Urban Real Estate Markets: Characteristics and Financing

By Ernest M. Fisher | Go to book overview

C H A P T E R 3
The Market for Homes in Fee

BEFORE discussing the market in which homes are bought, sold, or exchanged, it will be useful to examine the data indicating how the proportion between owner-occupied and rented homes has varied from time to time and from one part of the country to another.1


PERCENTAGE OF HOMES OWNER-OCCUPIED2

Comprehensive data on home tenure in the United States were compiled for the first time in the Census of 1890. Periodically since that time, notably in 1920 and in 1940, much information on home tenure has been collected by the Bureau of the Census, and in connection with the 1940 Census a complete enumeration was made of home financing, rents, occupancy, vacancy, and housing conditions. The 1940 Census, in fact, constitutes a landmark in the development of information on these features of the real estate market.

In 1890, 36.9 percent of the homes in nonfarm areas were occupied by their owners; and this percentage increased at each succeeding census, up to and including 1930, when the figure was 46.0 percent (Table 2). By 1940, it had declined to 41.1 percent, but estimates by the Bureau of the Census, based on a sample census, indicated that by 1947 it had risen to an all-time high of 52.6 percent.

Table 2 also shows some interesting variations by census region in the percentage of nonfarm homes owner-occupied. In New England, the percentage of owner-occupied homes declined from 35.1 in 1890 to 32.6 in 1910. Thereafter, it rose to 44.3 in 1930, declined in

____________________
1
There are two areas, Baltimore and Philadelphia, in which a ground rent system of tenure is common. In these areas many families are classified as homeowners and many homes as owner-occupied, notwithstanding the prevalence of the ground rent system. Under this system, the parcel of land is leased on long term and the dwellings are constructed by the lessee. In lieu of owning a home in fee, therefore, the family owns a leasehold estate; but inasmuch as the leases are for a long term, and the ground rent is a relatively small sum, payable annually, there is little practical distinction between this tenure and ownership in fee.
2
In this and subsequent discussions on owner-occupancy, the data are based on all occupied nonfarm homes reporting tenure in 1890, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940, and on all "ordinary dwelling units occupied by residents" in 1947 (exclusive of units in trailers, tourist cabins, shacks, riverboats, warehouses, and the like).

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