The nation’s homeownership rate took a tumble on the way to the housing recovery. The number of owner-occupied homes ended the year below 2011 and the rate itself dropped a tenth of a point in the fourth quarter, reaching the lowest point in six years. The number of households owning their own homes rose to 75,209,000 in the fourth quarter, up from 75,076,000 in the third, but down from 75,315,000 homes in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Census Bureau. Though the number of homeowners rose quarter over quarter, the nation’s homeownership rate (seasonally adjusted) dipped to 65.4 percent in the fourth quarter from 65.5 percent in the third quarter. The homeownership rate fell to a level not seen since the fourth quarter of 1996. The nation's homeownership rate has been declining since it peaked at 69.2 percent in 2004. The homeownership rate is at its lowest level since the first quarter of 1997 when the rate was also 65.4 percent. The homeownership rate peaked at 69.2 percent in Q2 2004. The rate measures the proportion of households owning their primary residence, computed by dividing the number of household that are occupied by owners by the total number of occupied homes. The Census Bureau also reported the rental vacancy rate in the fourth quarter ticked up to 8.7 percent from 8.6 percent in Q3, but fell from 9.4 percent in Q4 2011.