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Homeownership and Wealth Creation - NYTimes.com

Homeownership and Wealth Creation - NYTimes.com

By THE New York Times EDITORIAL BOARD NOV. 29, 2014

Since the housing bust, renting has been in and owning a home has been out, especially among young adults who in earlier decades would have been first-time home buyers. As the rate of homeownership has declined, from a peak of nearly 70 percent in 2004 to a 20-year low of 64.3 percent recently, the number of owner-occupied homes has barely budged, while the number occupied by renters has increased by nearly 25 percent.

Those trends have led to questions about the future of homeownership. Would more and longer rentals be a bad thing? Are the benefits of homeownership overrated? The answer to the first question is yes; the answer to the second is no.

Homeownership long has been central to Americans' ability to amass wealth; even with the substantial decline in wealth after the housing bust, the net worth of homeowners over time has significantly outpaced that of renters, who tend as a group to accumulate little if any wealth.

A recent study by researchers at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University analyzed the reasons for these differing outcomes. Paramount among them is that homeownership requires potential buyers to save for a down payment, and forces them to continue to save by paying down a portion of the mortgage principal each month.

Renting, in contrast, offers the potential for comparable wealth building only if renters invest an amount equal to a down payment plus any savings from renting. As a practical matter, most renters do not do that. Even in instances where renters have excess cash, saving a substantial amount is difficult without a near-term goal, like a down payment. It is also difficult to systematically invest each month in stocks, bonds or other assets without being compelled to do so.

The analysis does not downplay the risks of homeownership or the devastation of the housing bust. But the lesson of that debacle is not for individuals to avoid homeownership or for policy makers to devalue its importance. Rather, the lesson should be to foster conditions under which middle- and lower-income Americans can sustain homeownership and avoid the ruin of foreclosure.

For starters, legal and regulatory protections against practices that inflated the housing bubble need to take root. The Dodd-Frank financial reform law, for example, requires lenders to ensure that borrowers have the ability to repay their home loans and outlaws complex mortgage terms that enrich lenders but expose borrowers to payment shocks.

The law also established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with the purpose of looking out for consumers' interests in financial transactions. The C.F.P.B. has gotten off to a good start, but Republicans, who now control Congress, have consistently tried to weaken the agency and the provisions of Dodd-Frank generally. President Obama must be prepared to veto legislation to repeal or weaken mortgage-finance and consumer-protection reforms.

Equally important, larger economic forces that make homeownership less possible for working people need to be in the forefront of political debate -- even if Republican control of Congress makes actions to address them unlikely. Long-term wage stagnation, for example, has made it increasingly difficult to accumulate enough for a down payment, and has led many homeowners to refinance their mortgages in order to pull out equity for consumer purchases.

The solution is to lift wages, not only with new policies like higher minimum wages and toughened labor standards, but also with approaches to managing the economy to ensure that a fair share of growth goes to wages and salaries, rather than going disproportionately to corporate profits.

Renting can make sense as a lifestyle choice or because of income constraints. As a means to building wealth, however, there is no practical substitute for homeownership.

via Homeownership and Wealth Creation - NYTimes.com.

 

How Much Home Can You Afford?

By: Craig Donofrio  

Looking at sprawling villas in the suburbs and 2,000-square-foot condos in the middle of downtown is one thing. How much home you can afford may be entirely different.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with looking. But when it comes down to finding a place that fits perfectly in looks, size and price, you need to know your affordability factor.

What Is Your Family Plan?

It's not just how much you make; it's also what you plan to do with it.

Do your best to anticipate what the next five years or so will be like for you and your family. Are you planning to have kids in the next few years? Is your teen graduating from high school? Will they need you to co-sign for a college loan? Are you planning for a wedding?

All these can raise your debt-to-income ratio. Even if you can afford a mortgage with a 40% debt-to-income ratio now, life events like having children can bring that ratio up to and over 50%.

