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The 11 top states for homeownership

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Americans are slowly moving toward renting instead of owning.

According to figures released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau, the country's homeownership rate fell to 64.5 percent last year. That's the lowest level in two decades.

The homeownership rate crested at 69 percent in 2004, but has since receded. A number of factors are pushing that rate down. The most obvious: the massive housing crash that triggered the Great Recession, along with the ongoing migration of workers to urban areas, where renting is often the best option.

Across the country, home sales are still frustratingly sluggish, notes Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets. Existing home sales dropped 4.9 percent in January, the fifth drop in the past year.

But in some parts of the U.S., owning a home is more common.

Read on to see the 11 states where the homeownership rate is far above the national norm. The rate is calculated by dividing the number of households that are owners by the total number of households.

Sources: U.S. Census, Zillow

​1. West Virginia

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Homeownership rate: 75.6 percent

Median home value: $93,600

West Virginia has a higher rate of homeownership than any other state, although that rate is dropping quickly. The rate was 79 percent in 2010 and more than 81 percent in 2005.

The state was only one of six in the country to see a population decline last year. The number of residents there fell by 0.18 percent between July 2013 and July 2014. That might not seem like a lot, but it was the highest percentage drop of any state.

​2. Delaware

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Homeownership rate: 74.3 percent

Median home value: $204,400

Delaware is seeing stronger job growth than the rest of the Mid-Atlantic states, according to The News Journal. The state is diversified economically and has particular strength in the energy industry. Its unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, below the 5.7 percent national average.

Delaware doesn't have inheritance or estate taxes, and some economists think that's one reason why home values in parts of the state are increasing.

​3. Michigan

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Homeownership rate: 73.8 percent

Median home value: $117,600

Michigan was hit hard in the housing crash, but some areas of the state are seeing a strong rebound in home price and demand, The Detroit Free Press reports. In some parts of southeast Michigan, for example, home values have soared as much as 50 percent since 2009. Even in Detroit, home sale prices last year were back to early 2008 levels.

​4. Vermont

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Homeownership rate: 73.5 percent

Median home value: $219,200

It's quite a feat for Vermont to rank so high in homeownership when two forces could be driving that rate down. First, the state has a high foreclosure rate, with nearly 3 percent of mortgage loans in foreclosure, according to the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a group that helps low- and moderate-income households build assets.

Second, Vermont's homes aren't exactly affordable. About 35 percent of homeowners spend at least 30 percent of their incomes on housing payments.

​5. Mississippi

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Homeownership rate: 73.2 percent

Median home value: $112,500

The high homeownership rate in Mississippi is particularly notable because its median household income is the lowest in the nation, at just under $38,000 in 2013.

The state had near zero percent job growth last year, and was one of only 11 states with job growth of less than 1 percent. But the state's economist is projecting job growth to jump to 1.5 percent this year, the largest growth since 1999, according to The Clarion-Ledger.

​6. South Carolina

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Homeownership rate: 72.9 percent

Median home value: $134,400

South Carolina is another state that boasts a high homeownership rate despite having a large lower-income population. About 33 percent of the state's jobs are low-wage, which ranks it 45th among all states, according to the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

The region is continuing to recover from the recession, with home sales rising 19.5 percent last year, according to The State. Home prices rose 1.9 percent over the year.

​7. New Hampshire

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Homeownership rate: 72.2 percent

Median home value: $219,700

New Hampshire has traditionally had some of the highest home prices in the country, and that's keeping some young adults living at home with their parents. More than half of 25-year-olds in the state live with their parents, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The state's homeownership rate has dropped over the years from 74.9 percent in 2010. State officials are hoping the economy gets a boost in 2015, however. Unemployment is falling, and the housing market is getting a boost from low interest rates.

​8. Alabama

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Homeownership rate: 72.1 percent

Median home value: $121,400

Alabama has seen four straight years of sales growth in its housing market, though the 3.4 percent growth in 2014 was down significantly from the 10.2 jump the previous year. The median sales price for homes grew by 4.8 percent last year.

The state's homeownership rate jumped as high as 78 percent in 2004 before gradually falling to 72 percent last year.

​9. Minnesota

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Homeownership rate: 71.4 percent

Median home value: $182,200

Minnesota's population has seen an annual increase for the last decade, with the suburbs in particular experiencing strong growth of more than 3 percent a year, according to NerdWallet. The state does its best to boost homeownership, with the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency rounding up lenders to help buyers find loans.

​10. Maine

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Homeownership rate: 71 percent

Median home value: $173,500

The state's real estate market is getting stronger, reports the Portland Press Herald. Not only is homeownership high, but real estate agents say the second-home market is gaining ground as well.

Agents sold 783 single-family homes in the state in January, an 8.6 percent increase from a year earlier. This year's snowy weather hasn't hurt sales. In fact, some agents say that when people are snowed in, they go online to scope out real estate listings.

​11. Utah

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Homeownership rate: 70.9 percent

Median home value: $208,600

Owning home in some parts of Utah is much more affordable than in other states. In the city of Syracuse, for example, residents spent an average of only 24 percent of their household incomes on homeowner costs, according to NerdWallet. It's no wonder that nearly 93 percent of the city's residents own their homes.

But all those home loans can take a toll on family budgets. Utah has a young population and its residents like to marry early, economists say. Younger families generally don't have much saved up for down payments, and tend to carry higher mortgages.

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