Whopping 11% Of US Homes Are Empty

The vacancy sign is blazing over house divisions across the US. About 1 in 10 houses in America have no one living inside them, according to new data from the Census, CNBC reports. (Update: while technically correct, this number includes other kinds of properties like abandoned farm house. The more typically used number, the home-vacancy rate, is 2.7%, up from 2.5% the previous quarter).

What this could mean is that more households are choosing to rent rather than buy. (To see if that’s cost-effective for you, check out this chart). With the housing Armageddon of the past few years, you can hardly blame them for sitting it out.

Nearly 11 Percent of US Houses Empty [CNBC]

Pretty Circles Tell You Whether To Rent Or Buy


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  1. El Matarife says:

    This is what happens when you build massive developments in places no one wants to live. I’d be interested to see the vacancy levels in the major cities.

    • Alvis says:

      If most are anything like Baltimore when I lived there, I’d say higher than 10%

    • sonneillon says:

      It’s not even that. They were building massive development, and our population is only increasing at %.9 per year. If your developing on a large scale with houses and condos, increasing capacity by %3-5 then there are is going to be empty houses. Simply put we made more houses than we made people.

    • tbax929 says:

      I wouldn’t assume that because you don’t want to live somewhere that no one else does. That’s some serious hubris.

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I wish I had capital to buy houses at firesale prices and rent them out.

    • thewriteguy says:

      as el matarife pointed out, maybe most of these houses are in regions where nobody wants to live, or where there are no jobs.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        That’s true. But I’m sure there are some scattered here and there in my state as well (Which weathered the storm well). In fact, I know of 3 foreclosed properties in my HOA community!

      • jefeloco says:

        I’m renting a house in a town that is 18 miles away from my work. It is a nice enough town but not in high demand since it is so far away from Boise; Nampa is less than four miles away though so grocery shopping doesn’t suck, though it does stink.

        I pay $900 a month for rent for a house that would cost me almost $2000 a month if it were in Boise. I am considering moving to something smaller in town when my lease is up in September. My wife and I have no Kids (but 3 cats) and don’t need 1600 sf nearly as much as we would like too :)

        As a plus, moving to Boise would get us internet access that doesn’t suck for the same price as sucky access.

  3. RubyRedJess says:

    I’ll take one! Are the giving them away now or are we going back to $400,000 for a 2 bedroom in Chino?

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      They’re not giving them away. But owners – including banks – seem to want to get what they paid for them at the height of the boom.

      • RubyRedJess says:

        Yes, I know they are not giving them away. The house across the street from me was for sale for $620,000 and it is a 2 bedroom 1 bath in Altadena, CA. I can’t believe that someone has the grapes to ask that much for a run down “house” in the ghetto.

      • jesusofcool says:

        Those are the people who are going to keep things this screwed up. Eventually someone is going to have to take the loss – the quicker owners – particularly banks/lenders who have foreclosed and now own the home – sell or even start renting these properties at a rate which is affordable enough for the market to support, the sooner this will change.

        • humphrmi says:

          Everyone says “But Banks don’t want to own houses! They will dump them!”

          Having worked for a bank, this makes me laugh. Banks are the most patient entity you’ll ever encounter when it comes to making money. Sure, they tried to make a quick buck with CDO’s and such, but now that they’ve written them off, there is almost no reason for them to not just sit on the houses until the market turns around, and get what they want.

    • TasteyCat says:

      You can get a house for a dollar in Detroit. Still too expensive.

  4. zantafio says:

    More like 30% in Florida…

  5. Karenpuppy says:

    11% vacancy and almost 11% unemployment rate: coincidence?

  6. turkishmonky says:

    Vacancy is why Detroit is awesome.
    I have these dreams of forking over $1000 for a city block and building a compound there someday.

    • evnmorlo says:

      A plot of Arizona desert or Canadian forest might be better

      • mac-phisto says:

        but who will buy my nuke in the wilderness? detroit offers an ideal customer base for the merchandise. as long as those fuddy-duddy do-gooders in metro west stay out of my hair…

    • neilb says:

      Detroit is sad. I had the same thoughts at one time.
      You will pay more in property taxes per year than you paid to purchase the property. Those taxes are not cheap. They will never go down.
      You will also have to level whatever was on the property.
      Your high taxes will buy you mediocre-to-non-existent city services. The public schools have shut down at times due to a lack of funds.
      Your property will be difficult to secure. You will allow rent-free renters stay there just to keep the worst elements of Detroit out.
      So, so, so sad. Our dreams of a cheap urban kingdom are best to remain dreams.

  7. The cake is a lie! says:

    Hey, this is perfect! The empty house percentage is similar to the unemployment rate. We should round up the empty homes and give them to the unemployed. Problem solved!

  8. backinpgh says:

    Well jeez, all the people who need one should just get to take one then!

  9. balthisar says:

    Uh, what are people renting if not empty houses? You know, in places where there are houses but not apartments (obviously Manhattan people don’t have houses).

    At least, there aren’t enough apartments around here to house all the empty house people.

