October 07, 2013Consumers in Cautionary Holding Pattern as Fiscal Policy Debate Unfolds
WASHINGTON, DC – Americans tempered their optimism toward the housing market in September, perhaps indicating growing caution surrounding the fiscal policy debate, according to the Fannie Mae September 2013 National Housing Survey results. Although consumers continue to remain generally positive on average, their attitudes around housing have reached a plateau or decreased during the past three months. Notably, the September survey results may not reveal the full effect of the shutdown on October 1 and the pending debt ceiling debate, which will likely become more apparent in October and the coming months.
“Our September National Housing Survey results show that the improvements in consumer housing attitudes witnessed in recent months softened ahead of the government shutdown,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Americans’ awareness of policy uncertainty leading up to the October 1st shutdown and the pending debt ceiling debate appears to have grown as indicated by an apparent cautionary holding pattern in overall consumer housing and personal finance sentiment.”
“How and when these fiscal policy issues are addressed could impact consumer attitudes in October and beyond, and influence the fragile economic and housing recovery,” Duncan said. “Fifty-five percent of Americans continue to believe that the economy is on the wrong track, while 39 percent think the economy is on the right track. This gap narrowed to 16 percentage points in September. The gap could widen, depending on the outcome of the debt ceiling negotiations as the Treasury expects that the extraordinary measures to extend the nation's borrowing authority will be exhausted by October 17. For example, during the contentious 2011 debt ceiling debate and the resulting S&P downgrade of the U.S. government debt, our survey showed that the right track-wrong track spread widened to a survey record of 64 percentage points.”
Homeownership and Renting
The Economy and Household Finances
The most detailed consumer attitudinal survey of its kind, the Fannie Mae National Housing Survey polled 1,006 Americans via live telephone interview to assess their attitudes toward owning and renting a home, home and rental price changes, homeownership distress, the economy, household finances, and overall consumer confidence. Homeowners and renters are asked more than 100 questions used to track attitudinal shifts (findings are compared to the same survey conducted monthly beginning June 2010). Fannie Mae conducts this survey and shares monthly and quarterly results so that we may help industry partners and market participants target our collective efforts to stabilize the housing market in the near-term, and provide support in the future.
For detailed findings from the September 2013 survey, as well as a podcast providing an audio synopsis of the survey results and technical notes on survey methodology and questions asked of respondents associated with each monthly indicator, please visit the Fannie Mae Monthly National Housing Survey page on fanniemae.com. Also available on the site are in-depth topic analyses, which provide a detailed assessment of combined data results from three monthly studies. The September 2013 Fannie Mae National Housing Survey was conducted between September 1, 2013 and September 23, 2013. Most of the data collection occurred during the first two weeks of this period. Interviews were conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, in coordination with Fannie Mae.