(Source: USA Today)

In a nearby subdivision of this community of 246,000, one of the largest suburbs in metropolitan Phoenix, a foreclosure sign in the front yard of a more modest house signals yet another financially troubled home needing a buyer.

Multiply that scenario hundreds of thousands of times. From Maine to Hawaii, millions of new McMansions, post-World War II bungalows, modern downtown lofts, exurban town homes and inner-city row houses sit empty. This unprecedented glut of vacant homes — one in nine homes across the USA, according to the Census Bureau — will change the real estate landscape for years.

Already, rock-bottom prices in the hardest-hit markets are attracting first-time home buyers who could not afford a home during boom times. Some areas may see real estate values stabilize by the end of this year, as buyers seeking bargains begin to reduce the backlog of homes for sale. At the same time, the availability of rental housing will widen, potentially pushing down the cost of renting.

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

What happens to the 14 million empty houses, condominiums and apartments and the 9.4 million that are for sale? How long will it take to absorb this massive and unprecedented oversupply of housing?

Read Haya El Nasser’s full article “Open house, anyone? 1 in 9 homes sit empty” in USA Today (April 11, 2009).

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