A new study sponsored by ING Direct came to the surprising conclusion that homeowners are less concerned about a housing bubble this year than they were last year.

Of 1,000 people surveyed, all of whom had closed on a new mortgage or refinanced an existing mortgage in the prior six months, 73 percent said they were not concerned that a downturn in the housing market would lead to lower home values in the next year. In 2004, 67% said they were not concerned.

Jim Kelly, who heads customer service for the online bank (which offers adjustable rate mortgages), says the firm was happy to note that pessimism about the housing market had actually declined in the past year. "With all the talk about a housing bubble, it was a bit of a surprise for us -- a good one," he says.

Another surprising finding -- homeowners remain unconcerned about housing prices despite their expectation that rates will rise in the coming year. In fact, 42% think rates will rise a point and 40% said they expect rates to rise two or three points in the year ahead.

Kelly wouldn't speculate on why the survey shows so little pessimism among homeowners -- despite all the hand-wringing in the media (and on this blog) about a potential bubble. "People are probably more optimistic than we give them credit for when they look at their finances," says Kelly.

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