Do your best to map out what the next five years or so will look like and keep an emergency fund for the unexpected.

Plan for the house you can afford today--not what you can afford a few years from now when the raise kicks in.

What Is Your Payment Approach?

Do you want to plan conservatively, moderately or aggressively? The difference can determine the type of home within your ballpark range.

For example, if you make $73,000 a year, have a $40,000 down payment, $350 in monthly debts and want to buy a house in Ridgefield, CT, these are the scenarios to consider:

The conservative approach: no more than 28% of your income goes to housing expenses and 36% goes to debts. House affordability range: $303,000

The moderate approach: no more than 33% of your income goes to housing expenses and 38% goes to debts. House affordability range: $349,000

The aggressive approach: no more than 36% of your income goes to housing expenses and 41% goes to debts. House affordability range: $362,000

The more aggressive the approach, the more budgeting discipline you need.

You also will need better credit, as you will be taking on more debt for a more expensive home. Figure out which works best for you--remember, it's better to err on the safe side rather than be strapped for cash each month.

Check out the realtor.com® affordability calculator to see what spending approach looks like for you in the area of your choice.

What Is Your Preferred Location?

You might not have the means to afford a house in a central location. If that's the case, consider a ZIP code in a neighboring area.

To get a feel for houses in your price range, use our affordability calculator for a nearby area and then check the listings at the bottom of the page.

If you can't find something you like, you can always go down in price or continue to rent until you have the means to afford that dream home.

What Are Other Homeownership Costs?

Home ownership isn't as simple as paying the mortgage. You can be sure other expenses will pop up.

For example, if you can't make at least a 20% down payment, you will need private mortgage insurance. If you have an FHA loan, you will have to budget for premiums.

There's also property tax and home insurance on top of closing costs. Repairs, general maintenance, condo fees, utilities and buying new furniture for your new home also need to be anticipated.

The more thorough your budgeting, the more comfortable you'll be when shopping for a home.

How much home can you afford?

Tips for Creating the Perfect Atmosphere for a Winter Home Sale

To successfully sell your home, you must take advantage of every showing. This can be especially hard in winter when the light is poor and your yard is not looking its best. Luckily there are a few simple things you can do boost your home's charm offensive.

1. Turn up the heat

Impressing buyers in winter means literally turning up the heat. Pop on the heaters at least an hour before potential buyers come round. The warmth will give them a good feeling as they step in from the cold. If you have an open fire, light it. Nothing screams warm and cozy like a beautiful fire.

2. Banish the gloom

Nobody likes dark places. If your property looks good in daylight, try to schedule your viewing when daylight is at its strongest. For evening viewings, switch on the center lights and add table lamps and uplighters to brighten gloomy corners. A few scented candles in strategic places like the bathroom, the living room or the bedroom can add a homely, romantic feel.

3. Clean light sources

No seller should underestimate the power of a good clean. But if you are selling in winter, you need to pay particular attention to your light sources and window dressings -- window glass, curtains, blinds, shades and light bulbs. A dusty light bulb or dirty shade can obstruct as much as half the light, which will make your home look gloomy.

4. Exploit the season

Christmas is just around the corner and with it comes lights, ornaments and the smell of mulled wine! By using these decorations wisely, you can really sell a lifestyle to potential buyers. Remember that you want to create the illusion of space, so don't go overboard. Buyers want to imagine family celebrations in your property, not get trapped between the sofa and a ten-foot Christmas tree.

5. Reduce noise for a soothing atmosphere 

A house is a shelter from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Would-be buyers want a home that will make them feel comfortable and relaxed, especially in winter, when they are more likely to curl up with a book in front of the fire than kick a ball around the park. Create a soothing atmosphere by limiting the noise. Do not start the washer, dryer or dishwasher before receiving visitors. Turn off the TV. Background music is fine, but  keep it soothing.

