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U.S. homeownership rate jumps up

The U.S. homeownership rates have inched off of 50-year lows this year, but remain well below what some housing groups believe is healthy. 

The unadjusted U.S. homeownership rate stood at 63.9 percent in the third quarter, the highest level in more than two and half years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The rate was last higher in fourth-quarter 2014, when it reached 64 percent, Census data indicates.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, however, the overall homeownership rate actually fell 10 basis points from the second quarter adjusted rate to 63.8 percent.

firstimehomebuyersAlthough the unadjusted rate has come up a full percentage point since bottoming out in second-quarter 2016, Census Bureau officials have said that recent quarterly changes in homeownership rates have been statistically insignificant.  

Realtors are disappointed with the progress. The National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest housing lobby, wants to see the number move closer to the upper 60s percentile. The unadjusted rate in third-quarter 2000, for example, was 67.7 percent. Homeownership peaked at 69 percent in 2004, Census data indicates.  

“The American Dream of home ownership remains elusive, as the third-quarter figure shows little change in the overall rate,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a news release. Yun said tight inventories and rising prices are primarily to blame for keeping the homeownership rate down.

In an annual report profiling buyers and sellers released this week, NAR said the first-time homebuyer share has dropped to 35 percent, the fourth lowest share since 1981. NAR says its annual survey’s long-run average for first-time buyers is 39 percent of all buyers.  

“There is just not enough supply of homes to fully satisfy the desire to own,” Yun said.

Trends in minority homeowners were mixed.

The black homeownership rate this past third quarter fell for the second consecutive quarter, to 42 percent, but is up from 41.3 percent in third-quarter 2016. The Hispanic homeownership rate rose from the second-quarter 2017 level, to 46.1 percent, but is down from 47 percent in third-quarter 2016. 


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