Americans Say Housing Market ‘Improved;’ Owning Home ‘Good Investment’

A decade after the housing crisis, a majority of homeowners perceive the housing market as having strengthened and an overwhelming number of respondents view owning a house as a solid investment, reported a survey from Digital Risk, Maitland, Fla.

The survey said more than half of homeowners believe the housing market in their region and nationwide has improved. It also reported the majority of homeowners (91%) and renters (83%) view home ownership as a good investment.

The survey said confidence in the housing sector is being driven by a noticeable increase in home values. Eighty-seven percent of homeowners have seen their appraisal values holding or increasing, while just 12% saw a decrease. Sixteen percent saw gains of more than 20% in value.

“There’s no question that the housing sector continues to be a major driver of growth and recovery in the US economy,” said Jeff Taylor, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Digital Risk (and a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association Board of Directors). “It’s important to remember how far we’ve come in a decade. The fact that the American dream of owning a home is once again considered a smart investment suggests the housing market has years of strong performance ahead of it–provided that more borrowers clearly understand the criteria and ‘pathway’ to obtaining a mortgage.”

The survey notes, however, barriers to the housing market remain. Forty percent of renters said they could not afford the down payment. Insufficient income was cited by 37% of respondents, while 33% said they preferred renting to ownership. When asked what would make the decision easier to purchase a home, 40% percent cited debt forgiveness, 36% said a life event such as marriage or children and 31% percent said lower credit requirements would push them into the market.

Although 75% of Americans claimed that they support “efforts over the past decade to make the mortgage process safer and more consumer-friendly” only 22% of homeowners and 13% of renters thought the mortgage application process has improved. Moreover, 53% of homeowners said they did not know if the regulations have made it easier or harder to obtain a mortgage, while just 19% reported that the rules made it easier.

“It’s no secret that Americans support a healthy housing market with clear rules and procedures,” said Rose Bogan, Senior Vice President for Governance, Risk and Compliance with Digital Risk. “Still, lenders and borrowers alike recognize that consumer protections can be accomplished in a more straightforward, efficient way. The challenge moving forward is for lenders to smartly use technology and procedures to adapt to shifting regulatory requirements as seamlessly as possible.”

The survey also noted even as borrowers seek a more streamlined process to buy or refinance a home, many remain uneasy about using technology to eliminate paperwork. Seventy percent of homeowners and two-thirds of renters indicated they would not be comfortable managing the entire process via a smartphone application. And while two-thirds of homeowners and 59% of renters said they would be willing to complete an application on-line, nearly half of all respondents said they would prefer to speak to a representative in person during the process.

While many mortgage lenders are phasing in methods to reduce the amount of physical paperwork, such as electronic signatures, only 2% of respondents said they would be more likely to choose a mortgage company that offered paperless transactions. Thirty percent of homeowners and 25% of renters said they were less likely to take advantage of paperless options, suggesting a mistrust of online-only transactions.

Asked if they would store personal information in an online account to make borrowing easier, just 22% of homeowners said they would; 24% were unsure. Only 30% of renters said yes, while 35% were unsure.

“Today’s challenge for lenders is to harness technology to make the process safer, more convenient and faster, without losing sight of the need for a human touch,” Taylor said. “While they may trust smartphone apps to find a good restaurant, get directions or even hunt for a home, many borrowers still want contact with an experienced person to help guide them through the mortgage process.”

The survey of 1,057 U.S. homeowners and 509 renters took place between May 26 and June 2.