Poll: Most Americans Concerned About Ability To Pay Mortgage Or Rent

The recession may be over, but according to a new poll by the Washington Post, not only are most Americans concerned about having enough money to pay their rent or mortgage, but that number has continued to increase over the last two years.

According to the WaPo numbers, 53% of those polled expressed at least some concern over their ability to pay for their homes. A full 33% of people said they were very concerned about being unable to afford the payments.

A year ago, the same poll showed that only 46% of the people were concerned, and a mere 24% voiced strong concern about keeping a roof over their heads.

That being said, a large number (61%) of poll respondents said that now is a good time to purchase a home, while only 29% said it’s a bad time.

So in summary, deflated housing prices mean it’s a good time to buy a home, but people are afraid they won’t be able to afford one.

Most Americans worry about ability to pay mortgage or rent, poll finds [Washington Post]
Washington Post Poll [Detailed poll results]

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  1. You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

    That’s because the rent is too damn high!

  2. Its_Miller_Time says:

    That, and I think people want to buy a home, but can’t get a loan. My wife and I are in the process (and paying $850/month for rent) and found a nice single family home for about $170/month less. We are currently in underwriting and waiting for the verdict (while our lot stands untouched).

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Holy crap…I would love to pay $850 in rent. I pay a heck of a lot more than that, and the price I pay is average for the size of apartment and the amenities I have. I love where I love, though.

  3. dolemite says:

    I’m waiting until the next recession to sell our house and buy a new one. Hopefully we will have more debt paid off. So…2018?

  4. lucky13 says:

    It’s only a good time to buy a home if you have a job and the money to afford the payments. I think the numbers would be much higher if WaPo was able to contact those who had already lost their jobs/homes/phones for their poll. At this point in the recession (it’s only over to economists) many Americans are concerned about feeding their families, even if they can keep a roof over their heads.

  5. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    This is quite interesting: “Young adults are the most apt to blame homeowners, while more seniors point to the banks.”

    I have certainly noticed this. When my friends and I (all mid to late 20s) talk about the meltdown, we agree that a good portion of the blame falls squarely on the poor financial decisions people made, and because it’s more likely that these underwater homeowners were older than us, we lump them in with our parents’ generation. In our discussions, banks are also responsible, but this is secondary – most of us agree that it’s the homeowners who got us all into this mess, and even though the banks should not have done what they did, it does come down to personal responsibility.

    Our discussions with our parents, and their peers, on the other hand, always start off with some version of “The banks caused…” and maybe they just don’t want to admit that they didn’t make the best decisions with regards to their finances, but I’ve noticed a lot of boomers starting off with blaming the banks.

    • Bativac says:

      Yeah, I’ve noticed that, too. But my peers (I’m 31) blame members of our age group who were in their mid 20s and got starry-eyed, thinking of the huge homes they could afford and all the investment properties they could snap up. I know a few coworkers in that boat.

      Really, the blame belongs to anybody who made an ill-informed decision they shouldn’t have, be they homeowners or banks.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        We have relatives and family friends who took advantage of the boom and some of them struggled because of home values dropping. They were all in their 30s when they bought their homes, so I can see how my personal observations are different because of the older age of people I associate with the “homeowner” title.

        I guess it’s really different if you’re a homeowner with a peer group of other homeowners.

      • hypnotik_jello says:

        The investment banks weren’t making ill-informed decisions. They knew exactly what they were pedding. Crap mortgages and crap securities. One big scam.

      • jeff_the_snake says:

        when a few people make bad decisions it’s their own fault. when tens of thousands do the system is broken. just like when a nigerian scams someone that someone is stupid, it doesn’t mean the scammer was in the right

      • grumpygirl says:

        The banks weren’t just making ill-informed decisions – they were flat-out breaking laws.

    • Geekybiker says:

      Its alot easier to blame the homeowners when you don’t have a stake in it, made sound, even conservation financial decisions and still got slammed by the whole melt down.

