The number of vacant single-family homes for sale rose 1.8% in the third quarter, according to a government report, signaling that inventory buildup has at least stabilized for now.The Census Bureau reported that vacant homes for sale rose from 2.04 million in the second quarter to 2.07 million in the third quarter. Earlier this year, economists at the National Association of Home Builders were alarmed that the number of vacant homes on the market jumped to 2.18 million in the first quarter, up nearly 600,000 units in one year. This jump indicated not only deteriorating market conditions, but the dumping of properties by investors and speculators -- making it more difficult for builders to address their inventory problems. NAHB chief economist David Seiders said the inventory overhang is still quite heavy. "There has been some improvement, but the big run-up is still with us," he added. The Census Bureau report also shows that the homeownership rate was unchanged at 68.2% in the third quarter, although down from 69.0% a year earlier. Meanwhile, the homeownership rate for blacks rose to 46.7% in the third quarter from 46.3% in the second quarter, while the homeownership rate for Hispanics edged up slightly to 50.1%.

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