Home Ownership: American Dream or Nightmare? Here's more evidence that the foreclosure crisis has changed the way we think about home ownership's place in the American dream. Nearly half of those polled in a newly released survey said that owning a home today was a "nightmare."

Nearly 70% of those surveyed by Home Value Insurance Company believed home values had gone down in their neighborhoods in the past three years. Most either expect them to continue their descent (19%) or remain static (67%) in the next year. More than a third (37%) said buying a home is generally risky, and nearly 20% said they aren't sure they'd recommend home ownership to a young person.

According to the survey, the biggest risk that homeowners perceive is declining home values. There's plenty of reason to worry. According to newly released data on the third quarter from real estate site Zillow.com 28.6% of all mortgage holders owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. There's more pain to come: Home prices are down 4.4% compared to the third quarter of 2011 and, Zillow predicts, prices won't hit bottom until 2012.

Whether or not the foreclosure crisis has upended the American Dream is a popular line of questioning for pollsters. And surveys don't point to a clear trend. Nearly 90% of those surveyed in June by The New York Times and CBS News said home ownership was an important part of the American dream, though nearly a quarter said their home was now worth less than what they owed on their mortgage. In September, 70% of those responding to Trulia's American Dream survey, still said they believed that home ownership was a central part of the American Dream, a level that had been unchanged since January.

The View From the Home Front

"I once looked at my home as my dream," says Alexis Booras, of Sadsbury Township, Pa. "Plenty of room for pets, a beautiful yard, quaint, perfectly sized Cape Cod in a very safe, family neighborhood. I didn't buy with the intention to sell; I planned to retire here, in my own little paradise."

"Now I fear that I won't even have my home when I'm 55. The state of this country, real estate and the economy has turned my dream into a nightmare of living in constant fear," says Booras, who was laid off from her $83,000-a-year job of 25 years in 2009, at age 50. She is still unemployed.

To Buy or Not to Buy?

So, is it still worth it to own a home? "Worth is a slippery slope -- subjective," says Michael Kay, a financial adviser and president of Financial Focus. "Redefine your values and make decisions based on them. The American Dream is being recast toward lifestyle, and not necessarily home ownership."

For those who remain undaunted by years of declining prices, Kay says, "Look at the worst case scenario. If you take out a variable rate mortgage, find out what's the maximum payment possible. Be ready to spend for maintenance. View the deal as you would any investment, but ask yourself, does it provide peace of mind, roots, sense of family-stability? Define your 'why' before walking down that road. Look at the numbers carefully. If it's a good deal --- go for it."

How do you feel about owning your home?
It\'s the smartest investment I ever made, financially and personally. It is the American Dream.819 (47.5%)
I am surprised about all the money needed to repair/maintain a home.336 (19.5%)
I am struggling to make my mortgage payments in this economy.218 (12.6%)
I am in foreclosure.75 (4.4%)
This has been a nightmare, I totally regret buying.276 (16.0%)

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Unless rental units are made more affordable, it is not an option to NOT buy. The greed that destroyed this country is coming to roost. There is not one aspect of our society left unscathed. Our trains run like India, or bridges are in disrepair, our phone service is horrible with poor audibility and even the post office it appears can no longer function. Thankyou Wall Street. Oh and did I say drop dead?

November 11 2011 at 12:10 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Greg & Shannon

It does not mater if you rent or own, if you loose your job the money has to come from somewhere. I put my name on the bottom line wth my house and I am upside down. So what! I made the commitment. I am self-employed and its scary out there. If I don't live here I would have to live somewhere, correct. So my point is unles something happens to my helth or a complete melt down of my work I will live by my obligations and stay. For any other reason you jump ship because your house is worth less than you paid for it you are in my book a looser. The market will one day turn (not soon) and you will be okay. No one put a gun to your head when you were putting your name on the title.

November 10 2011 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Doesn't matter if you rent or own....ain't neither... fun or a picnic any longer,for most folks...

November 10 2011 at 3:54 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Home Ownership is not the American Dream ANYMORE if your Mortgage Company is AHMSI ( American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc Based out of Texas and California and New York !! Look at them all over the Internet and then some !! Erroneous Fees and late charges being placed on Accounts and Customers being Slammed with Escrow for Insurance and Taxes when the Home Owners have already paid the taxes and Insurance themselves !!and them having People /Collectors call from INDIA because out of State Collectors dont have to follow some of the Collection rules in the US? ) And State Attorneys offices all over the United States are suing them and taking them to Court !! Texas State Attorneys office ,Ohio,Massasschusetts and more Hopefully Florida will be Included in that Too ??!! That will help a lot of us that are being totaly Screwed by these Horrifice Companies There sertainly is a lot of Hoopla about all thats going on ...) that used to be Citi Residential,Bought out by H&R Blocks Option One Mortgage Co Before that Ocwen before that Ameriquest etc..It is the AMERICAN NIGHTMARE NOT THE AMERICAN DREAM ANYMORE !!Renting or Leasing seems to be the Better Alternative anyway ...

November 10 2011 at 3:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Homes are just now adjusting to their true value, after going through an artificial run up. This of course was brought on by banks and lenders escalating values, for second mortgages, this pumped up the values on paper, which were then repackaged and sold to other institution. Once the practice grew large enough the ponzi scheme came crumbling down. Though the market is now flooded with empty homes, ask your self honestly, how secure your job prospects look, say- 15years to 30 years running the length of the loan, forget how it used to be, you can't just sell and move on a whim , those days I believe are gone for good__!!

November 10 2011 at 3:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I believe that now would be a great time to buy a home, if you can qualify for today's mortgages. I don't think housing prices will go up. They can only go up if the home buying population has more money to spend on a house, and I don't see that happening any time soon.

November 10 2011 at 1:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The United States has faced housing crises before (as depicted in Upton Sinclair's novel "The Jungle" and John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes Of Wrath"). Today still we are bobbing in The Great Recession's wake. IMO the homeowner lifestyle remains attractive, and IMO five years from now (in a better economy with stable real estate prices) the homeowner lifestyle again will be affordable. IMO people should avoid financial commitments today that prevent their becoming homeowners tomorrow. Richard Ballard www.myspace.com/rjballard

November 10 2011 at 1:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Fact, Some just are not able, for what ever reason, for home ownership!

November 10 2011 at 1:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

The truth is that ever one must have a place to live, Either your going to pay the Mortgage on your home or, your going to rent from the landlord....

Even if you underwater today as long as you pay your Mortgage in time it won't matter and yes you can still write off interest....

November 10 2011 at 1:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you can buy a home, do it. Now is the time with prices and interest rates so low. Plus, don't forget you can write off the interest and property taxes, which will lower your tax bill. So, which is better? Paying $1,500 a month to rent some place or paying $1,500 a month for a mortgage? Real estate prices will go up again eventually, so you will also gain equity and also have something to pass onto your family.

November 10 2011 at 1:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply