Nationwide homeownership levels fall

Fewer Americans are becoming homeowners.A government report shows that fewer Americans owned their own home in the fourth quarter of the year than any period since 1998.

According to the Commerce Department (http://www NULL.census NULL.gov/hhes/www/housing/hvs/qtr410/files/q410press NULL.pdf) the national homeownership rate dropped to 66.5 percent in the third quarter of the year, down from 67.2 percent a year earlier. It's also down significantly from the mark of 69.2 percent reached during the height of the housing boom in 2004.

Analysts say the decline may pave the way for a fundamental change in the way people view rentals.

"Americans are going through a fundamental transition in the way they look at rental housing," Greg Kraus, senior director of acquisitions with Invesco Real Estate, told the Wall Street Journal. "Historically, there's almost been a subtle disdain in many markets if you're a renter. That stigma is going to go away."

Homeownership levels in the government's South region, which includes Houston homes, came in at 68.5 percent, higher than the national average but down from 69.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Despite the drop, recent reports show many people are still looking to buy a home. A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors found that more than 70 percent of renters felt that owning a home made more long-term financial sense.

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