A man and woman are lying on the floor of their new home, smiling as they are surrounded by unopened boxes indicating they just moved in.
Despite housing affordability challenges and lingering effects of the recession, U.S. homeowners still see homeownership as a symbol of the American dream.
July 9, 2019

Survey: Many Americans willing ‘to do what it takes’ to be homeowners

A new Wells Fargo survey finds Americans are willing to cut expenses, take side jobs, and otherwise go the extra mile to make their homeownership goals a reality.

When the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey destroyed most of their belongings in 2017, Jovanna David and her husband thought their hopes of owning their first home had crumbled. Soon, however, the Houston couple regrouped, moved in with her parents, and worked tirelessly to make their dreams a reality.

They scrimped, saved, and pinched every penny. Couponing and bargain hunting became daily habit. Eating out, a rarity. They paid down debt, improved their credit, and researched programs that might help them with a down payment.

Last month, it all paid off as the couple closed on a suburban townhouse with plenty of room for them and their 10-month-old daughter Layla. They received help from NeighborhoodLIFT®, — a down payment assistance and homeowner education program led by Wells Fargo and NeighborWorks® America.

“It feels really great now to have a place of our own,” said David, a middle school teacher. “We gave up a whole lot to make this happen, but in the end, it’s worth all the hard work.”

A couple and their young daughter — Jovanna David, husband Curtis Berry, and Layla — are smiling as they are seated in an office.
Jovanna David, right, her husband Curtis Berry, and daughter Layla, at the closing on their new home in suburban Houston.

Her experience echoes some key findings of “How America Views Homeownership,” a new survey of 1,004 U.S. adults, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Wells Fargo between April 17 and April 29, 2019.

The survey suggests many Americans are willing to do what it takes to make their homeownership goals a reality — whether it involves cutting expenses to save for a down payment (72%), taking on a second job (49%), or moving away from their dream area to a more affordable location (69%).

“It feels really great now to have a place of our own. We gave up a whole lot to make this happen, but in the end, it’s worth all the hard work.” — Jovanna David

Despite today’s housing affordability crisis and lingering effects of the Great Recession, most people still regard homeownership as a symbol of achieving the American dream, and they are willing to go for it, according to the poll. Among the key findings: Nearly 7 in 10 existing homeowners (69%) had to make tough sacrifices, 90% said it was worth the sacrifice, and 89% of Americans as a whole said the benefits of owning a home outweigh the drawbacks.

Such highly motivated homebuyers may be having an impact in the housing marketplace, buoyed by lower mortgage rates and a slowing of home price inflation, according to new home sales data. In May, for example, new home construction and sales of existing homes topped all forecasts, while construction permits edged up, Bloomberg reported. Meanwhile, the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index of property values showed a decline in the average gain in home prices as price appreciation slowed to its weakest pace since 2012.

The modest upturn in housing sales is a welcome development as “homeownership very much remains a part of the American Dream for all demographics,” said Mark Vitner, chief economist for Wells Fargo Securities.

Slideshow of survey results

(See attachment. Note: This animated GIF will 'roll through' a slideshow of images based on the survey.)

“The recent improvement likely signals the start of a better trend for housing,” he said. “Home sales will gradually grind higher over the course of 2019, and builders are likely to step up the pace of new construction if the Fed follows through on its recent indications that it is set to cut the federal funds rate.”

Michael DeVito, head of Wells Fargo Home Lending, said the homeownership survey shows many prospective homeowners have responded to the market’s challenges with grit, determination, and innovation.

“Homeownership is part of the fabric of American life, defining communities and providing a base for families to live out their dreams,” he said. “As today’s consumers set out to achieve their homeownership goals, they are making smart financial decisions that position them — and the communities they call home — for long-term financial success.”

The survey also highlights one of the more hopeful signs for the housing industry: the attitudes of millennials toward homeownership. In an age group long known as renters, 95% of millennial homeowners said the benefits of owning are worth any sacrifice they made to save for it.

Millennials — and the majority of Americans — consider homeownership “an investment in their future and a key piece in achieving goals like financial health and security,” said DeVito, who noted that Wells Fargo supports homeownership and homebuyer education through programs such as NeighborhoodLIFT. The company also recently announced a $1 billion commitment to address housing affordability.

Jovanna David, the Houston teacher, said the NeighborhoodLIFT program was a game changer for her family. After years of looking for and making offers on nearly a half dozen homes, and being outbid each time, she learned about the program from a friend at Avenue, a community development nonprofit that supports LIFT along with some other local nonprofits in Houston.

David applied and qualified for a $15,000 down payment grant, plus an additional $2,500 special benefit available to teachers, first responders, and military veterans.

Now, the couple has the perfect home where they can raise daughter Layla just five minutes from eager grandparents who are always ready to help out, David said.

“It’s been quite the adventure,” she said. “And there were times I just didn’t think things were going to work out. Now, it’s like we have a new life.”

About the survey

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of Wells Fargo between April 17 and April 29, 2019, among 1,004 adults 21 and older in the U.S., of which 211 are millennials (ages 21–38). The sample includes 701 current homeowners and 303 nonhomeowners. Figures are weighted where necessary by age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, household income, marital status, employment, size of the household, and homeownership status to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population.