The number of vacant single-family homes with "For Sale" signs in the front yard fell to 2.04 million in the second quarter, down 6.5% from that of the first quarter, registering the first quarterly decline since home sales started to slow in early 2006, according to a Census Bureau report.However, vacancies were up 17.8% since the second quarter of 2006, and it appears the spring sales season only put a dent in the huge inventory of empty homes, which exerts downward pressure on home prices. The number of vacant homes on the market rose by 600,000 in 2006 as homebuilders, homeowners, and speculators got caught in the slowdown last year. The Census Bureau report also shows that the homeownership rate declined to 68.2% in the second quarter, down from 68.7% a year earlier. The homeownership rate for blacks fell to 46.3% in the second quarter from 48.0% in the first quarter, while the homeownership rare for Hispanics was unchanged at 50.0%.

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