Americans cut back to pay the rent

Washington_  Roughly four in 10 Americans have made big cuts in spending on clothing, personal care or entertainment in order to pay their monthly rent or mortgage payment, according to a survey released today.

Cash-strapped or falling behind, about one in five households contacted their lender over the past year to restructure their loan, with those surveyed reporting about a 50-50 chance of success.

And half of Americans are concerned they or someone they know will face foreclosure in the next six to 12 months.

The survey, conducted for Move Inc., found broad concerns about the health of the U.S. economy and housing market, but also some evidence of pent-up demand among first-time buyers as affordability returns to much of the country.

"People now are being very focused and saying, 'OK, where can I get the most value?'" said Errol Samuelson, chief executive of Move, which runs the and Web sites.

Fewer than 6 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed plan to purchase a home within the next year, but more than half of those planning to buy would be first-time owners.

Real estate agents, mortgage brokers and banks are hoping a new $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers will boost flagging sales. Yet only half of potential first-time homebuyers surveyed had ever heard of the tax credit.

Those surveyed were roughly split on whether the federal government is doing enough to stabilize the housing market, with about 46 percent saying yes and 44 percent saying no.

The telephone poll, which included about two-thirds homeowners and one-third renters, was conducted earlier this month by market research firm GfK. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.