Uptick in Home Purchase Sentiment Reflects Increased Confidence

by: Jann Swanson

Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) for November rose slightly, but within the 0.5-point increase was some increased confidence about personal finances and the wisdom of buying a home.  The index, which consolidates responses from a subset of questions on the company’s National Housing Survey, rose to 86.2 from 85.7 in November. The index is 1.6 points lower than in December 2017.

 

 

A survey high record was set in the net share of Americans who reported their income was up significantly over the last 12 months.  A 5-point increase brought the net share to 24 percent.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents told pollsters it was a good time to buy a home while 34 percent disagreed.  This resulted in net positive responses of 23 percent, up two points from October.

The other component of the HPSI that increased, by 1 point, were expectations that mortgage rates would go down.  That component, long in negative territory, rose to a net of -56 percent.

Those positives were largely offset by expectations that home prices would no longer continue to go up.  Net positive responses declined for the second straight month, down 4 points to 33 percent. The net share of respondents who were not worried about losing their job was down 1 point but was still at 77 percent.  The component representing those who think it is a good time to sell a home was unchanged at 35 percent.

“The HPSI has moved within a tight range over the past five months, as positive sentiment regarding the overall economy continued to offset cooling housing sentiment,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Consumers’ perceptions of growth in their household income reached a survey high this month, helping to absorb some of the impact of increasing mortgage rates on housing market activity. Meanwhile, the net share of consumers expecting home prices to increase over the next 12 months continues to moderate, dropping by 13 percentage points since this time last year.”

While not components of the HPSI, survey respondents are also asked about their expectations for the degree of increases or decreases in both home purchase and rental prices.  Among the 60 percent who said they do expect rents to go up, the average amount of the anticipated increase rose from 4.3 percent to 4.4 percent.  The 46 percent who still expect home prices to continue higher also lowered their expectations from a 2.6 percent annual increase to 2.5 percent.

The Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) distills information about consumers’ home purchase sentiment from Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey® (NHS) into a single number. The HPSI reflects consumers’ current views and forward-looking expectations of housing market conditions and complements existing data sources to inform housing-related analysis and decision making. The HPSI is constructed from answers to six NHS questions that solicit consumers’ evaluations of housing market conditions and address topics that are related to their home purchase decisions. The questions ask consumers whether they think that it is a good or bad time to buy or to sell a house, what direction they expect home prices and mortgage interest rates to move, how concerned they are about losing their jobs, and whether their incomes are higher than they were a year earlier.

The NHS, from which the HPSI is constructed, is conducted monthly by telephone among 1,000 consumers, both homeowners and renters.  Respondents are asked more than 100 questions to track attitudinal shifts.  The November 2018 National Housing Survey was conducted between November 1 and November 2, 2018, but primarily during the initial two weeks of that period.

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