How’s the market? Depends on who — and where — you ask


The most optimistic Americans are rural, high-earning older people in rural communities in the South. That’s according to the National Association of Realtors’ fourth quarter Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey, released today.

Image: National Association of Realtors’ fourth quarter 2019 Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey

Overall, opinions haven’t changed much, with 63 percent of all respondents saying now is a good time to buy a home (at the same level as last quarter). Respondents were even more bullish on selling, with 74 percent of those polled saying that now is a good time to sell (also unchanged from Q3). Fifty-two percent of people believe the U.S. economy is improving, also a number that has not changed since Q3.

The survey found more movement around the possibility of getting a mortgage. In the fourth quarter, fewer people who do not currently own a home reported feeling that it would be very difficult (28 percent, down from 29 in Q3) and somewhat difficult (29 percent, down from 31) to qualify for a mortgage given their current financial situation.

But feelings about buying, selling and the economy all vary according to demographics, wealth and location.

People in rural communities responded positively to NAR’s question on the health of the economy 66 percent of the time, whereas those in cities did so only 41 percent of the time. Southerners were most positive (56 percent say the economy is improving), followed by those in the Midwest (52 percent), West (50 percent) and Northeast (47 percent). Those in urban communities said it was a good time to buy 56 percent of the time and sell 71 percent of the time, which was less often than their rural counterparts (68 percent and 77 percent, respectively).

Though it mirrors other gulfs that have been documented between city and country dwellers, it’s not entirely clear what’s causing this divide. “Whether it is a reflection of politics or true economic conditions, there is a difference of views between rural and urban areas,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement accompanying the report.

Age plays an important factor as well. The silent generation and younger baby boomers were most likely to say it’s a good time to buy or sell, whereas millennials were least likely to. Looking at the health of economy, younger boomers were most positive (with 56 percent saying it’s improving), followed by the silent generation and Generation X (both at 55 percent). Interestingly, older boomers and millennials tied for least positive, at 47 percent.

Finally, it seems that high earners are more likely to feel comfortable in the current environment. In terms of the economy, optimism is highest among individuals whose households take in $100,000 or more a year; 55 percent of those people are feeling good about the economy as opposed to 45 percent of those earning less than $50,000. The split was even starker when looking at whether or not it’s a good time to sell. Those in the highest income bracket felt it is a good time to sell 82 percent of the time, while those earning less than $50,000 responded in such a way only 64 percent of the time. When it comes to buying, the ratio was smaller; just 66 percent to 57 percent.

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