6. Pay attention to your outdoor space

A winter garden need not be a neglected garden. Keep it tidy by deadheading old flowers, raking leaves and mowing your lawn. Consider planting some evergreen or winter flowering shrubs to add a splash of color to a yard or patio. A fire pit or patio heater is a great way to open up you outdoor pace if you are still getting some last-minute winter sun.

If you make your property as welcoming as possible, you will stand the best chance of selling your property during the quieter winter season. Good luck!

Is cash hidden in your closet?

Is cash hidden in your closet? By Nicole Anzia  | SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON POST   OCTOBER 19, 2014

We had such a glorious summer that the transition to fall feels seamless this year. But it won't be long until the weather turns frigid. Are you ready?

Now is the perfect time to do a thorough closet cleaning so you're prepared for cooler temperatures. For many people, making decisions about what to keep and discard is difficult. Harder still can be figuring out what to do with the unwanted items.

Fortunately, the burgeoning online clothing-consignment industry is making it even easier to find a second home for your unwanted clothes, shoes, and handbags, and to make money while you're at it.

Each company operates a little differently, but they all have one goal: to make online consignment easy. Yes, you still have to sort through your closets, but they do the rest by offering complimentary packaging, free shipping, and access to a lot of potential buyers.

? ThredUP (www.thredup.com)

What it accepts: ThredUP buys and sells name-brand women's (and kids') clothing, including shoes, handbags, plus-size, and maternity items in like-new condition.

How to consign: Order a free ''Clean Out Bag'' from the website, fill it with clothes, and send it back via the US Postal Service or Federal Express using the prepaid shipping label. Merchandisers screen the clothes for quality, photograph and list the accepted items, then send you an e-mail with your payout details. For a fee of $12.99, the company will send back everything it cannot accept.

Terms of consignment: ThredUP has two payout methods -- upfront and consignment. You earn up to 35 percent of the selling price upfront for clothing listed under $20. You earn between 50 percent and 80 percent of the selling price for each item listed over $20, when it sells. Sellers are paid in either ThredUP shopping credit or via PayPal. Consignment items are listed for 90 days. If a piece has been listed and does not sell, it can be sent back to you for $2.99.

? The RealReal (www.therealreal.com)

What it accepts: The RealReal sells authenticated luxury clothes at up to 90 percent off retail price. It accepts women's and men's luxury fashion, fine jewelry and watches, and fine art.

How to consign: Schedule a full-service consignment pickup (in 16 cities), or request a free direct-shipping kit. An authentication team inspects, photographs, and lists the items.

Terms of consignment: You initially earn 60 percent then up to 70 percent once a sales threshold has been reached. Payments are made monthly by check, direct deposit, or with site credit.

? Poshmark (www.poshmark.com)

What it accepts: Poshmark sells women's clothing and accessories in good condition -- any brand.

How to consign: Create an account with a size profile. Take a picture of your item and list it for sale with the free iPhone, iPad, or Android app.

Terms of consignment: Poshmark provides prepaid, preaddressed labels. Once an item is sold, pack it and drop it off at a post office mailbox or have it picked up at home. For all sales under $15, Poshmark takes a commission of $2.95. For sales of $15 or more, Poshmark's take is 20 percent. Earnings can be kept as site credit or withdrawn as cash.

? Twice (www.liketwice.com) What it accepts: Twice sells lightly used women's clothes, handbags, and shoes. The brands it accepts are listed on its site.

How to consign: Request a prepaid shipping bag or print a label. Twice will make you an offer within a week of receiving the items. If you accept it, the company will make the payment to you and list the items. Any items that do not sell are donated.

Terms of consignment: Items are purchased from you upfront once the offer is accepted.

? Threadflip (www.threadflip.com)

What it accepts: Threadflip sells new or lightly worn women's clothing, shoes, bags, jewelry, and accessories.

How to consign: Request a free shipping kit or print a prepaid shipping label. Approved items will be professionally photographed and listed. You also have the option to list the items yourself.

