A new survey has found that homeowners continue to report considerable financial distress.
Nearly 23 percent of those polled in a first-quarter Fannie Mae housing survey who said they had a mortgage also said they owed more than the value of their home.
Of those underwater borrowers, 46 percent felt stressed about their ability to make payments on their debt, and 27 percent thought it was okay to walk away from a mortgage if they faced financial distress. Only 31 percent said they had sufficient savings.
Of the homeowners surveyed, 44 percent believed their home was worth at least 20 percent less than they originally paid for it. That might not change any time soon, as only 30 percent of the total survey population expected home prices to strengthen over the next year.
The survey also confirmed a decline in the percentage of people who perceived homeownership as a safe investment.
Only 66 percent of respondents agreed that a home was a safe investment, compared with 83 percent who held that belief eight years ago. Nonetheless, 57 percent of those recently surveyed said a home had a lot of potential as an investment, a higher ranking than such other options as equities or retirement plans.
Respondents expressed more cautious optimism in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the prior quarter, but continued to lack confidence in the overall strength of the housing market and economic recovery, Fannie Mae said in a statement.
Forty percent of those polled said their current monthly household expenses were significantly higher than they'd been a year earlier. Still, 42 percent expected their personal finances to improve over the next year, and 33 percent believed the economy was on the right track.
The survey, conducted by telephone, polled 3,403 homeowners and renters between January 2011 and March 2011.
Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan said in the statement that consumers' attitudes reflected the continued unevenness and uncertainty of the economic recovery. Uncertainty about employment opportunities, little hope of home price appreciation, upticks in interest rates and higher household expenses, he said, have "left consumers feeling less financially secure."
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