    • muralivp says:

      and the govt is only encouraging more people to be irresponsible and the banks to help them be irresponsible through stimulus billions punishing the rest of the tax payers that made conscious decision to be responsible.

  6. energynotsaved says:

    Two things did happen. The first was that money was far too easy to obtain. All those “no-doc” loans encouraged people to buy more than they needed. The market kept rising, the builders kept building and it looked like the good times would never end.

    The pool, the finished basement, the fancy car and even fancier vacations were paid for by the piggy bank that was the line of credit of the house. Buy a vacation house with money from the piggy bank. Property always goes up in value…

    Then, the good times did end. Jobs were lost. Property values crashed. Homes were lost to foreclosure. Reality. Ugly.

    For those who lived within their means, bargains are everywhere. For the rest of us, the lesson is simple: save more, spend less and get out of debt. Crazy Dave Ramsey was right. Bummer.

    • muralivp says:

      or let the other tax payers pay for your irresponsibility.

      • suez says:

        Why do you assume all of it is due to irresponsibility? Job loss, medical bills, and drops in wages can quickly make what was once an affordable mortgage suddenly untenable. Wake up and stop passing judgement.

        • thistowniswrong says:

          While there are surely unforeseeable circumstances that can make a once affordable mortgage impossible, you can’t really deny that a great number of people made poor financial decisions. Maybe it’s just because I’m the younger generation – I’m 27 – so I blame (some) borrowers, though I think both are to blame. The banks for offering subprime mortgages that take advantage of people who don’t understand and/or read the legalese and all the documents, and the borrowers that completely disregarded the legalese and/or didn’t ask appropriate questions about things they didn’t understand. I learned from kindergarten on that there are no stupid questions – and since improved that knowledge to “the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.” If borrowers has asked “stupid” questions, some problems would have been avoided. If banks hadn’t offered ridiculous mortgages, problems would have been avoided.

          But your comment seems to imply that no borrower is guilty because of unforeseen circumstances, which is simply not the case. There are tons of borrowers that are guilty of not educating themselves and spending well beyond their means, and they are the ones that share blame in the situation (and the ones for whom the taxpayers pick up some slack)

        • muralivp says:

          It very much is irresponsibility, you cannot anticipate a natural disaster or something horrible like 9/11, but assuming a steady income with absolutely no buffer to cover a few months of mortgages is indeed irresponsibility. When you run into a situation like that you try to sell even at loss and absorb the loss. When you get a loan you are taking a risk of going bankrupt. So my judgement fully waken up is indeed irresponsibility.

    • grumpygirl says:

      I dunno. Are there truly bargains out there when you have no way to determine whether or not titles are tainted?

  7. lettucefactory says:

    I love how the main point of the story is hey, people are worried.

    And how, “Seventy percent of renters are concerned, compared with 46 percent of homeowners.”

    Yet it still somehow becomes and article all about mortgages and homeowners.

    Seventy percent of renters. I know we’re considered about half a notch above pavement goo in American society, but yes, apparently we have financial concerns, too! Economic uncertainty is not exclusive to, as they quote in the article, homeowners who might someday lose their jobs and then, theoretically, have trouble paying their mortgages.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      There’s a feature in this month’s Wired magazine about how it’s about time people distanced themselves from the notion of owning everything, and how people are finding it more liberating just to rent, whether it’s a home, a car (through a program like Zipcar, not by leasing), or even a lawnmower. It was a quick read, but very good.

      • outshined says:

        I tried to find this article online, nothing yet. My significant other has been on board with this concept for years. I used to stomp my feet and say I WANT to own a house. He said no, no, renting is better, something bad is coming down the pipeline. And he was right.

        Thanks to him, we’re in such good shape. We even negotiated lower rent with our landlord to agree to an extended lease. If only Zipcar was near us in LA. I’m not a fan of driving and really need a car just to get to work.

      • denros says:

        I would very much appreciate that link if you didn’t mind looking it up.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          AFAIK, it’s not on the website yet. I got the issue in the mail the other day, and the website’s current magazine online is still last month’s content. I’d wait a few days then go to wired.com and click on magazine.

  8. TheGreySpectre says:

    My plan is to buy a house in about 15 months, I think prices should still be pretty decent at the time and I should be able to put down at 12% down payment or so which I consider to be pretty solid for a first home (yes I know it’s not 20%). I have everything evaluated out so that my mortgage payment will be a few hundred less then the combined payment of rent and what I put towards a down payment, so it should be easily within my budget.

    *currenlty paying $767 in rent for a 840sqft apartment. I have it all setup so that I will be looking at about $1k a month for 2100 sq ft (assuming prices don’t shoot up 30k in the next year which I find to be doubtful considering the economy)

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Do you really need 2,100 square feet? I’m just wondering what propels a person’s need to go from 840 square feet to 2,100 square feet. I mean, you have to factor the costs of heating and cooling such a large space.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        I have 784 square feet. 840 sounds good, and 2100 is like a freaking palace to me. If only I had one more room…

      • lettucefactory says:

        It’s mind-boggling, isn’t it? We had 1875 sq ft of space when we lived in the Midwest, and it felt overwhelming. Too much space to fill, too much space to clean. The utilities weren’t even bad because the house was newer, and we’d been used to living in older, inefficient apartment buildings on the East Coast.

        But it was still just *too much.* Even once we had a child. This is not a popular viewpoint, however :)

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          We used to live in 1,300 square feet and it was insanely hard to keep clean. There were rooms we never even used that just kept getting cluttered and dusty, and it was so horrendous keeping it all under control. We’re much better now, with only 900 square feet.

          • freelunch says:

            I have a 2500 sq ft house… two rooms have all the vents closed and doors shut with a blanket at the bottom.

            I like small living spaces, the wife likes big living spaces… what can you do?

      • c!tizen says:

        If it’s a newer home then heating and cooling won’t be a major factor. In fact it’ll probably be less than what he’s currently paying. I just went from a 950 sqft apartment to a 2000 sqft house and although my mortgage payment is higher, actually the principal is lower then my rent was, but taxes and escrow drive it up there, my monthly utilities are a fraction of what they use to be.

        2100 sqft is a lot of space, but it’s not unreasonable or overkill, it’s scalable-ly comfortable. Now, when a single person breaks the 3000 sqft marker, that might be a bit overboard, but to each his own.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        i’ve lived in a variety of sizes of rentals from single bedroom with no use of communal living space to a 1200 sq foot house.
        i purchased a 1600 sq foot house, not specifically for the size but because i loved the house, the area and the price.
        have to say i love having a guestroom AND a library room with a daybed as a spare guestroom because even living alone, i tend to get a lot of houseguests.
        but it is a little odd having so much space to myself

  9. Foot_Note says:

    of course, homeowners can get help, but renters? naa, “just live within your means!”

    • RvLeshrac says:

      In fairness, renters had *absolutely nothing* to do with the meltdown. So go us.

    • denros says:

      Most Realtors associations lobby heavily against rental assistance and low-income housing. It’s actually pretty insidious.

  10. DoctorMD says:

    Poll: Most Americans think they bought too expensive of a house or are getting ripped off on rent

  11. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    Good luck getting a loan — a coworker — middle class — who has no debt other than a car payment, good credit score, 15% to put down — was denied by 4 banks on a $250000 house.

    Also — at least locally — my property tax went up 3% this year — even though the value of my house went down 10%. I appealed and lost because they had ‘assessed my house too low’.

    That’s what sucks about this economy — the consumer is getting screwed all the way around — by the banks who are out of control, by other consumers who are out of control, and by government which is out of control.

    • El Soze says:

      wow… I was in just about the same situation with a similar price as your coworker over a year ago, except I didn’t have a car payment. I think I’m glad I bought back then because it’s looking ridiculously difficult to get a loan now.

      Also it sounds like your local government is trying to cover up their own shortfalls by screwing people over the property taxes. You should fight that tooth and nail and get as many as you can up in arms.

