The most recent report released by the Census Bureau on April 30th reveals that during the first quarter of 2012, the U.S. homeownership rate fell to the lowest level in 15 years. Sitting at 65.4 percent, which is down from 66 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, this rate is 1 percent lower than a year ago. It is actually at the lowest level since the first quarter of 1997. The high record was set at 69.2 percent in June, 2004. It is obvious that homeownership needs some reviving while mortgage rates remain low so that consumers can reap the benefits of affordable housing.

At a time of record high affordability, when home prices are down at the same time as mortgage rates, the exact opposite should be true for the number of people owning homes. At the current time, rental demand and rental prices are increasing rapidly. According to the Commerce Department, the vacancy rate for rental homes was 8.8 percent in the first quarter as compared to 9.7 percent a year ago. With available vacancies falling, rental prices will certainly continue to increase. While this might be good news for some, for the normal working person rising rents that are the same or higher than the average mortgage payment, this is a problem. With tighter lending standards in place, a home purchase has become limited for many consumers which is ultimately keeping buyers out of the market.

It is obvious that homeownership is not for everyone. It is one of those things that comes with baggage such as payments, maintenance, expenses and long term commitment. For some, it is definitely an option that should be explored at this time since there might not be another opportunity like there is now. There are mortgage options out there for those who are ready and willing to put the time, money and patience into owning a home. Borrowers who do not have a large amount of savings or have lower credit scores can turn to FHA loans for help. With mortgage rates at historic lows, it cannot get any better than it is right now. Waiting for housing prices to drop further can become a risky venture.

Even though homeownership needs reviving while mortgage rates remain low, there are no easy answers as to how to accomplish this. For some consumers, just inquiring as to whether they are credit worthy to receive an approval could become a life raft instead of continuing to pay higher rent.

FreeRateUpdate.com surveys more than two dozen wholesale and direct lenders' rate sheets to determine the most accurate mortgage rates available to well qualified consumers at a standard 0.7 to 1% point origination fee.

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