In the midst of all the gloom and doom on the housing front, one remarkably-bright statistic has just been announced: Last week the National Association of Realtors reported that 12 percent of all existing home sales last year were not primary residences, they were instead vacation homes.
It turns out that a lot of us have second homes at the lake, the beach, in the mountains or just somewhere different. The idea that so many of us have not just one house but two is at least counter-intuitive given that almost 1.3 million homes were lost to foreclosure last year, according to figures from RealtyTrac.com.
What do such numbers say about our housing market?
It takes a given number of dollars each month to support a primary residence, a standard that a large number of owners are not meeting. As the Mortgage Bankers Association explained in its most-recent delinquency report, "the rate of foreclosure starts and the percent of loans in the process of foreclosure are at the highest levels ever."
And yet at a time when many households are plainly having huge problems, it's clear that another group of households is doing very well. Not only can folks in this second group support one house, they can afford at least two.
The implicit reservoir of wealth represented by vacation property owners is important because it means there are large numbers of people out there with dollars that can be used to stroke the economy. If this trend holds up, it also means that about 600,000 second homes will be sold this year, a big and positive number at a time when big and positive numbers should be welcomed.