate the mortgage interest deduction or diminish a federal role to help qualified home buyers obtain affordable 30-year mortgages."

Neil Newhouse, a partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, reports, "The American electorate is sending a clear message that owning a home remains a cornerstone of the American Dream and preserving a federal commitment to homeownership is essential to maintain a thriving middle class and get housing and the economy back on track."

Recent studies have backed this statement showing the ripple effect the housing market can have on other economic sectors. Housing invigorates the construction industry, remodelers, and even retail sales of home decor. More spending means more jobs, which in turn means more home buyers.

The survey found:

* 75 percent of voters see federal tax incentives for homeownership as appropriate.
* Two-thirds say that the federal government should help home buyers to afford a long-term or 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage.
* 73 percent of voters oppose eliminating the mortgage interest deduction.
* 96 percent of home owners are happy with their decision to own.

Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, said, "With the 2012 election season in full swing, candidates running for the White House and Congress would be wise to heed the will of the American voters, who have expressed broad support for government policies that encourage homeownership and oppose efforts to make it more difficult to get a home loan and to tamper with the mortgage interest deduction."

There have been some changing tides in real estate this month. Builder confidence continued to gain speed, rising four points to the highest level seen since 2007. This is the fourth consecutive month of gains.

Greater interest in home buying has begun to get builders geared up. Bob Nielsen, chairman of the NAHB, reports, "This good news comes on the heels of several months of gains in single-family housing starts and sales, and is yet another indication of the gradual but steady improvement that is beginning to take hold in an increasing number of housing markets nationwide -- and that has been shown by our Improving Markets Index."

There remains a strong concern among builders, however, of the ability of potential buyers to secure mortgages. For now mortgage applications have experienced a second consecutive week of increases, a possible indication that buyers are coming out of hiding and are returning to the market.

Michael Fratantoni, Mortgage Bankers Association's Vice President of Research and Economics, said, "Interest rates dropped last week due to continuing anxieties regarding the fragile economic situation in Europe. With mortgage rates reaching new lows, refinance volume jumped and MBA's refinance index reached its highest level in the last six months. Purchase activity also increased as buyers returned to the market after the holiday season."

By Carla Hill

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