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Mortgage issues bring nationwide homeownership to 13-year low

Like many other states, Florida has been hit hard by the housing crisis. On a national level, homeownership in the United States, with respect to the third quarter of 2011, is at its second-lowest level in 13 years. As homeowners find it increasingly difficult to make their mortgage payments, many are forced into evictions. And for those looking to buy, tighter credit standards are shutting many of those people down in their tracks.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, homeownership rates are now at 66.3 percent. In the last quarter of this year, the rate was at a 13-year low of 65.9 percent. While the gain was welcomed news, it was also the only gain seen in the last two years. Vacancy rates also improved, but only slightly as they moved from 2.5 percent in the second quarter to 2.4 percent in the third quarter.

For distressed homeowners, the news is not so good, as many foreclosures are likely to become evictions next year. As of last December, the foreclosure rate moved to a record high, as measured by the Mortgage Bankers Association. For many of these homeowners, the conclusion of their housing problem may not come to an end until sometime next year as the average time between the first late mortgage payment and repossession averages about 20 months, according to Lender Processing Services Inc. in Florida.

There are options for those homeowners who are in need of debt relief. For example, a borrower can choose to defend a foreclosure lawsuit, buying precious time to successfully negotiate a loan modification, short sale, deed in lieu of foreclosure, as well as file for bankruptcy. Consulting a Florida area real estate attorney may produce some ideas on what the homeowner can do. There is a variety of programs and plans available for those who need assistance, and learning what those options are may prove beneficial for those facing foreclosure.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Homeownership Near 13-Year Low as Mortgage Rules Crimp Sales," Kathleen M. Howley, Nov 3, 2011

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