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Nearly One in Five Florida Homes Are Empty

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Here's a staggering statistic from the continued fallout of Florida's real estate bust: 18 percent of homes in Florida, or nearly one in five, sit empty. That's a 62 percent increase in empty homes in the past ten years, and the surplus of inventory on the market ensures that home prices aren't likely to rise again anytime soon. 

Luckily for locals, the vacancy rate in Miami-Dade is only 12 percent, but the counties along Florida's southern Gulf Coast were hit particularly hard. Collier County, home to Naples and once one of the fastest-growing areas in America, has a staggering vacancy rate of 32 percent. Neighboring Lee County is plagued with 30 percent vacancy, and Sarasota County has 23 percent.

To put the statistic in perspective, several other states with real estate woes come nowhere close to Florida's 18 percent. In California, only 8 percent of homes are empty, 14 percent in Nevada, and 16 percent in Arizona.

Analysts don't expect the problem to correct itself anytime soon. One analyst for Moody's Econimcs doesn't expect Naples to fully recover until the 2030s and doesn't think home prices across the state will hit rock-bottom until mid-2012.

"It will take about eight years just to put the vacancy numbers back into the single digits," Richard DeKaser, an economist with the Parthenon Group, tells CNNMoney.

Part of the problem can be blamed on investors who snapped up prebuilt homes, driving growth, and hoping to flip them on the market for a profit. Now those investors are sitting with empty houses and no one to buy them. Florida's slowing population growth also hasn't helped matters.

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