Despite affordable mortgage rates, homeownership rate hits new low

Despite a number of factors working if favor of prospective homebuyers in recent years, real estate data indicates that the U.S. homeownership rate hit an all-time low at the beginning of 2012.

Despite a number of factors working if favor of prospective homebuyers in recent years, real estate data indicates that the U.S. homeownership rate hit an all-time low at the beginning of 2012.

According to a recent survey from Gallup, the homeownership rate across the country fell to just 62 percent of Americans during the first quarter this year. In 2011, the average rate was 68 percent.

The survey found that despite the drop in homeownership, a majority of Americans believe that now is a good time to purchase a home. Previously, the National Association of Realtors found that the relationship between mortgage rates, property values and median household incomes pushed home buying affordability to an all-time high earlier in 2012.

However, lack of available credit, stricter lending regulation and the damaged personal finances of many prospective buyers continue to hold them back from making the transition to homeownership.

Despite these indicators, some Americans continue to have positive feelings about the direction the housing market is headed. The survey found that 33 percent of current homeowners feel property prices will in their area will increase during the course of the year. Last year, only 28 percent of American shared this belief.   

Meanwhile, the survey indicated that current homeowners recognize that the housing market is tipped in favor of buyers, as only 53 percent believe their properties are worth more than they were at the original time of purchase. This is down significantly from 2008 when 80 percent of owners reported similar sentiment and 2006 when 92 percent felt the same way. 

With mortgage rates currently hovering near all-time lows and the Federal Reserve's efforts to keep them this way, a number of experts say that 2012 could a good year to buyer a home.

During the week ending April 26, Freddie Mac reports that the rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage edged lower to 3.88 percent. The previous week the rate averaged 3.9 percent. This rate has remained below 4 percent for all but one week during the course of 2012.

"Fixed mortgage rates held near record lows this week as the markets waited for the Federal Reserve's (Fed) April 25th monetary policy announcement following two days of deliberations," said Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist Frank Nothaft. "The Fed stated that it expects economic growth to remain moderate and then pick up gradually."

With rates holding near all-time lows and the spring buying season here, mortgage experts could see an upswing in purchase requests.



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