The share of empty U.S. homes fell slightly in the first quarter, a government report on Monday showed, though vacancies remained at elevated levels amid continued weakness in the housing sector.
The first quarter vacancy rate fell to 2.6 percent from 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, the Commerce Department reported. The first quarter rate was also just below the 2.7 percent rate in the same period a year ago.
An elevated vacancy rate is a sign that many homeowners have moved out of their primary residence even before it was sold.
Among the regions, the South had a vacancy rate of 2.8 percent while the Midwest's rate was 2.6 percent. The rate was 2.7 percent in the West, while the Northeast recorded the lowest rate, at 1.8 percent, the department said.
The share of empty rental homes fell to 10.6 percent in the first quarter from 10.7 percent in the final three months of last year. That's up from 10.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009.