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U.S. Homeownership Rates Lose Ground to Other Developed Countries

The rate of homeownership in the U.S. is in the middle to lower range compared to other developed countries according to an analysis by the Urban Institute. In fact, data showed that the rate is about the same as it was in 1990 in the country, whereas homeownership rates in other developed nations have increased substantially over the years.

Using datasets, which were available until 2015, the analysis compared homeownership rates from 1990 to 2015 across 18 countries and found that the United States was ranked tenth in 1990 and was close to the mean rate of its peer countries. But, by 2015 it had slipped three places in rankings with the country’s homeownership rates at 63.7 percent falling below the mean rate of 69.6 percent, the analysis indicated.

During the period for which the analysis was done, 13 of the 18 countries increased their homeownership and apart from the U.S., Bulgaria, Ireland, Mexico, and the United Kingdom saw a decline in homeownership rates.

Even when a broader base of countries was taken into account, the U.S. ranked 35 of 44 countries and was 10 percentage points below the mean homeownership rate of 73.9 percent for all these countries, the analysis found.

When it came to age-patterns and homeownership though, the analysis found that the U.S. was similar to that of other European countries, where homeownership rates peak at or near retirement, between ages 65 to 74. It found that other than Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, homeownership rates at that age peaked between 75 to 90 percent, well above the rate for younger households.

In terms of home equity, the study found that in the U.S. home equity was a greater source of retirement wealth. “Home equity is a huge source of retirement wealth in the US and in the most-populous European countries. But the US curve tends to be steeper than for many other countries with lower homeownership rates for people ages 44 and younger,” the study said.

It also pointed to falling rates of homeownership for households aged 44 and younger in the U.S., which remain historically low despite the rate of homeownership for this age-group experiencing an exponential increase in the past year. It found that one of the reasons for low homeownership rates in the 44 and younger age-groups could be because of the current credit environment that makes it difficult for anyone with less than perfect credit scores to obtain a mortgage.

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