U.S. homeownership rate is lowest since 1997

April 30, 2012 03:45PM

Source: Commerce Department

The U.S. homeownership rate continued its descent in the first quarter and fell to its lowest level since the first quarter of 1997, according to U.S. Commerce Department data released today. The homeownership rate was 65.4 percent through the first three months of this year, down from 66 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and 66.4 percent from the prior-year quarter. It peaked at 69.2 percent in 2004.

The homeownership rate for people less than 35 years of age was 36.8 percent, while for households making at least the nation’s median income it was down to 80.8 percent.

The report also showed data for national vacancy rates for rental and homeowner housing. Each is on the decline.

The rental vacancy rate was 8.8 percent in the first quarter, down 0.6 percentage points quarter-over-quarter and 0.9 percentage points on an annual basis. The measure last dipped below 9 percent in the middle of 2002, and peaked at 11.1 percent in 2009. The median asking rent for those vacant units was at an all-time high of $721 per month.

Meanwhile, the homeowner vacancy rate fell to 2.2 percent in the first quarter, from 2.3 percent in 2011’s fourth quarter and 2.6 percent in last year’s first quarter. This quarter’s reading is the lowest since the first quarter of 2006. However, the mediain asking price for these properties continued to tumble and sat at $133,700, the cheapest it has been in seven years. — Adam Fusfeld