Shocking Number of Americans Think We’re Still in a Housing Crisis

by Peter Thomas Ricci

The numbers may be telling us that the housing crisis is a thing of the past, but don’t say that to a shockingly high percentage of consumers.

You’d think it was a fabricated stat – 70 percent of U.S. adults still believe that the country’s housing market is in the middle of a crisis, or that the worst is yet to come.

That was one of two jaw-dropping findings in the MacArthur Foundation’s second annual How Housing Matters Survey, a wide-ranging study of American sentiment towards the housing market; earlier this week, we reported on the survey’s other finding, which was that in the last three years, more than half of U.S. adults had to make sacrifices to afford their housing accommodations.

Housing is in a State of Crisis!?

Indeed, it’s quite surprising to find so many Americans in fear of the housing market, especially given the recent milestones: the market share of distressed sales dropped nearly 30 percentage points; as we recently detailed, delinquencies have fallen by nearly 50 percent and nearly four million mortgage-holders have escaped negative equity; and finally, residential construction is up by 17 percent from last year, with a strong multifamily market leading the way.

Yet, 70 percent of U.S. adults are not buying it; additionally, only 25 percent of U.S. adults believe the crisis to be over, and 42 percent believe the housing market today continues to be a serious problem.

Why Oh Why Oh Why?

How is that the case? We have a couple of hypotheses:

1. Ill Communication – First, it could be a matter of who is delivering the message of housing’s good fortunes. Perhaps many of those 70 percent of consumers are unaware of how much delinquencies have fallen, or how many millions of consumers have returned to a state of positive equity? Maybe the message just isn’t getting out like it should?

2. The Inconvenient Truth – Second, it could be a matter of perspective. As we reported last week, the current housing market is a lopsided one, with most of the gains and activity funneling towards the higher price points; perhaps those 70 percent of consumers are in the lower price points, where sales have fallen and prices have been stagnant?

3. Persistent Memory – Lest we forget, even with housing’s post-bubble progress, there are still millions of homeowners (6.3 million, by CoreLogic’s latest count) who are still in negative equity, and millions more who lost their homes to foreclosure or had to pursue short sales; for such consumers, those are difficult memories to abandon.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear that we’re not quite out of the woods yet, and that agents must remain as sensitive and empathetic as ever when talking with consumers and walking clients through all the steps of the buying and selling process.

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