Home ownership remains the American dream, despite challenges

Nearly three-quarters of Americans say owning a home is a higher measure of success than having a successful career, raising a family or earning a college degree, according to a new survey. But affordability remains a challenge for many of them.

The survey, released in March for Bankrate.com, a financial services company, found that 74% of respondents ranked home ownership as the highest predictor of prosperity, ahead of having a career ( 60%), children (40%) and a university education (35%).

The survey, conducted by market research firm YouGov, included 2,529 adults, including 1,397 homeowners. Among respondents who did not own a home, about two-thirds cited one or more affordability factors holding them back, including income level, skyrocketing house prices and ability to afford a down payment.

Other factors included poor credit, not being ready for home ownership, and high mortgage rates. Fourteen percent said they were not inclined to become homeowners under any circumstances.

To find more affordable housing, 58% of all respondents said they would be willing to compromise, including moving to another state, buying a repairman, or moving to a less desirable area.

Those results are skewed toward younger Americans, said Jeff Ostrowski, senior reporter at Bankrate.com who covers the housing market and mortgages. “Baby boomers and Gen Xers built up equity, so there was a smaller percentage of seniors willing to make concessions,” he said.

But he added that there are still affordable homes to be found, especially in Midwestern and Northeastern cities such as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. “In all of these places, median home prices are $300,000 or less,” he said.

The median price of homes sold in the Chattanooga area in April was $302,500, up 20.5% from a year earlier, according to the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors. The record median price for homes sold by realtors last month was nearly double the median price paid by Chattanooga home buyers seven years earlier in 2015.

Despite the rise of remote working, which has accelerated the migration from expensive coastal cities to more affordable inland housing markets, a majority of homeowners surveyed were happy with their choice: 72% said they would buy their home again current.

Christy J. Olson