Despite widespread fears that their jobs are not secure, Americans remain upbeat about their chances to own a home. Further, homeownership retains its lure, even though homes are gaining in value more slowly than in the 1980s.

These are some of the findings of the Fannie Mae national housing survey, now in its fifth year. Its aim is to take an annual reading of American attitudes toward homeownership, and the news this year was cheery for lenders, real-estate agents, home builders and others who make their living off the American dream.

Despite economic uncertainty, three in five Americans feel this is a good time to buy a home, according to the survey.

That makes them more optimistic than they were last year, but less so than in 1993 and 1994, when three-quarters of those surveyed felt it was a good time to buy a home. In 1995, that number plunged to 55%.

Nearly nine in 10 believe that homeownership is within reach now, or soon will be, for most people age 30 to 35. Forty-three percent believe it is within reach for those in the 25-to-29 age group - more than held that view in previous years.

One measure of the American hunger for homeownership is the sacrifices people are willing to make to own a home. More and more Americans are willing to make significant trade-offs, according to the survey.

By wide margins, those surveyed said they would take a second job, own one car instead of two or more, and commute farther to work if it would make the difference between renting and owning.

Three in four Americans said they would recommend that a 30-year-old friend use $10,000 in savings on a down payment for a house rather than investing in stocks.

With stocks and bonds expected to outperform housing as an investment, why are Americans so hell-bent on getting a mortgage?

According to the survey, more than two-thirds of Americans value homeownership for the family stability and social belonging it helps create.

Seventy-three percent said homeownership fosters "greater stability in a marriage and family." Eighty-three percent said it helps in "making a better home life for children, and 58% said owning a home makes them feel "that the American system works for you."

Homeownership continues to be viewed as an important tool to build wealth, with 56% saying they see it as a way to save money and build up personal wealth.

Fannie Mae's national housing survey was conducted by pollsters Peter D. Hart and Robert Teeter through 1,857 interviews. The interviews were held from April 8 to April 16.

The survey was weighted to reflect the 65%/35% split between owners and renters.

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