    • freelunch says:

      I used a loan broker when purchasing a house early this year. Found out that over half of the available lenders he worked with wouldn’t consider my application because I didn’t have any current debt that I was paying on…

      Finally got one lender that would give be a sub-5% rate

      The best though was when someone at the lender tried to recalculate my claimed salary by using my bi-weekly paystub. First he decided I overstated my salary because he assumed it was twice monthly (multiplied by 24 instead of 26)… then when we cleared him up on that, he decided I UNDERSTATED my salary (like this would be a problem?)… because he neglected to notice that 1/1/2010 was a Friday, which I was paid on.
      Two days before closing on the house, the lender required me to get a letter from my company’s HR department clarifying my salary and how my paycheck is calculated…
      two weeks after closing I started work at a new job, to reduce my weekly commute by over 400 miles.
      I still laugh at the fact that the lender never questioned why I would buy a house so far away from my job.

      summary:
      Lenders suck, can’t do math,.

  12. CBenji says:

    I am a single mother. I have a daughter in private University who is busting her butt in a waitressing job every week. Some weeks they give her a lot of hours, and some weeks they give her 4. I guess it depends on the manager’s moods. But my neighbor who lives not 10 feet from me just walked away from her house. She has 3 kids and was a bit of a psycho lady. After her large U haul pulled out all of the neighbors met outside and we were perplexed as to where she went. Believe me we are happy as she has been a crazy person. Called children’s services on every parent in the immediate area even though they would investigate and it would be unfounded. My neighbor on the other side said she had some kind of learning disability. I don’t know, but her curtains were blankets that were always falling down, and her house is the worst one on the entire block. Now I hope it won’t burn down as that could be a problem.

    And I blame the banks more than the owners. They came up with all the schemes. The media has been yammering about the real estate bubble since before it even happened, and people started losing their jobs after it happened. We shouldn’t be letting big companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, or any of them free taxation. Why should Joe Coffeshop have to pay his fair share when Google gets to claim they are located in some island somewhere? If our government was getting it’s fair share from these companies maybe we would be able to afford our own infrastructure.

  13. suez says:

    Personally, my mortgage was perfectly affordable until I was suddenly saddled with overwhelming medicals bills. It wasn’t because I overreached, it was because my insurance company found loopholes. I live every day now with the fear that I may lose the home I’ve been paying on for nearly 9 years without a single late payment.

    • colorisnteverything says:

      And you are in the majority of people sadly who feel crunched. I study health policy and have worked for Medicaid in my home state. It is a serious problem for people who had made 6 figures and got a debilitating condition and suddenly were living in a very fragile state and on disability even because work couldn’t help and Medicaid could pro rate bills. Very sad.

      I apologize for the mess you are in. I know it doesn’t help, but some day I hope people like you will not suffer for things beyond their control.

  14. TasteyCat says:

    Solution: stop paying. Then blame the banks when they try to take your home.

  15. El Soze says:

    A lot of those people should be. Tons of people who got Option ARMS are seeing them reset this year, and their mortgage payment is going way up. Next year is going to be rough.

  16. sweetgreenthing says:

    I am a renter. My husband and I have no debt, money in savings that will be used to buy a house next year- we live within our means. I am still very worried about affording rent. Why? Because my area was flooded with homebuyers that clearly could not afford to buy and are now flooding the apartments in town. The rental prices keep going up, because the demand keeps going up as people lose their homes. Apartments that cost around $1000 for a nice two bedroom in a safer area are now $1,500 or $1,600.

    • grumpygirl says:

      That’s my problem – the rent just keeps going up and up because of all these displaced former homeowners. Meanwhile, the banks just let these foreclosed houses remain empty because they won’t budge on price – and that skews the market even further. I’m in a situation where if I move somewhere with cheaper rent, I will be moving into an area where I have to be sincerely concerned for my personal safety and/or my personal property.

      So while I really wish someone would hold the banks’ feet to the fire, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for “homeowners”, either. (And can you really say you “own” a home when the mortgage is underwater?)