Terms of consignment: A tiered commission rate is offered based on the list price.

? Snobswap (www.snobswap.com)

What it accepts: Snobswap sells and swaps new and gently used luxury designer clothes, shoes, and accessories for men, women, and children.

How to consign: You take photos and list the items yourself on the website. You can also just hand your clothes off to someone who takes care of the listing details.

Terms of consignment: Listing is free, but Snobswap will take a 15 percent seller's fee once the item is sold.

Nicole Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik. She can be reached at nicole@neatnik.org via 

Is cash hidden in your closet? - Real estate - The Boston Globe.

3 Tips to Sell Your House in the Fall - Sell - realtor.com

Fall Home Sales

Although the real estate business tends to slow down in the fall, the season still can be an attractive time to put a home on the market. If you want to sell your house in the next few months, it can be done. Potential buyers--such as empty nesters or millennials who aren't worried about moving after the school year has started--will compete for fewer homes on the market and will likely want to seal a deal before the holiday season kicks into high gear. Here are three tips to help make your home more attractive in autumn, so you can sell your house before winter comes.

1. Clean Up

As many regions slowly shift from a sellers' market to a moderate or buyers' market, you'll want to do everything you can to make your house look its best. Pay particular attention to eliminating clutter and safety hazards that can crop up with cooler weather: Make sure your yard, walkways and gutters are free of leaves and debris. Mow your lawn so it looks neat. Trim trees so unexpected winds don't knock down branches that could damage your home or hurt anybody. If it is rainy, be sure you have a good doormat so visitors can wipe their feet and not traipse mud and water through the house.If you already have snow, be sure stairs and walkways leading to your front door are not icy.Wash decks and wipe down windows so they sparkle instead of appear streaked by rain. Vacuum and wash down the fireplace, especially if it hasn't been used in months. If you live in a region where it's still warm enough to use the patio, make sure the area is inviting and arranged with the views from indoors in mind. Above all, make sure your doorway and the rest of the house is clear from knick knacks, bicycles and toys that make your home appear cluttered.

2. Create Autumn Curb Appeal

If your house's exterior looks drab, you may want to consider painting it a warm color, planting seasonal flowers, or placing pumpkins strategically along your walkup to accent your home's appeal with instant color. Potential buyers will make an instant judgment when they see your home, and you want to be sure it's positive. While you don't want to go overboard with fall decorations that detract from the home itself, a few displays like a festive front-door wreath--and lighting so people can clearly see the path to your front door--can make your home feel fresh, even in the fall.

3. Keep the House Cozy

Entering a cold house could leave an unfavorable impression. So warm up your home with a fresh coat of paint and set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature. Another way to warm up a home is with light, especially as days get shorter leading into winter. Be sure to open blinds and curtains so plenty of light illuminates the home's interior. A few embellishments like red, orange or golden yellow pillows can breathe new life into dull sofa--or a fall centerpiece can highlight a certain area of the home. While you don't want your home to look like the latest department store display, well-chosen embellishments that give potential buyers the impression you've paid attention to the fine details and taken care of any problems with the home will help you put your best face forward. And remember, there's nothing wrong with trying to sweeten the deal with the comforting aroma of a freshly-baked, cinnamon-laced apple pie or pumpkin cupcake to leave a lasting impression of your home as the potential buyer takes a bite.

 

Updated from an earlier version by Michele Dawson/Realty Times.

 

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Be Credit-Wise to Help You Get that Mortgage Loan

Your credit score is one of the most valuable things you own and it can quickly turn into a nightmare for you. A low credit score will directly affect your ability to borrow money and may get you turned down for that mortgage loan you have applied for. Or, you may be offered a higher interest rate because the lender sees you as a risky borrower. This may prevent you from buying your Waterbury or Stowe, Vermont dream home!
 
