A pair of national polls, one of Realtors and the other of consumers, offer contrasting views of the housing market under the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Association of Realtors’ latest Flash Poll of its members, which surveyed 2,283 Realtors between May 3 and May 4, found 77 percent of respondents are working with at least one seller who is preparing to sell their home following the end of stay-at-home orders in their community, with half completing do-it-yourself home improvement projects. Seventy-three percent of respondents currently working with sellers also said their clients hadn’t reduced listing prices to attract buyers.

Released the same day, Fannie Mae’s monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index dropped to its lowest level since November 2011; the percentage of Americans who say it is a good time to buy a home decreased from 56 percent to 48 percent year-over-year, while the percentage who say it is a bad time to buy increased from 36 percent to 46 percent. The poll surveyed 1,006 American “household financial decision makers,” between April 2 and April 22.

The NAR sounded a strongly optimistic note about the results of its survey.

“After a pause, home sellers are gearing up to list their properties with the reopening of the economy,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. “Plenty of buyers also appear ready to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates and the stability that comes with these locked-in monthly payments into future years.”

By contrast, Fannie Mae officials sounded a decidedly different note.

“The HPSI experienced another unprecedented decline in April, falling to its lowest level since November 2011,” Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Doug Duncan said in a statement. “The 17.8-point decrease reflected consumers’ deepening concerns about both their incomes and the housing market. Attitudes about whether it’s a good time to sell a home fell most sharply, dropping an additional 23 points this month. Individuals’ heightened uncertainty about job security, as registered in the survey over the last two months, is likely weighing on prospective homebuyers, who may be more wary of the substantial, long-term financial commitment of a mortgage. On average, consumers expect home prices to fall 2 percent over the next 12 months, the lowest expected growth rate in survey history. While consumers did grow more pessimistic in April about whether it’s a good time to buy a home, low mortgage rates remain a driver of purchase optimism. We expect that the much steeper decline in selling sentiment relative to buying sentiment will soften downward pressure on home prices.”

The Fannie poll also showed a significant increase in financial concerns. While the share of respondents who said they were concerned about losing their job remained steady at 23 percent, the share who said their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago decreased from 27 percent to 20 percent, while the percentage who say their household income is significantly lower increased from 11 percent to 21 percent.

One factor that could account for the divergent attitudes: increasing discussion in many states of lifting stay-at-home and business closure orders as April turned to May.

National Polls Offer Different Visions of Housing Market

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min