Will the housing crisis ever end?


(MoneyWatch) Will the housing crisis ever end? A new study shows that not only are Americans are not ready to celebrate the end of the housing crisis, many believe the worst is yet to come.

More than 75 percent of Americans believe that the housing crisis is not over or believe the housing market will get worse, according to a study on Americans' attitudes on housing by Hart Research Associates in conjunction with the MacArthur Foundation.

"In light of all the good news that's out there -- the stock market soaring, home prices are up, foreclosures are down -- the American people just aren't feeling that," said Rebecca Naser of Hart Research Associates.

"Only 20 percent feel that we're really out of the woods," she added.

While the numbers are starting to point solidly to a sustainable recovery, it's possible that not all Americans are seeing it in their streets and neighborhoods. The scars of the housing crisis aren't likely to fade until we see more significant growth in home prices and foreclosures flush out of the system, returning to the levels they were at before the housing bubble burst.

It's also likely that some scars will never fade -- American attitudes about home ownership are shifting. After watching millions of people lose massive amounts of equity -- or worse, losing their homes, the study found that Americans are less convinced that homeownership is as beneficial to homeowners as it once was.

Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said that buying a home has become less appealing after the crash and 70 percent say they believe it is less likely for families to build equity and wealth through homeownership today compared with two or three decades ago.

On the other end, attitudes about renting have also changed. Renting is now seen as a viable option for many people, and not something relegated to those simply unable to buy.

"We see a chipping away of that stigma that's been associated with renting," Naser said.

After decades of equating home ownership with the American Dream, 61 percent of Americans now believe that renters can be just as successful as owners at achieving the elusive ideals of the American Dream. Nearly half of those who already own would consider renting in the future, just to avoid the heartache of price drops and the headaches of long-term home maintenance.

Yet buying a home still remains a fundamental aspirational goal for renters. Of those surveyed, 72 percent aspire to own a home one day, which is nearly unchanged from before the crisis. When you break that down by age, the number goes up even more to 84 percent of renters under age 40.

It's possible that owning a home may never again be seen as the smart investment it once was. But it's unlikely the ideals of homeownership, the stability it offers and the sense of value in ownership will ever truly fade away.

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    Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated columnist, best-selling book author and founder of Best Money Moves, an employee benefit program that helps reduce financial stress. She also owns ThinkGlink.com, where readers can find real estate and personal finance resources.