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13 Percent of American Homes are Vacant, Says Census

By Tavis J. Hampton | March 28, 2011

The national vacancy rate now sits at 13 percent, according to the latest decennial census report.  As the number of vacancies grow, the housing market continues to feel the effects, bringing down home values and final sale prices.

Vacant house

A good portion of the vacancies are due to foreclosures, and certain states have been hit harder than others, thanks to high unemployment rates.  Maine, in particular, must seem rather empty at the moment with 22.8 percent of its houses holding nothing but air.  Rounding out the list of bottom five are Vermont (20.5%), Florida (17.5%), Arizona (16.3%), and Alaska (15.9%), but those numbers may be misleading.

One point to note, which may be a relief for some, is that the census counts summer homes, ski lodges, and other non-traditional properties as vacant, while most other real estate analysts would not.  If you do not live in a home, even if you own it and are in good credit standing, the Census Bureau considers it "vacant".  This accounts for the high number of Maine vacancies, which would actually be quite lower when not counting its multitude of vacation homes.

Beach house

Nevertheless, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada all have vacancy rates over 10 percent even without counting vacation homes.  States with the lowest rates include California, Iowa, Washington, Virginia, and Illinois.

Real estate professionals pride themselves on connecting people with homes, but the recent trends seem to be producing more homeless people and more vacant homes.  In the end, it is a bad situation for everyone involved: homeowners, realty companies, and banks.

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