April 11, 2009

Unprecedented number of U.S. homes vacant

One in nine homes in the United States is vacant, an unprecedented number weighing on the nation's real estate market, industry experts say.

USA Today reported Saturday that the shear number of homes not being lived in will affect the real estate -- and rental -- market for years to come.

The newspaper noted that bargain prices in some areas of the nation are attracting first-time buyers. Moreover, the availability of rental housing increase, potentially pushing down the cost of renting.

Experts say too many homes were built in recent years, before the U.S. economy slumped.

We overproduced by 1 million new units, said Edward Glaeser, economist at Harvard University. Now we have to work our way through the stock.

As for the 14 million empty houses, condominiums and apartments, and the 9.4 million units that are for sale, Glaeser said it will take two more years for the supply to line up with demand.

From a pure need for shelter, we don't need more homes built for the next several years, says John Burns, head of John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif. We clearly overbuilt.