Folks in small towns used to joke about the difference in population in and out of tourist season. That joke stops being funny when you can say it about a major city. If you visit Orlando, Florida, during peak season you may not be able tell that its homes are emptier than in any other city in America.

You also may not see the legal woes behind the smiling faces of people in one of America’s favorite vacation destinations. For the most part, however, those smiling faces are of tourists. Widespread home foreclosure in Orlando and the overall dismal housing market have resulted in a sad reality of empty homes that are depleting the value of other occupied homes.

Rental markets in Orlando, Florida’s third largest city, have felt market pressures even. Long-term Orlando visitors may find better rental rates for apartments than for hotels, since one out of every five rental units sits empty. That was an annual average, in a three-month period it actually had the highest percentage (22%) of vacant rental units in America.

But don’t underestimate the power of a Mickey Mouse operation. Tourist attractions have allowed Orlando to stitch together a solid financial cushion. It reports a general fund of $125 million, and 27 percent of its $1.1 billion total assets are in cash or its equivalent. Even if things in Orlando’s housing market seem tough now, the city is in good shape compared to some other areas in the country.

It might take some time for the housing market to pick up. Consumers need time to get back on their feet and banks are just recently legally recognizing their wrongdoings in certain foreclosure processes.

Source: CNBC, “America’s emptiest cities, 2012,” Paul Toscano, July 18, 2012