By: By Tara-Nicholle Nelson
By now, nearly five years after the real estate market meltdown began, you'd think virtually no housing consumer has been unaffected. To start, more than 5 million homes have been foreclosed and repossessed by lenders; 10 million homeowners are underwater (owing more on their homes than the homes are worth); and untold millions who want to offload their homes either can't or are trying -- and struggling -- to sell.
And while nearly everyone who pays for the place they live in has experienced some impact from the real estate recession, it looks like one thing remains insulated from damage: our belief in the value of homeownership.
Surprisingly, the people who you would expect were the most emotionally and financially scarred by the foreclosure crisis -- homeowners who have lost their homes -- still cling tightly to their belief in the value of homeownership, according to the results of a Yahoo! Real Estate study that polled 1,500 housing consumers, including more than 400 foreclosed homeowners.
Only 43 percent of the respondents who had actually lost their homes said their belief in homeownership had suffered as a result.
Further, there was not much difference in the share of respondents who had personally experienced foreclosure who still believe that homes are good investments (64 percent) compared with those who had no personal experience with foreclosure who hold the same belief (76 percent).
The results underscore how resilient the dream of homeownership truly is. Survey respondents who had lost their personal homes to foreclosure were as likely to say they plan to buy a home in the future as respondents who hadn't experienced the financial and emotional trauma of losing a home to foreclosure.
Foreclosed homeowners have experienced firsthand the advantages of homeownership -- especially the tax, lifestyle and psychological advantages -- and they miss them, the survey shows.
You might wonder what would possess a foreclosed homeowner -- after going through the months or years of stress while missing mortgage payments (and/or trying to get the bank to modify their loans), the breathless anxiety of having to move or being evicted, and the years of credit and financial rehab after the foreclosure -- to ever want to buy or own another home again?
As I see it, several phenomena might be at play in keeping their desire to be homeowners alive. It's entirely possible that this group had a stronger-than-average belief in homeownership before they even bought the homes they lost in the first place.
This might have made them more likely to take a subprime loan or buy a more expensive home than they could sustainably afford, making them more susceptible to foreclosure than others.
If you loved living in and owning your own home, decorating and customizing it at will, and knowing that a big chunk of your monthly housing costs (i.e., your mortgage interest and property taxes) are tax deductible, it can be tough to take what feels like a personal financial step backward from owning to renting a home -- no matter what the financial pundits might say about renting vs. owning.
From a psychological perspective, there's even an argument that the fact that these people have lost their homes might be making them want homes even more than they would have had they never been homeowners to begin with.
And lest you think buyers and renters have gotten a free pass from foreclosure crisis effects, millions of would-be buyers who are desperate to strike while the home-value iron is hot are finding themselves stymied, unable to qualify for today's tight mortgage guidelines.
Even renters now have much more competition, in the form of foreclosed homeowners, which has driven rents up -- way up, in some markets. And 72 percent of surveyed home buyers and sellers said the housing crisis has affected their housing plans.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is an author and the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com.