Why you're afraid to buy a house (and some tips on how to get over it)

It may be one of the world's greatest mass psychology questions of all time: Why aren't people buying houses?

Potential buyers are still looking -- that much has been established by recent attendance at open houses -- compared to a year ago, when most agents were taking home their plates of cookies untouched. And the home-buying public can't possibly be waiting for mortgage loan rates to drop much lower since they are already at their lowest levels in decades. There certainly are plenty of choices in what to buy: Inventories are at high levels and pretty much every seller on the market is ready to make a deal if you would just please be so kind as to make an offer ... any offer.

Even home builders' confidence has dropped for the third straight month as that group blames the struggling economy and the flood of cheap foreclosed properties on the market as the reason people have kept away from their shiny new ones. The National Association of Home Builders said its monthly index of builders' sentiment about the housing market was at 13; readings below 50 indicate negative sentiment about the market. That's one bunch of depressed home builders.