Since the housing bubble burst in 2008, millions of homes have gone through foreclosure. But what happens to all the families caught up in the financial chaos? Apparently, millions of them have become renters. The trend towards renting has been so strong in the past few years that analysts from Morgan Stanley recently reported that the United states is quickly becoming a nation of renters.
In the August 5th CNN Money article, “Home ownership hits lowest level since 1965” Les Christie describes how the US home ownership rate has dropped from 69.2% in 2004 to only 59.2%. While the official numbers show the home ownership rate at 65.9%, the number drops to 59.2% when you factor in delinquent mortgage borrowers (the ones who are likely to lose their homes at some point).
Since Rochester has been fortunate to evade the worst of the housing crisis, and in the process rack up a number of top 10 placements for real estate investing and home ownership, our home ownership rates are quite a bit more steady. The rest of the nation’s real estate has not been so lucky. In fact, the average home price has declined 32% nationally. Despite the ridiculously low interest rates on mortgages, the market just can’t seem to generate buyers fast enough. The two biggest factors being the much more stringent lending practices and the overall decrease in employed people, ready to make a home purchase.
This bubble, and the consequent burst, were surprises to no one with a fundamental knowledge of economics (regardless of what the talking heads on the news have been saying for the past few years). Having been in a position where I could see this disaster coming, I have to confess that I don’t see anyone making the decisions at a national level that are necessary for us to turn this crisis around.
Perhaps the analysts at Morgan Stanley are right, America will be a much more mobile, renter-centric, society for the foreseeable future.