Many people either don't understand the ins and outs of their credit score, or they have inaccurate information on the subject. If you are currently looking for real estate, you should prepare yourself ahead of time and work to increase your credit score. Hopefully this will enlighten you!
 

1. Credit reports aren't always accurate. Most have a big error or mistake: 80 percent, actually. Regularly check your credit report. Everyday we hear about thousands of credit cards being compromised through the hacking of large retailers' security and payment systems. These breaches can ruin your credit and be a large and seemingly endless headache for you.

If your personal information gets compromised, a thief will open up financial accounts in your name. However, they will not pay the bills, and this will ruin your credit. Those unpaid bills will be reported to the credit agencies and will affect your ability to buy a car, rent a nice place, purchase a home or even get employment. So keep a close eye on your credit scores and your credit card accounts and report suspicious charges and credit cards immediately.
2. Pulling your credit score may lower it. A "soft" pull is done yourself for personal reasons; it will have zero effect. A "hard inquiry" is when a lender pulls it up for loan approval. It will have a negative impact, but small.
3. A higher income does not equal a higher credit score. Income is not relevant to credit score; paying bills on time (or not) is what matters.
4. Credit scores and credit reports are not the same. Credit reports are just one piece of the equation. Many factors go into calculating your credit score. What matters is your credit managing skills and making sure all three large credit bureaus have similar information and scores. The three big credit reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian and Transunion, and you can get one free credit report a year from each. Take advantage of this to protect yourself.
5. Debt settlement will not remove debt from your credit report. Debt settlement doesn't fix bad credit. Late payments, bad information and other smears remain for up to seven years following the first "infraction" date.
6. Cash-only payments will not help you build credit. You can't build good credit unless you use credit, and use it wisely. Get a couple small loans or credit cards and pay them off as you use them.
7. Closing your credit card accounts will not improve your credit score. Closing a card lowers your amount of disposable income: the ability to pay off other debt. You don't want to lower "credit utilization" by closing out a card.
8. Smart management of your various banking accounts is not reflected in your credit score. These are not reported to credit bureaus and thus have no impact. But hopefully your smart management means you are paying your bills on time!
9. Dispute inaccurate information to remove it from your credit report. You can dispute only mistakes. A valid dispute will result in deletion of inaccurate information. A dispute of negative, but accurate, information will be a waste of time.
10. Missed payments will affect your credit score. Any missed or late payment can be reported to a credit bureau and probably will be.
 
Based on a n article By Robert Siciliano
Real Estate Services with IDTheftSecurity.com Inc

 

Comments

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      Welcome to Waterbury VT's next great neighborhood. Waterbury Commons

      For years Central Vermonters  have trumpeted the need for more Village housing In Waterbury. That call has been answered with Waterbury Commons, Waterbury Vermont's next great neighborhood and part of the greater Stowe area real estate market.

      Waterbury Commons affords home buyers custom designed, high-quality, energy-efficient, beautiful homes starting at $295,000. The bonus? The neighborhood sits in a picturesque, excellent village location with the added convenience  of municipal water and sewer. Waterbury Commons offers home buyers the best of both worlds.

      Respected, local builder Paul Arnot of the renowned Arnot Development Group (ADG) presents his vision for a walkable neighborhood accessible to all of Waterbury's best features including dining, shopping, Thatcher Brook Primary School and all Waterbury community hot spots like the Prohibition Pig, The Reservoir, Balck Back Pub, Cork Wine Bar and Hen of the Wood to name just a few.

      ADG builders is best known for building some of Central Vermont's most beautiful luxury homes and orchestrating a number of well known Waterbury neighborhoods. An early adopter of Green Building design and technology, Paul brings his critical understanding of high-quality home designs and energy friendly green living to the Waterbury Commons project. We at New England Landmark Realty are excited to be representing this project.

      - See more details about available house packages Waterbury Commons.

