Wednesday, May 7, 2008

So Many Homes, So Few Buyers

The number of empty homes continues to grow to record levels as hard luck hits owners, tight money squeezes buyers and cashing in on the soft market gets tough for all but the most affluent, creditworthy consumers.

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Deadline Newsroom - If only it was easier to get a mortgage.

It would be a buyer's paradise.

There are more empty homes than at any other time in U.S. history and a greater number of empty homes tends to create price breaks for buyers.

And don't forget, the greater number of empty homes is largely due to the glut of foreclosures, which themselves can be cheaper than homes that owners plan to sell.

The nation's supply of empty homes rose to a record 18.6 million in the first quarter this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

The vacancy rate, the share of unoccupied homes for sale, also hit a record of 2.3 million, up nearly 3 percent from a year ago.

The West was hit hardest with the biggest gain in vacancy rates, up 7 percent.

Vacancy rates fell in the Midwest and the South, but also rose in the Northeast.

Rising foreclosures have been caused in part by resetting rates on adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs), which, in turn, cause unaffordable higher monthly mortgage payments.

Some people walk away from homeownership because they purchased more than they could afford with little money down at the peak of the market. Now, falling home prices find them with an "upside down" mortgage - that's a mortgage with a balance larger than the home's value.

Job creation has also been sluggish and that hasn't helped those who want more work or higher wages to pay for more expensive mortgages.

The first quarter 2008 rate of homeownership remained at 67.8 percent, where it was in the last quarter last year - the lowest level since the first quarter of 2002.

But there's always a silver lining.

With these market conditions, home buyers with down payment cash and excellent credit can land the deal of a lifetime on a home.

© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service, and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's new backshop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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