By Paul Fallon, Fallon Research
Recent newspaper articles and editorials have raised intriguing questions about whether the faltering housing market foreshadows a fundamental shift in cultural values about the importance of homeownership and if it remains an integral aspect of the American Dream. Survey topics from a recent nationwide poll of adults in the United States conducted by Fallon Research & Communications, Inc. explored some attitudes that current homeowners and renters have toward homeownership.
Despite the current malaise of the housing market, a narrow majority (54%) of U.S. residents that were surveyed said they disagree with the assertion that being a homeowner is not as important as it used to be. Looking at the results by sub-groups, the ones most likely to disagree are 18 to 29 year-olds (59%) and 30 to 44 year-olds (61%), which suggests that, as they foresee changes in their lives, homeownership is an integral part of the futures to which they aspire. Other groups with high proportions who disagreed were homeowners (58%) and those with annual household incomes of more than $100,000 (63%). Although all the aforementioned sub-groups are vital parts of the housing industry, the fact that, overall, one-third of the respondents agreed that being a homeowner is not as important as it used to be paints a sobering picture which suggests that attitudes among some segments of the U.S. culture are changing or, possibly, that conventional wisdom about the importance of homeownership should, in some way, be re-considered. Those who were more likely to agree with the assertion that being a homeowner is not as important as it used to be (33% overall) were respondents with incomes of between $60,000 and $100,000 (40%), and, perhaps not surprisingly, renters (45%). The latter finding suggests that, contrary to popular beliefs, a substantial proportion of the people in the U.S. who rent their homes make such decisions based on their lifestyles and needs, rather than necessity.
Still a Good Investment!
Even though there is some ambivalence about the importance of being a homeowner, one aspect that there seems to be little question about is the monetary value of homeownership. Overall, 87% of respondents said that homeownership is a good investment of financial resources. It is a sentiment that is so consistent and widely held across the spectrum that even 72% of renters agreed, suggesting that they believe there is inherent value to owning, even if they do not choose to do so.
Although it appears that some renters choose to rent for a variety of reasons which are predicated upon their preferences, the data indicates many believe that they also are forsaking an improved quality of life by choosing to rent. While an overall total of 81% of respondents agree that people and families who own their own homes experience a better quality of life because they live in more stable communities, and homeowners take greater pride in their neighborhoods, what is astonishing is that 68% of renters share this sentiment, and just 24% disagree. This implies that the decision to rent may be one that is seen as a compromise which results in misgivings that are not unlike the remorse that some homebuyers may initially experience. Interestingly, there also seems to be a strong relationship with age, as agreement with the sentiment steadily increases, ranging from 69% for 18 to 29 year-olds, increasing to 76% for 30 to 44 year-olds, 81% for 45 to 59 year-olds and reaching 86% among respondents 60 and older.
Paul Fallon is a public opinion researcher, political pollster and advisor for interest groups, political candidates and trade associations. He specializes in land-use policy research, referendums and public funding issues. He is the former Director of Public Opinion Research for the National Association of Home Builders. Paul has worked on policy issues and campaigns in more than 34 different states throughout the country. He has served as the pollster for numerous campaigns to get voter approval for new housing and commercial developments, protect and strengthen property rights, defeat growth proposed moratoriums, change zoning designations, urban growth boundaries, impact fees and transfer taxes. His clients include development companies, apartment associations, REALTOR® associations and homebuilding associations.
This information is based on survey research that was conducted through telephone interviews of 1,006 randomly-selected adults in the United States. The interviews were performed over land-line and cellular telephones during the period of February 1, 2011 to February 8, 2011. The overall estimated margin of sampling error is +/- 3.1%, based on a confidence level of 95%, although it varies for each individual question. This means that if this survey was repeated, 95 times out of 100 the results would be within plus or minus 3.1% of those provided herein. Adjustments were made to proportionately weight the results to ensure each area of the country is represented in proportion to its percentage of the U.S. population.