The survey, conducted for Move, found wide-ranging concerns about the financial condition of homeowners in a challenging economy, but also unearthed evidence of increased demand among investors in residential real estate.
"Concerns around employment and their overall economic situation are causing many people to wait until the economy improves before they commit to one of the largest purchases they'll most likely make in their lives," said Errol Samuelson, chief revenue officer for Move, which runs the Realtor.com and Move.com Web sites.
A stronger housing market will be an important part of the nation's economic recovery. As home sales and prices rise, consumer optimism usually follows suit, leading homeowners to feel wealthier and make them more comfortable spending.
Despite economic concerns, investor interest in the housing market is growing, according to the survey.
About 17 percent of potential home buyers say they plan to purchase a home in the near future as an investment. That's three times the investor interest seen in March 2009.
Also, investor interest in purchasing a foreclosed property to fix up and resell rose from 11.3 percent in October 2009 to 16 percent in March, a 42 percent increase. Strong demand persists among first time homebuyers, the survey showed.
One in five consumers say they plan to purchase a home in the next 12 months to five years. Of those, half are first-time buyers, with men being somewhat more interested in entering the housing market as a first-time buyer than women.
First-time buyers have until April 30 to sign a contract for a home purchase and qualify for a tax credit of up to $8,000.
The telephone poll, which included 1,004 interviews, was conducted in March by GfK Custom Research North America. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.