Press Release

Households Continue to View Housing as a Good Investment

April 18, 2018

NEW YORK – The Federal Reserve Bank of New York today released results from its February 2018 SCE Housing Survey, which provides information on consumers’ housing-related experiences and expectations. The survey, which is part of the broader Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE), shows that home price growth expectations remained stable relative to last year. The majority of households continue to view housing as a good financial investment, though with some differences across regions. Homeowners view themselves as more likely to make investments in their homes, and renters’ perceived access to mortgage credit has tightened somewhat.

This latest survey marks the fifth installment of the SCE Housing Survey, which has been fielded annually since 2014. More detailed results are available in the SCE Housing Survey’s interactive web feature, which presents trends of key variables and various demographics over time. In addition, a detailed background report describes the sample and presents summary statistics for a larger number of questions.

For a close look into a key question from the survey—whether people think of housing as a good financial investment—see the accompanying post on the Liberty Street Economics blog. This post delves into how responses to these questions have shifted over time, how perspectives vary by region, and whether views on housing were impacted by natural disasters that occurred last year.

Key findings from the February 2018 Survey are:

Home Prices/Rents

  • Average home price change expectations at both the one- and five- year horizons remained stable relative to last year. For example, the mean one-year ahead expected change in home prices in 2018 was 4.65%, which is only slightly below last year’s 5.1% and the second-highest level since the inception of the survey in 2014. Five-year growth expectations average 3% per year, which is slightly higher than last year.
  • Households’ perceived downside risk in home prices slightly decreased. For instance, at the five-year horizon, the average probability of home prices decreasing declined from 29% in 2017 to 27%. Households in the Northeast perceive higher downside risk than those in other regions.
  • Rent change expectations decreased at both the one- and five- year horizons, by 0.4 and 0.2 percentage points, respectively.  They now stand at +7.3% (one year) and +4.3% (five years, annualized).

Housing Outlook

  • Attitudes toward housing as a financial investment became more positive than they already were: 65% of all respondents think that buying property in their zip code is a “very good” or “somewhat good” investment, compared to 60% in 2016. Only 10.6% think housing is a “bad” investment. Enthusiasm about housing as investment is particularly pronounced among younger, more educated (Bachelor’s degree or more), and higher-income (annual income of $60,000 or more) households. In the West, 70% of households think buying property is a “good” investment, while only 56% do so in the Northeast.
  • The average reported probabilities of moving over the next year and over the next three years have been on a slight but steady downward trend and now stand at 17% and 29%, respectively. The average probability of buying a home, conditional on moving within the next three years, inched upward from 63.6% in 2017 to 63.9% this year.

Mortgage Rates

  • On average, households perceive mortgage rates, both for themselves and nationally, to be roughly unchanged compared to one year earlier. This perception is broadly in line with actual mortgage rates.
  • Average expectations of future mortgage rates similarly remained steady compared to 2017 at both the one- and three-year ahead horizons, standing at 5.5% and 6.5%, respectively. However, the reported probability that mortgage rates will increase over the next year increased from 52% to 55%. Owners assign a higher likelihood to a mortgage rate increase than renters.

Owners

  • The average probability of mortgage refinancing over the next year declined to 8.9%, from 10.2% in 2017.
  • The average probabilities of investing at least $5,000 in the home over the one- and three-year horizons increased relative to last year and are now at their highest levels since inception of the survey. The average probability for the one-year horizon stands at 34.4%; the corresponding value for the three-year horizon is at 48.7%. The increase was particularly pronounced for homeowners aged 50 or less.

Renters

  • Renters continue to perceive obtaining a mortgage (if they want to buy a home) as difficult, with 67.5% stating that it would be “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to get a mortgage. This share is higher than in 2017 (65%) and there was a notable increase in the share of households thinking it would be “very difficult” to obtain a mortgage (36%, compared to 24% in 2017). These movements held across demographic groups, although they are most pronounced among lower-income, lower-education renters.
  • Renters continue to report a strong preference for owning homes, although it weakened relative to the previous two years. The share of renters who report preferring or strongly preferring to own instead of rent (if they had the financial resources to do so) stood at 67.3%, compared to 72.3% in 2017 and 74.1% in 2016. The decrease in preference for owning is primarily driven by renters aged 50 and above.
  • Similarly, renters’ average stated probability of owning a primary residence at some point in the future decreased from 55.2% to 49.5%, but this decrease was almost entirely driven by older renters.

About the SCE Housing Survey

The SCE Housing Survey, fielded annually as part of the SCE (Survey of Consumer Expectations), provides rich and high-quality information on consumers’ experiences, behaviors, and expectations related to housing. The survey, among other things, collects data on households’ home price growth perceptions and expectations; intentions regarding moving and buying a home in the future; and perceptions of credit conditions. For homeowners, the survey collects detailed information on their mortgage debt, past actions and experiences such as foreclosure or refinancing, and expectations regarding future actions, such as taking out new debt or investing in the home. For renters, among other things, the survey elicits preferences for owning versus renting, and perceptions regarding the ease of obtaining mortgage credit.

More information about the SCE survey goals, design, and content can be found here.

Contact
Betsy Bourassa
(212) 720-6885
betsy.bourassa@ny.frb.org