Asian Californians are twice as likely as their black counterparts to own a home and lead an ethnic groups statewide in considering home ownership important, a new survey reveals.

The Yankelovich Partners study also indicated a lot of pent-up demand in the Golden State to buy a home but an equally significant admission of ignorance regarding mortgage basics.

The telephone survey of 1.004 Californians. conducted May 6-16 and containing a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points, was conducted by the California League of Savings Institutions and last week during the league's secondary mortgage market conference. The findings will be used as marketing ammunition by the league's 102 members, who hold a third of all thrift assets nationwide and more than 224 billion worth of mortgage loans outstanding.

According to the study, six in 10 white and Asian Californians are homeowners, but only four in 10 Hispanics and three in 10 blacks can say the same. While income undoubtedly plays a part, so does attitude. When the 440 renters in the poring group were asked if owning a home is something they would like to do someday, 95% of the Asians said yes, but only 79% of the blacks gave the same response. Among Hispanics. 92% said yes; among whites. it was 82%. All told, 85% were in the affirmative.

Homeownership's allure remains strong despite California's recession. Among renters, 60% said owning makes more financial sense than what they were doing, and 56% said this is generally a good time to buy a house in the area where they live. Such a mood comes despite pessimism for the state - 73% described economic conditions as poor or very poor, and only 53% believed California will bounce back from its current economic problems. People tended to be more optimistic about their own economic conditions, however.

As was reported last week, many renters across the U.S. feel shut out because they cannot save enough for a down payment; 19% of the California renters surveyed cited a down payment as a main obstacle to buying a home. That was the second-biggest problem mentioned, behind only affordability/high cost of housing, at 49%.

But ignorance also may play a role. Of all people surveyed, 74% said they were only somewhat or not very prepared to look for a home to buy, either by themselves or with a real estate agent. They reported similar potential difficulties in choosing a financial institution for a loan, deciding what mortgage to take and understanding the necessary paperwork.

"Based on these findings, we now have our work cut out to educate people about what they can afford, and to help them understand the home-buying process," said Mario J. Antoci, chairman of American Savings Bank and the California League of Savings Institutions. "And despite the improvement in the affordability index, California still lags behind the rest of the nation. We should not rest easy until that index improves even more.

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