The shrinking vacancy rate indicates that the so-called shadow inventory, which includes homes facing foreclosure or repossessed by banks that aren't listed for sale, is smaller than the biggest estimates and less of a threat to a real estate recovery, Kolko said. The shadow inventory was 5.95 million homes last month, down from a high of 8.79 million in early 2010, Morgan Stanley said in a July 26 report.

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