High interest rates and soaring prices are killing Americans’ faith in the U.S. housing market. Just 21% of U.S. adults say now is a good time to buy a house, according to a new poll from Gallup. That’s the lowest homebuyer sentiment has ever been in data going back to 1978, when the organization first asked Americans the question. It’s also the second year in a row that sentiment has hit a new low—last year, just 30% of homebuyers thought the housing market was good for buyers.
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To put in perspective how rapidly the mood has shifted, the record low before those two years was 50%, and that just happened in 2020.
It’s not hard to parse why home-buying sentiment is so low. Interest rates have increased substantially over the past year-plus, curbing affordability, and the median home price sits at $436,800, compared to $329,000 pre-pandemic. For the past few months, housing affordability has been at its lowest point sinc
The survey not only takes into account the overall health of the housing market, according to Gallup, but also whether or not Americans believe housing is still a good investment. For most years going back to 1978, at least half of Americans have had confidence in that. But that’s changed dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Record-low interest rates early in the pandemic helped to bifurcate financial outcomes for many Americans. Those who could afford to buy—and were able to find a house—lucked out as home values increased significantly; the Federal Reserve finds that homeowners have a median net worth 40 times that of renters.
Quickly rising home prices means owners were able to build equity more quickly over the past few years (mortgage holders saw their equity increase by $1 trillion from the end of 2021 to the end of 2022, according to an analysis from CoreLogic). But they also mean that current prospective buyers are being priced out of ownership completely.
“The sad reality is that homeownership is the best path to generational wealth building for families, and this is now something that is in jeopardy throughout the majority of the U.S.,” says Maureen McDermut, a realtor with Sotheby’s International-Santa Barbara. “Some relief needs to be brought to the market.”
Higher interest rates are especially killer, quickly making an attractive price unaffordable. In fact, the monthly mortgage payment on a $300,000 loan would be $410 more at today’s average rate of 6.58% than it would have been when the Fed started raising rates in March 2022, when the average was 4.40%, according to Bankrate.
As a result, younger buyers, in particular, are deferring their home ownership dreams. Almost a quarter of Gen Z and 18% of millennials says they will postpone buying or building a home due to economic uncertainty, compared to 12% of all Americans, according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2023 Planning & Progress Study. Gallup notes that the pessimism permeating the market may keep first-time buyers on the sideline.
“In the past five years, the price for what we used to consider ‘starter homes’ has dramatically increased, and wages [and] earnings have not kept up pace,” says McDermut. And “with rents increasing and home prices increasing, potential home buyers are being squeezed from both ends. It is hard to save for a down payment when rent is taking up half of the monthly income of renters.”
All of that said, real estate is still considered the best long-term investment, according to Gallup: Americans ranked in higher than stocks, bonds, gold, and other assets in the organization’s Economy and Personal Finance poll. Its winning margin is narrowing, though. Around 34% say it’s the best, compared to a record-high 45% last year. That shows how much sentiment can change in a single year.
“Higher interest rates over the past year have cooled the housing market, dampening consumer exuberance about real estate as an investment,” Gallup noted in a separate release.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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