Homeownership hits lowest level in 15 years
Monday, April 30, 2012 2:27 PM
The U.S. Census Bureau said today that the homeownership rate fell to the lowest level in 15 years in the first quarter as borrowers lost homes to foreclosure and tighter inventory and credit kept buyers off the market, Bloomberg reported.
The rate dropped to 65.4 percent from 66 percent in the fourth quarter and fell a full percentage point from a year earlier. That is the lowest level since the first quarter of 1997, and down from a record 69.2 percent in June 2004, Bloomberg reported.
Of the estimated 132.6 million U.S. homes, 18.5 million, or 13.9 percent, were vacant in the first quarter. A year earlier, about 19 million homes were vacant, according to the report. That includes homes for sale or rent or held off the market, and vacation properties used seasonally.
Homeownership may fall further and repossessions may increase this year as lenders step up foreclosures after a $25 billion agreement by the nation's largest loan servicers in February to settle allegations of improper practices, Bloomberg said. Foreclosure filings fell to the lowest rate since 2007 in the first quarter as banks slowed actions before the settlement, according to RealtyTrac Inc.
Meanwhile, rental vacancies are dropping. The U.S. apartment vacancy rate fell to 4.9 percent in the first quarter, an 11-year low, Reis Inc. said. The vacancy rate for rental homes was 8.8 percent in the first quarter, compared with 9.7 percent a year earlier, the Census Bureau said in today's report.