Home Ownership Down

January 31, 2011

real estate, the economy

Home ownership rates continue to plummet. According to CNBC, Americans just aren’t buying homes so much.

America’s home ownership rate, after holding steady for a while, took a pretty big plunge in Q4, from 66.9 percent to 66.5 percent. That’s down from the 2004 peak of 69.2 percent and the lowest level since 1998.

Homeownership is falling at an alarming pace, despite the fact that home prices have fallen, affordability is much improved and inventories of new and existing homes are still running quite high.

Bargains abound, but few are interested or eligible to take advantage.

What’s even more shocking is that 11% of U.S. homes sit empty.

There were 18.4 million vacant homes in the U.S. in Q4 ’10 (11 percent of all housing units vacant all year round), which is actually an improvement of 427,000 from a year ago, but not for the reasons you’d think.

The number of vacant homes for rent fell by 493 thousand, as rental demand rose. 471,000 homes are listed as “Held off Market” about half for temporary use, but the other half are likely foreclosures. And no, the shadow inventory isn’t just 200,000, it’s far higher than that.

Not sure why, but I can guess. For one, Americans are uneasy about the economy. The government is spending like a MANIAC, China is rising almost as fast as our debt and interest rates… and who is earning enough to pay back those loans?

One of our Upstate cities was listed by Zillow.com as the Number One city in America to buy an affordable home. Everyone up here was practically waving flags: We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

But…. we have the “most affordable” homes in the nation– you mean the lowest priced? Isn’t that, like, bad?! And what good is it getting a cheap home for $25,000 in a city that is near bankruptcy and where property taxes are $7,000 a year?! How can that be a cause for celebration?

Economists and politicians alike go on and on, saying that the home construction and home ownership industry is the backbone of the American economy. So why are the banks and politicians selling Americans so short that we cannot afford the homes?

I don’t like this transition into a society that rents their homes. Property ownership is the backbone of the United States, property ownership gives citizens a vested interest in their community. Whatever happened to Life, LIberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?

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