There's good news and bad news about home ownership in America. First, the bad: There's been dangerous borrowing. Many homeowners have snagged their homes via risky mortgages. They may have bought more than they can safely afford, they might have opted for interest-only mortgages, or they may have bought by paying very little down. These and other factors can leave many home purchases at risk, as I explained in the article "Mortgage Disaster Ahead?"

Fortunately, there's some good news. Some people who took on risky mortgages will pull it off. And overall, a greater percentage of American households own their own homes than do people in many other nations. Here are some statistics from a Boston Globe article from February, breaking down the percentage of households that own their own homes.

  • Spain, 85%
  • Greece, 83%
  • Italy, 80%
  • Russia, 72%
  • United Kingdom, 69%
  • United States, 68%
  • Canada, 66%
  • Japan, 60%
  • France, 55%
  • Netherlands, 53%
  • Denmark, 51%
  • Germany, 42%

A few details from the article:

  • Russia's rate is high because after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the government offered many people the chance to buy their apartments relatively inexpensively.
  • Real estate prices in Japan soared during the 1980s boom and remain out of reach for many Japanese, especially in and around cities.
  • In Germany, large down payments of around 20% to 30% are required for home purchases, while apartment dwellers enjoy limits on rent increases as well as other favorable conditions.

If you're wondering about places like India and China, wonder no more. India's home ownership rate rivals ours, at 67%. But the majority of households live in just one or two rooms. So it's not exactly comparable. Meanwhile, China's home-ownership rates have been rising, especially in urban areas, where it's around 80%, but it seems that in China, you only get to buy the "right to use" the property for 70 years. Then it's no longer yours.

So overall, perhaps things in the United States aren't so bad, eh?

If you're interested in home-buying and -selling issues, visit our Home Center, which features lots of money-saving tips and even some special mortgage rates.

You might also want to check out these articles:

If you're thinking about buying real estate as an investment, consider an alternative that you can get into and out of much more easily: real-estate-focused mutual funds. Motley Fool Champion Funds recommendation Third Avenue Real Estate Fund (FUND:TAREX), for example, has grown at an annual average clip of 19.5% over the past five years, enough to turn $10,000 into more than $24,000. Non-real-estate funds can deliver similar or better returns, with a little more diversification. Head advisor Shannon Zimmerman will point you in the right direction whether you prefer real-estate, international, large growth, or sector funds, just to list a few, with our Motley Fool Champion Funds newsletter.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not owns shares of any of the companies listed. The Motley Fool has a full disclosure policy.