The U.S. homeownership rate is at a 50-year low with another 3.8 million borrowers closer to losing their properties, a report from John Burns Real Estate said Monday. 

The real estate research firm claims the true homeownership rate is 62.1%, with that number including all borrowers who are 90 days or more delinquent and at high-risk of default.

This figure stands in stark contrast to the Census Bureau’s 65.5% homeownership rate. 

“The 65.5% homeownership rate published by the U.S. Census Bureau greatly overstates the real level of homeownership in the country, as the Census Bureau counts all 3.8 million homeowners who are 90-plus days delinquent on their mortgage as homeowners,” wrote Sean Fergus, manager with John Burns Real Estate. “Despite herculean efforts by the administration to save homeownership for these people, most of them are really just renters in waiting.”

Fergus says on average the difference between the actual, real homeownership rate and the published rate is one-percentage point. But today, the spread between the two is much higher due to the steep financial crisis, understaffing at banks, which is hurting the loan modification process, and government intervention in lending and servicing.  Not to mention, many borrowers are figuring out how to live rent-free for years after falling behind on their payments.

“We are confident homeownership will come back,” Fergus noted. “Our survey of 20,000 consumers, and many surveys by others, confirms that the American dream of homeownership is as strong as ever.”

He added that in states like Arizona and Texas, where foreclosures are more streamlined, foreclosed homeowners are now back in the market shopping for properties after losing their homes three years ago.


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