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Anemic demand from owner-occupant home buyers has forced investors to rent out about half of the homes they purchase—as opposed to renovating and flipping the properties, according to the latest Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey.

The latest HousingPulse Survey results showed the proportion of first-time home buyers in the housing market rose to 36.9 percent in July, from 35.4 percent in June. Meanwhile, the HousingPulse Distressed Property Index (DPI) climbed to 46.2 percent in July from 44.7 percent in June, indicating a high percentage of foreclosed property sales and short sale transactions in the housing market.

The gap between first-time home buyers and distressed property supply was 9.3 percentage points in July, unchanged from June. Given that home purchases by current homeowners do little to absorb the supply of distressed properties, the housing market is increasingly dependent on investors to pick up any slack in purchases by first-time home buyers.

Because the current housing environment makes it difficult for investors to sell properties, many are choosing to rent instead. Campbell Surveys estimates that investors will ultimately rent out 48 percent of the properties acquired in the month of July 2011. A comparable figure for the month of July 2010 would have been investors renting out 28 percent of acquired properties.

Significantly, real estate agents responding to the July HousingPulse survey indicated that the debate in Congress over the U.S. debt ceiling negatively affected home buyer activity last month.

“I spoke with several would-be buyers who, because of the ridiculous behavior of our government, felt uneasy about purchasing at this time. This may be contributing to the hot rental market,” reported an agent in Washington State.

The Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey involves approximately 2,500 real estate agents nationwide each month and provides up-to-date intelligence on home sales and mortgage usage patterns.

For more information, visit www.realestateeconomywatch.com.

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