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Florida homeownership rate hits new low

Experts often look at the health of a state's housing market to help determine how well its economy is doing. As Governor Rick Scott runs for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, he is touting the state's economic strength. However, Florida has reached a record low in an important indicator -- the rate of homeownership.

The percentage of Floridians who own homes is lower than it's been in at least several decades. That was the grim news delivered to the Legislative Budget Commission this month by an economist with the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

Florida's housing market, like that of many states, has seen significant shifts in the past decade. Homeownership rates were high in the days before the recession when credit was easy to get -- too easy. Many people here in Florida and throughout the country got mortgages they couldn't afford and ended up losing their homes.

While there's been some rebound in home prices and even in sales since the damage to the housing market caused by the recession, the homeownership rate "isn't back to normal," according to the economist. Many would-be homeowners are priced out of the market and are having to continue to rent.

Last year, Florida homeownership was 64.1 percent. While that was better than the national average, it's down considerably from the 72.4 rate in 2007, just before the recession and housing crash hit.

As he seeks a U.S. Senate seat, Gov. Scott is facing charges that he bears some responsibility for the drop because he was late in accepting federal aid to boost homeownership as the state struggled to recover from the recession. The Obama administration, for example, implemented the Hardest Hit program to help people in Florida and other states "hardest hit" by the recession.

Florida real estate law can be complex. Whether you're buying or selling your home, you're renting property you own to others or you're dealing with a foreclosure, it's wise to have the guidance of an experienced Florida real estate attorney.

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