By Christine DiGangi
Fewer Americans believe homeownership is attainable for middle-income consumers, according to the latest Country Financial Security Index. Perhaps Americans have adopted a more pessimistic outlook lately, or maybe the economic events of the past several years have caused us to expect the worst. Whatever the reason, nearly half -- 48 percent -- of adults surveyed said they think the country is headed for another housing bubble, though such a possibility isn't among Americans' top economic concerns.
The Country Financial Security Index is a compilation of a national telephone and online survey in which at least 3,000 Americans are interviewed about their personal financial security. Country Financial has conducted the survey through Rasmussen Reports since 2007, and this index has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Last year, 46 percent of those surveyed said owning a home was attainable for the middle class. This year, that percentage had dropped to 41 percent.
Given the margin of error, Americans' sentiments may not have changed much, but rising home prices could make buying a home more difficult. (In the same period, home prices are up 12.4 percent, according to the CoreLogic Home Price Index Report.) While 48 percent said that they think an echo housing bubble is ahead, only 6 percent of those surveyed said it was their top economic concern; however, a quarter of Americans ranked it among their top three concerns.
The study also looked at concerns and barriers among Americans who do and do not own homes. Among the 30 percent of Americans who don't currently own residential property, 26 percent said that they can't afford a down payment, the most common obstacle cited. Other barriers were concerns about job security and having too much debt, each accounting for 18 percent of responses.
As for homeowners (70 percent of Americans), 27 percent said that they don't expect to pay off their mortgages by age 65.
While those surveyed reflected valid concerns, smart financial planning can help aspiring homeowners reach their goals. With some changes coming for the mortgage industry, it's increasingly important for consumers to pay down debts so they can qualify for affordable mortgages, and there are numerous strategies for coming up with enough money for a down payment.
It can be challenging to compile a strong financial plan, but it's easier than trying to predict the economy. By building a strong emergency fund and reducing debt, consumers can put themselves in a good position to reach their financial goals when the time is right.
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