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profits upDespite overall low levels of optimism among Americans, consumer sentiment trended in a positive direction in the final months of 2011, according to results from Fannie Mae’s December National Housing Survey.

On average, Americans expect home rental prices to increase by 3.5% over the next 12 months, according to the survey.  Thirty-one percent of Americans say they would rent their next home.

More Americans expect home prices to increase compared to November and, on average, Americans expect home prices to increase by 0.8 percent over the next year, up from an expected 0.2 percent increase last month.

On the personal finance side, for the first time since February 2011 more respondents say their financial situation will get better over the next year than say it will stay the same. In turn, the share of consumers who say their income is significantly higher than it was a year ago rose 5 percentage points since last month.

“December attitudes have rebounded from the lows seen during the debt ceiling debate and economic deterioration of Europe this past summer. There is marked improvement in consumer sentiment regarding the direction of the economy, personal finances, and future home price expectations,” said Doug Duncan, vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae.

For the first time since February 2011, a larger share of respondents (40%) say their personal financial situation will get better over the next 12 months than say it will stay the same (39%).

Twenty-one percent of respondents say their income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago (up 5 percentage points since November), while 59% say it has stayed the same (down 7 percentage points).

Eleven percent say their household expenses have decreased over the past 12 months (up 3 percentage points since November), while 39% say their expenses have increased significantly. 49% report that their expenses are about the same compared to 12 months ago (down 5 percentage points since November).

The most detailed consumer attitudinal survey of its kind, the Fannie Mae National Housing Survey polled 1,000 Americans via live telephone interview to assess their attitudes toward owning and renting a home, mortgage rates, homeownership distress, the economy, household finances, and overall consumer confidence. Homeowners and renters are asked more than 100 questions used to track attitudinal shifts (findings are compared to the same survey conducted monthly beginning June 2010). Fannie Mae conducts this survey and shares monthly and quarterly results so that we may help industry partners and market participants target our collective efforts to stabilize the housing market in the near-term, and provide support in the future.

For detailed findings from the December 2011 survey, as well as technical notes on survey methodology and the questions asked of respondents associated with each monthly indicator, please visit the Fannie Mae Monthly National Housing Survey site. Also available on the site are quarterly survey results, which provide a detailed assessment of combined data results from three monthly studies. The December 2011 Fannie Mae National Housing Survey was conducted between December 1, 2011 and December 20, 2011. Interviews were conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, in coordination with Fannie Mae.

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