Report: Homeowners Wary of Housing Market's Future
Home Homeowners feel great about the current state of the housing market, but for the first time are less optimistic about the future, according to a Zillow® Housing Confidence Index (ZHCI).

The survey asked 10,000 renters and homeowners about the condition of their local real estate market, their expectations for home value growth and affordability in the future, and their aspirations for homeownership. Past surveys found homeowners feeling exuberant about the future, with 5.2 million renters saying they planned to buy this year.

The percentage of renters who say they plan to buy a home in the next year fell from 12.1 percent to 11.4 percent in the first six months of this year, and a smaller percentage of those surveyed said it was a good time to buy. The percentage of those surveyed who believe people who have recently bought a home will be better off in 10 years fell from 61 percent to 59 percent.

“The housing market is slowing down and Americans’ confidence in the future of the market is understandably fading a bit, too,” says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “Despite remaining quite confident overall, homeowners are less confident about the future than they are about the present. Seeing still stronger than normal home value appreciation in markets like San Francisco and Seattle might remind them of the last housing bubble, but the good news is things are leveling off with no crash in sight. If incomes rise to keep up with home values – and that’s a big ‘if’ – people can count on homeownership in their future, even in hot markets.”

Home-value growth has slowed in almost all housing markets this year, giving homebuyers some breathing room. In those markets with marked slowdowns, more buyers are looking to buy their first home. For example, eight percent of Philadelphia renters said they planned to buy within a year in the January survey, when home values were rising at a 3.1 percent annual rate. In July, when Philadelphia home values were flat, 18 percent said they planned to buy within a year, and many of those new potential buyers are millennials. Just one percent of 18 to 34 year-old Philadelphia renters surveyed in January planned to buy within a year, but that had increased to 23 percent in the July survey.

The opposite occurred in markets where home-value growth, despite having slowed overall, is still well above national norm, and here renters are less optimistic about their buying prospects. In San Francisco, 18 percent of 18- to 34-year-old renters planned to buy a home within a year, when asked in January. At that point, San Francisco home values were rising at a 7.9 percent annual rate. In July, home values were up 11 percent year-over-year, and only five percent of millennial renters surveyed then said they planned to buy within a year.

In January, 45 percent of all households surveyed in San Francisco said it was a good time to buy a home and 40 percent said it was a bad time. In July, the numbers had flipped: 40 percent said it was a good time and 46 percent said it was a bad time to buy.

Similar patterns played out in technology boom towns such as Seattle, San Jose and Denver as home values there kept soaring.

Despite high home values in San Jose, the Silicon Valley market was ranked first among 20 markets for housing confidence. Homeownership aspirations there, however, ranked behind more affordable metros in Atlanta, Miami and Las Vegas.

Seattle rose from number 10 to number two for housing confidence overall, and those surveyed expressed higher expectations for the housing market in the future. Denver rose from number eight to number three, which was fueled by both renters and owners feeling great about the market and expecting growth, even if they are less confident about their own ability to buy.

The ZHCI is derived from the U.S. Housing Confidence Survey (HCS), which polls 10,000 homeowners and renters about housing market conditions, expectations for the future and their attitudes toward homeownership in general, across 20 of the large metro areas in the United States. Zillow sponsors the ZHCI and HCS, which were developed and are maintained by Pulsenomics LLC.

“In the eyes of households in 17 of the 20 metropolitan areas, the outlook for the real estate market has dimmed since the start of 2015,” says Terry Loebs, founder of Pulsenomics. “Given the out-sized impact of homeownership on personal balance sheets and its interplay with the aspirations and behaviors of U.S. consumers, if this downshift in housing expectations persists, it could portend a longer period of price deceleration and more sluggish consumer spending than some people are currently expecting.”

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