by Susan Lavery

According to a survey by the National Association of Realtors, renters are thinking more about purchasing a home now than in past years. The survey found 8 in 10 Americans believe buying a home is a good financial decision and 68 percent said now is a good time to buy a home. Since the last survey in 2011, more renters are now thinking about purchasing a home, while those who say they prefer to rent dropped from 31 percent to 25 percent. Half of renters say that eventually owning a home is one of their highest personal priorities.

Attitudes toward the housing market have also improved over the years. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans (38 percent) identified an increase in activity within their local housing market in the past year, compared to just 22 percent who reported a slowdown in activity. By contrast, in 2011 some 51 percent reported a slowdown in activity, and a majority said housing prices in their area are more expensive than a year ago.

In addition to these improved attitudes about the housing market, respondents also showed an improved outlook about the national economy. Just under half (48 percent) said job layoffs and unemployment are a big problem, down from 61 percent in 2011. The concern over foreclosures showed a steep decline from 2011 when 47 percent characterized distressed properties as a “fairly big problem”; today only 29 percent say it’s a problem.

For many Americans, the perceived obstacles to homeownership have remained unchanged over the years; low wages, student loan debt, and little savings for a down payment and closing costs continue to make it difficult for many to become homeowners.  Pending mortgage finance regulations requiring higher down payments could also contribute to the already tight lending environment.

When asked for reasons why homeownership is important, respondents’ top reasons included building equity, wanting a stable and safe environment, and the freedom to choose where to live.