Rising demand for rental units, however, has pushed prices to the second-highest rate ever. The median asking price by landlords rose to $721 from $694 at the tail end of 2011.

The only other time prices were higher was in 1999.


The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 8.2%, and incomes have stagnated. Fewer Americans can afford to buy a home or qualify for a mortgage, especially given tighter lending standards. As a result, home ownership declined again. It fell to 65.4% from 66% in the fourth quarter, putting it at the lowest level since 1996.

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