About 18.9 million homes in the United States stood empty during the second quarter as surging foreclosures helped push ownership to the lowest level in a decade.
The number of vacant properties, including foreclosures, residences for sale and vacation homes, rose from 18.6 million in the year-earlier quarter, the U.S. Census Bureau said in a report Tuesday. The ownership rate, meaning households that own their own residence, was 66.9 percent, the lowest since 1999. The rate reached a record high of 69.2 percent in the second and fourth quarters of 2004.
Lenders are accelerating foreclosures as borrowers fall behind in mortgage payments after the worst housing crash since the Great Depression. A record 269,962 U.S. homes were seized in the second quarter, according to RealtyTrac Inc. Foreclosures probably will top 1 million this year, the Irvine, Calif., data company said in a July 15 report.
"There are a lot of people losing their homes and either moving in with family or renting places to live," said Patrick Newport, an economist with IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass. "Foreclosures are still going up."
The share of homes empty and for sale, known as the vacancy rate, was 2.5 percent in the second quarter, matching the year-earlier period and down from 2.6 percent in the first quarter, the Census Bureau said. The report also tracks vacant properties under renovation or tied up in legal proceedings. There were 3.7 million such empty homes in the second quarter, up from 3.5 million in the year earlier period, the report said.
A record 4.6 percent of U.S. mortgages were in foreclosure in the first three months of 2010, according to a May 19 report by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The combined share of foreclosures and home loan delinquencies was 14 percent, or about one in every seven U.S. mortgages.