Charlie Glahe WIN Broomfield

Poll: Basement key selling point for young homebuyers


While it may be a portion of the house that few people frequent with much regularity, a considerable number of Americans today want a cellar to be a part of their home.

According to a recent poll conducted by the National Association of Home Builders, more than three in every four prospective homeowners say they are more likely to purchase a home if it includes a basement. That was particularly true among young homeowners, as 74 percent of Generation X members responded this way, while 76 percent of Generation Y'ers stated a basement would make them more likely to buy a residence.

Jim Costello, who owns and operates his own construction firm and helped fund the study, indicated that this preference is not as much of a concern for older homeowners.

"Once you get to baby boomers category that preference drops to 63 percent - and then down even lower to 54 percent with seniors," said Costello.

He added that a potential explanation for the disparity in living spaces may have something to do with where each individual is in their life. For example, younger Americans may just be starting a family, thus feel like more space is needed to accommodate a growing family. Meanwhile, older homeowners may now be "empty-nesters" and trying to cut down on living quarters.

Something else that may have an impact on homebuyers' preferences is where they're looking to purchase a home. According to the NAHB poll, people looking for homes in colder climates - such as the East Coast, Middle Atlantic and New England - tend to gravitate toward homes with cellars, while Pacific and Southwest residents typically do without them.

Still cheaper to buy than rent
Whether a home has a basement or not, homeownership is something that many real estate experts say is worthy of pursuing, far more so than rental living. In a separate poll conducted by online housing information firm Trulia, buying a home is more affordable than it is to rent a unit in most of the country's largest metropolitan statistical areas.

Nationwide, it's about 44 percent cheaper to buy than it is to rent, specifically in cities like Detroit, Farmington Hills, Michigan; Cleveland, Dayton, Ohio and Gary, Indiana.

Jed Kolko, Trulia's chief economist, noted that while it's still cheaper to buy than it is to sell, it's not quite as affordable today as it was at this time last year.

"In 2013, home prices should rise faster than rents, and mortgage rates are likely to rise in the next year as the economy improves," said Kolko. "By next year, buying could be more expensive than renting in some housing markets, even for people with the best credit."

At the same time, though, Kolko pointed out that it's still generally more affordable for people to buy a home than to rent, despite not getting the lowest possible mortgage interest rate.

According to the latest data from Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.5 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending March 21. That's down from 3.6 percent during the same week last year. Meanwhile, 15-year FRMs - which are quite popular with people who would like to refinance to today's low rates - averaged 2.6 percent with an average 0.6 point. At this time last year, they were 3.3 percent.

Besides affordability, a greater sense of confidence about the overall structure of a home may be what prospective homeowners need before deciding to put money down on a residence. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, 90 percent of Americans say that they are more certain about the wisdom of purchasing a property after having a real estate inspection performed.