Responses to Fannie Mae's National Housing Survey for June showed more marked changes in several categories than has been the case in recent months when data has been relatively flat. Most of the changes indicted slowly increasing confidence in the housing market and in the economy in general, however the greatest change was in consumer expectations about interest rates.
In January 55 percent of respondents expected interest rates to rise over the ensuing 12 months, but as rates softened those responses drifted back down and in May only 49 percent expected higher rates. In the latest survey that response shot up 6 points, returning to 55 percent.
Fannie Mae noted that consumer confidence in the housing market has trended upward significantly during the recovery but continues to be less than needed to return to "normal" housing levels. While consumers appear positive overall and are trending in that direction, some survey and market indicators reflect a more subdued housing market, underscoring that the recovery continues but is not yet robust.
The number of respondents who think this is a good time to buy a house rose 2 percentage points from May to 70 percent but those who think it is a good time to sell reversed a four month climb to drop from 43 to 40 percent.
The share of respondents who say home prices will go up in the next 12 months fell to 46 percent, and while expectations for that increase remained positive at 2.4 percent, that was slightly lower than in the previous two months likely, Fannie Mae said, in response to a lackluster housing picture in the first half of the year. The share who say home prices will go down increased to 10 percent.
"Since we began collecting monthly National Housing Survey data in June 2010, we've seen substantial progress in consumer home price expectations and other key attitudinal measures as the housing recovery gained its footing," said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. "Still, we do not expect to see 'normal' levels of new residential construction, in the region of 1.6 million new housing units per year, before the end of 2016, our original projection. Such a feat would require a pace of growth in housing starts not seen in decades."
"The uptick this month in the share of consumers expecting mortgage rates to go up and the accompanying decline in home price expectations reflect the pause of activity in the housing market so far this year," said Duncan. "Despite recent improvement, we now expect an annual decline in existing home sales due to weak volume in the first four months of the year associated with the rise in mortgage rates mid-last year and the current dearth of supply of lower-priced homes. On the bright side, the share of employed consumers who expressed concerns about losing their job dropped to an all-time survey low in June, consistent with last week's upbeat jobs report. This may encourage potential homebuyers to enter the purchase market in 2014, helping to offset some of the weakness in sales activity."
Fifty-four percent of respondents expect rental prices to rise over the next 12 months compared to 51 percent in May. The average 12-month price change expectation increased to 4.3 percent from 3.9 percent.
Fifty-two percent of respondents thought it would be easy for them to get a home mortgage today, increasing from 49 percent and matching the all-time high. The share who say they would buy if they were going to move was slightly higher at 68 percent.
Americans seemed a bit more upbeat in June about both their personal financial situation and the economy as a whole. The share of respondents who say the economy is on the wrong track fell by 3 percentage points from last month to 54 percent and those who expect their personal financial situation to get better over the next 12 months ticked up to 43 percent. Those who claim significantly lower income than a year earlier was down 1 percentage point to 11 percent, a new all-time low however those who say their household expenses have increased significantly over the same period rose 4 points to 38 percent.
The National Housing Survey is conducted monthly among 1,000 Americans, both renters and homeowners. Respondents are asked over 100 questions during a phone interview to assess their attitudes toward owning and renting a home, home and rental price changes, homeownership distress, the economy, household finances, and overall consumer confidence. The survey has been conducted since June 2010.