      Rome Was Built in 12 Years... In Waterbury, VT

      As we leave winter behind and look forward to spring and summer, let's pause and think about a local snowboarding company - yet another thing to celebrate!

      This thriving Vermont snowboard company was started by two University of Vermont graduates and is based out of Waterbury, VT - with the Vermont vibe inherent in all that they do - it doesn't get much more local...

      Vermont Life Magazine Rome Was Built in 12 Years » Vermont Life Magazine.

      Homeless: Support from the Obama Administration

      Real estate so often focuses on home ownership and the sector of the population that can afford to own a home. It is important that we also open up our eyes and acknowledge the homeless that live in our community, our country. President Obama's Administration has recently renewed support of local homeless housing and service programs. What homeless programs exist in your community and how can you get involved? 

      U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan recently announced nearly $1.6 billion in grants to renew support for 7,100 local homeless housing and service programs across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Provided through HUD's Continuum of Care Program, the funding will ensure these local projects remain operating in the coming year, providing needed housing and support services to those persons and families experiencing homelessness.

      These grants support a variety of programs, including street outreach, client assessment, and direct housing assistance to individuals and families with children who are experiencing homelessness. HUD will award additional grant funding to support hundreds of other local programs in the coming weeks.

      "Whether it's helping to rapidly re-house families with young children or finding a permanent home for an individual with serious health conditions, HUD is working with our local partners to end homelessness as we know it," says Donovan. "Over the last few years we have changed the trajectory of homelessness in America, but we need bipartisan support from Congress to fully fund proven strategies that have created this downward trend. The evidence is clear that the cost of doing nothing far exceeds the cost of finding real housing solutions for those who might otherwise be living on our streets."

      "In the face of budget cuts from sequestration, Continuum of Care and grantees were forced to make difficult choices and do as much as possible to advance their local efforts to end homelessness with fewer resources," says Laura Zeilinger, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. "Communities are making the smart choice, investing HUD funds in evidence-based, cost-effective programs. Now we need help from Congress to fully fund these programs and provide communities with exactly what they need to reach the goals of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness."

      HUD funding will allow local providers to continue offering permanent and transitional housing to homeless persons as well as services including job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care. HUD is continuing to challenge local communities to reexamine their response to homelessness and give greater weight to proven strategies, from promoting "Housing First" to providing 'rapid re-housing' for homeless families with children and permanent supportive housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness.

      Continuum of Care grants are awarded competitively to local projects to meet the needs of individuals and families experiencing homelessness in their community. The grants fund a wide variety of programs from street outreach and assessment to transitional and permanent housing for homeless persons and families. HUD funds are a critical part of the Obama Administration's strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness

      In 2010, President Obama and 19 federal agencies and offices that form the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) launched the nation's first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness. Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness puts the country on a path to end veterans and chronic homelessness as well as to end homelessness among children, family, and youth. The Fiscal Year 2013 grants awarded today were reduced in part due to last year's automatic across-the-board budget cuts under sequestration.

      Donovan says, "Like last year's sequestration, any reduction to HUD's homeless assistance programs has a negative impact on local communities' ability to reduce the number of persons living in our shelters and on our streets. It is my hope that Congress will consider the President's 2015 budget request to fully fund these local programs so we can meet our nation's goals of ending homelessness as we know it."

      The President's 2015 Budget seeks $2.4 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, $480 million above the 2012 enacted level. This level of funding maintains the approximately 224,000 HUD-funded beds that assist the homeless nationwide and expands rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing.

      HUD recently announced its 2013 estimate of the number of homeless persons in America. Approximately 3,000 cities and counties reported 610,000 homeless persons on a single night in January of 2013, down 6.1 percent since 2010. During the same time, HUD found significant declines among the long-term or chronic homeless population (15.7 percent) and veterans experiencing homelessness (24.2 percent). 

      For more information, visit www.hud.gov.

      Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

       

      Resources for Vermonters: 

      HUD VT - http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/states/vermont/homeless

      VT Foodbank - http://www.vtfoodbank.org/give?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=%2Bhomeless%20 vermont&utm_campaign=paid

      COTS - http://cotsonline.org

      VAHC - http://www.vtaffordablehousing.org/index.php

      http://education.vermont.gov/homeless-children-and-youth

      http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/vermont.html

      NAR Report's Homeownership is a Priority

      Renters Thinking More about Owning a Home, Say Homeownership is a Top Priority

      Reposted from National Association of Realtor's

      WASHINGTON (July 25, 2013) - Americans overwhelmingly believe owning a home is a good financial decision and a majority of renters say homeownership is one of their highest priorities for the future, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors®. The 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey also found that renters are thinking more about purchasing a home now than in past years, while the number of people who say they prefer to rent has declined.

      "Homeownership matters to Americans who consistently realize the many benefits it provides to communities, families and the nation's economy," said NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty, in Villa Park, Calif. "Due to high housing affordability and today's interest rates it makes sense for people to consider homeownership over renting. In fact, in many parts of the country it's cheaper to own a home than to rent one. Therefore, it's no surprise that renters recognize that owning a home offers tremendous long-term benefits and is an investment in their future."

      The survey, which measures consumers' attitudes and concerns about housing opportunities, found eight in 10 Americans believe buying a home is a good financial decision and more than two-thirds (68 percent) said now is a good time to buy a home. Since the last survey in 2011, more renters are now thinking about purchasing a home, up from 25 percent to 36 percent, while those who say they prefer to rent dropped from 31 percent to 25 percent. Half of renters say that eventually owning a home is one of their highest personal priorities, up from 42 percent to 51 percent.

      Attitudes toward the housing market have also improved over the years. Nearly four in 10 Americans (38 percent) identified an increase in activity within their local housing market in the past year, compared to just 22 percent who reported a slowdown in activity. By contrast, in 2011 some 51 percent reported a slowdown in activity. There was also less concern than in the past about the drop in home values; a majority said housing prices in their area are more expensive than a year ago.

      In addition to these improved attitudes about the housing market, respondents also showed an improved outlook about the national economy. Just under half (48 percent) said job layoffs and unemployment are a big problem, down from 61 percent in 2011. The concern over foreclosures showed a steep decline from 2011 when 47 percent characterized distressed properties as "very" or a "fairly big problem"; today only 29 percent say it's a problem.

      For many Americans, the perceived obstacles to homeownership have remained unchanged over the years; low wages, student loan debt, and little savings for a down payment and closing costs continue to make it difficult for many to become homeowners. Respondents across the board - young and old, college graduates and non-graduates - consider student loan debt to be a large obstacle.

      "Student loan debt is a concern for many consumers in today's market, especially first-time buyers," said Thomas. "Buyers with student loan debt may find it difficult to access mortgage credit, as well as save for a down payment. Pending mortgage finance regulations requiring higher down payments could also contribute to the already tight lending environment. Realtors® are working with regulators to address this issue and are committed to making sure those who are willing and able to own a home have the opportunity to pursue that dream."

      When asked for reasons why homeownership is important, respondents' top reasons underscored basic American values and freedoms; they were building equity, wanting a stable and safe environment, and the freedom to choose where to live. While these reasons have remained virtually unchanged since 2011, they do vary slightly according to demographics. The top scoring reason for African-Americans and Hispanics was that homeownership provides stability and a safe environment; women also placed more emphasis on environmental factors than men. Non-college graduates placed stronger emphasis on public schools, owning a home before retirement, and living in asafe and stable environment.

      The 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey is conducted by American Strategies and Myers Research & Strategic Services for NAR's Housing Opportunity Program, which aims to position, educate and help Realtors®promote housing opportunities in their community, in both the rental and homeownership sectors of the market. The telephone survey polled 2,000 adults nationwide and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

      The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

       

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