In the first quarter of 2012 the share of privately owned U.S. residential property dropped to the lowest point it had been at in fifteen years. The rate fell to 65.4 percent, which was the lowest percentage since 1997.
The lowest rates were in the West and the higher rates in the Midwest. The price of the average home has fallen since peak prices occurred in 2005. Many owners are now in possession of homes that are worth less than the amount owed on the mortgage. This leads to what are called “short sales” (these are the sales that do not pay the seller as much for the home as he or she has to pay on the mortgage). Short sales have a slight advantage over foreclosure which comes with fees and legal costs that eat away the money they retain after a foreclosed property is sold by the bank.
Median selling prices were $133,700, in the first quarter of 2012. This is the lowest average price since 2005. The median price was $133,800 in the fourth quarter of 2011.
With homeownership down rentals move up. The vacancy rate for single family homes or apartments dropped from 9.4 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011 to 8.8 percent during the first quarter of 2012. This is accompanied by higher rental rates. The median rent in 2011’s fourth quarter was $712 per month. In 2012’s first quarter it was $721 per month.
New construction starts have increased for apartment buildings. Private homes that are now empty dropped to 2.2 percent this first quarter from 2.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. The rate is significantly higher in the South, a region hit hardest by foreclosures. Home ownership trends are expected to improve.