The report, commissioned by Genworth and conducted by independent research firm RFI, is a global survey of current and aspiring homebuyers aimed at gaining local insight into key world markets. More than 9,000 respondents were interviewed from Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Due to affordability issues – high home prices, higher costs of living, or fear of rising interest rates – the average age of first-time home buyers has risen in all countries except India over the last 40 years. The average age at which a person in the U.S. was able to purchase a first home rose from 27.3 in the 1970s to 31.6 in the 2000s.
One aspect of the home buying process that appears to be universally recognized as a benefit in countering this trend is private mortgage insurance. In the U.S., 88 percent of survey respondents said private mortgage insurance helps them buy a home with a smaller down payment. And 60 percent of Americans said private mortgage insurance helps them buy a home sooner.
"The U.S. is the most optimistic among all the markets surveyed about buying a home," said Kevin Schneider, Genworth U.S. Mortgage Insurance president. "Nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed believe now is a good time to buy a home, and a majority believe mortgage insurance can help them purchase a home sooner and with a lower down payment. We hope that federal and state lawmakers recognize this pent-up demand and enact policies that foster prudent homeownership. Regulators should develop a qualified residential mortgage rule that will strengthen underwriting standards without denying the dream of homeownership to credit-worthy Americans."
Some key findings from other nations surveyed:
- Consumer confidence is a major factor in home buying. Developing countries are especially optimistic. India was the most positive country, with two thirds of Indian respondents feeling good about their national economy, followed by Mexico where 42% of respondents were optimists.
- Indebtedness colors how households around the world view their financial situation and how they approach buying a home. Western countries tended to have higher levels of debt, but were also more comfortable taking on debt.
- In almost all of the countries surveyed, housing affordability is keeping first home buyers out of the property market. The reasons for affordability challenges range from the rising costs of living, a fear of interest rate rises, lack of housing availability to high house prices.
- Despite worries over personal finances, respondents in many countries saw clear opportunities in the property market for those who could afford to buy.
"As the world's only global mortgage insurer we thought it important to use our expertise to examine global market forces influencing the decision to purchase a home," said Michael D. Fraizer, Genworth Financial chief executive officer. "We hope the findings in this report provide the mortgage industry in all markets with insights that help identify future opportunities for business growth as well as a deeper understanding of the challenges that are likely to shape business strategies in the near to medium term."