Home Vacancy Rates Rise

Foreclosed Home
Foreclosed Home

A little known quarterly report from the Census bureau came out today. It measures the homeowner vacancy rate in this country, which you would think might have skyrocketed in the last year given all the talk of foreclosures. Well it’s up, but not by all that much, so I called over to the Census to find out what gives.

Year-over-year, the number of vacant housing units in this country rose from 17,890,000 to 18, 627,000 (keep in mind only about 14 million of those are year-round, the rest are seasonal, i.e. vacation homes, etc.). So as a whole that’s a 4 percent increase in the number of vacant homes, not enormous, as the foreclosure crisis might suggest.

But a very nice number-cruncher at the Census explained: In doing the count, the Census folks go out and eyeball the house. If someone is living in it, then it’s occupied. That means that a house that’s in foreclosure would not be counted as vacant if there is still someone living in it. I happen to know that many homeowners stay long after the eviction notice comes to the front door. Also, there are many municipalities that are no longer evicting renters from foreclosed properties, again, keeping the home in the “occupied” column.

One thing I do note is that when they break it down region to region, there is a big bump in the owner and renter vacancy rate in the West, that is the big housing bust markets in Vegas, California, Arizona and Nevada. Lots of empty houses pulling down values all around them.