Housing has been stuck in a rut in 2014, but when you look at the proper information, it makes perfect sense.
After a stellar 2013 driven by investors and wealthier consumers, housing has bounced around sideways through most of 2014, leaving many analysts and real estate professionals scratching their heads and searching for explanations on what ails the mighty housing market.
Some culprits (low inventory and tight lending standards) come up quite often in discussions, but the latest National Housing Survey from Fannie Mae, which polled more than 1,000 Americans in August about various sentiments, has hit upon the most fundamental reason of all behind housing’s 2014 slowdown – the economic situation is such that for too many Americans, buying a house is simply not in the cards.
Here are the four key stats that drive that point home:
1. Right/Wrong/Sideways – Fifty-six percent of Americans still think the economy is on the wrong track; though that’s down 3 percentage points from July’s survey, that’s still a considerable number in light of today’s relatively positive economic indicators.
2. Are You Better Off? – By the same token, the percentage of Americans who expect their financial situation to improve over the next 12 months rose in August, but is still stuck at 44 percent; in other words, less than half of Americans see their finances getting better, so we can surmise that less than half would even consider purchasing a home.
3. Concentrated Gains – On the other side of the aisle, though, a small percentage of Americans have seen their incomes rise substantially; in the survey, 23 percent of respondents said their household income is up significantly from where it was 12 months ago, though even that is down 5 percentage points from June.
4. Expensive Living – Finally, an eye-opening 36 percent of Americans have seen their household expenses rise by significant margins in the last 12 months; as with the low number of Americans reporting bettering economic conditions, it’s a safe assumption that the 36 percent of Americans reporting higher expenses will not consider a new home in their immediate plans.
Doug Duncan, the senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, put it best in his comments accompanying the survey: “This year’s labor market strength has not translated into sufficient income gains to inspire confidence among consumers to purchase a home, even in the current favorable interest rate environment.”
It’s like we reported nearly a month ago, when research from the Federal Reserve found that only 48 percent of Americans could cover an emergency expense of $400, and that 57 percent of consumers have used some or all of their savings since 2008 – so people are not buying homes because so many people cannot afford to buy homes, and housing’s numbers reflect that.