    • Buckus says:

      people and family that would normally live by themselves are starting to shack up with each other. Single kids in their 30’s move back in with their parents. College kids live with their parents. Or siblings. Or a van down by the river. Or whatever. The point is housing is being abandoned.

      • PupJet says:

        I live next door to my parents and I’m turning 32 in April. Thing is though is that my parents own the property and I have to pay rent and electric. It sucks, but not much you can do about it when the unemployment is high and the housing costs are expensive as hell, even in the country!

  10. mac-phisto says:

    don’t worry. as soon as wall street finds a way to package these properties as RBSs (rent-backed securities), you’ll have investors clamoring to enter the property management business faster than you can say “what a horrible idea.”

    & 10 years later, we’ll be commenting on a story scarily similar to this one…

  11. Arcaeris says:

    If it’s 11% empty, I’d say it’s “almost 1 in 9 homes are empty”, because it’s certainly more than 1 in 10. There are other fractions that don’t have 10.

  12. Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

    Something to consider: Perhaps the house vacancy rate is more a factor of people who are now living with relatives because they still can’t afford an apartment. 11% unemployment is utter crap once you factor under employment. I am struggling hard having taken a $55k pay cut and I am not alone.

  13. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    Who’s to guess that number is skewed dramatically with the number of vacant, abandoned and crumbling dwellings in Detroit? Not saying there are a lot of “For Sale” signs throughout the US, but there’s a whole lot more in Motown.

  14. treesareheavy says:

    I always see stuff like this and wonder why developers continue to build prefab houses all over and buy up land for communities.

    • sparrowmint says:

      Of the people who can afford to buy (whether first timers or upgraders), quite a few want something shiny and new. It’s obviously not representative of the population of the whole, but watch HGTV sometime, any of their dozen shows about people buying homes. Something only 5-10 years old can be called “dated,” and they’ll choose an even newer development over it. Or if they lower themselves to buy a house that’s ten years old, they’ll blather about how they’ll need to do $50,000 worth of upgrades to make it ‘modern.’ Or alternatively, the newer developments are often far in the suburbs, while many of the vacant homes are too urban for the buyers. I think it’s all very silly myself, and quite happily have been searching through listings here in Pittsburgh where there are many century-old homes with a lot of character.

      • Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

        There’s something to be said for a home that is modern. My current one was built in 1961. At the time, it was considered modern and have any American would ever want, a big yard. Unfortunately, the design is one that leaves a lot to be desired with such great aminities as 2’6″ wide interior doors; a consistent lack of storage space and just a general “smallness” to the entire abode. Heck, the downstairs bathroom has a 7′ ceiling, and at 6’2″ it’s a but cramped.

        So, if I could, hell’s yea I’d Speke $50k to modernize it. But its a rental so I will move, eventually into a newer, more “livable” place in the future one with such improvements as doors that don’t make me feel like Gulliver.

      • SissyOPinion says:

        This is exactly what my former landlord was counting on – that and HUD housing. I say former because the house I’m renting is now “owned” by the courts. Even before the crash, I often wondered if he knew what the hell he was doing. Turns out he didn’t.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Modern isn’t bad at all, though. It’s the difference between having the cost of modernity built into the home price, and buying a fixer upper that might end up being a huge risk. I’m not handy. I don’t know anything about plumbing, foundation work, drywall, etc. I would feel a lot better buying a more expensive home built in the last 10 years or completely renovated than I would about a cheaper fixer upper. My savings in buying the cheaper home could be completely wiped out by the renovations I have to do to make the home like how I want.

    • tbax929 says:

      There are benefits to buying a new home. There are modern amenities, peace of mind considerations, the convenience of having enough outlets to handle all the electronics we use today, etc. My house was built last year, and I was able to design it the way I wanted. Worth every dime to me.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Unless I was involved from start to finish, I’d never buy a house built in the last 10-15 years, especially not during the building boom.
      Have you SEEN the construction on those things? Fiberboard outside, house-wrap and that’s it. Single pane windows unless you’re EXTREMELY fortunate, and even then your walls are 1″ thick- that won’t keep the heat or cold out on the best day in the world.

      Give me a block house any day of the week with double paned windows!

  15. Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

    There’s something to be said for a home that is modern. My current one was built in 1961. At the time, it was considered modern and have any American would ever want, a big yard. Unfortunately, the design is one that leaves a lot to be desired with such great aminities as 2’6″ wide interior doors; a consistent lack of storage space and just a general “smallness” to the entire abode. Heck, the downstairs bathroom has a 7′ ceiling, and at 6’2″ it’s a but cramped.

    So, if I could, hell’s yea I’d spend $50k to modernize it. But its a rental so I will move, eventually into a newer, more “livable” place in the future one with such improvements as doors that don’t make me feel like Gulliver.

    • MuffinSangria says:

      Just my experience. There’s also something to be said for homes NOT built in the past 20 years or so. I grew up in a home built in the 50s and currently live in a home built in the mid to late 90s. The quality of the construction of the newer home is just crap, even though it’s in the same area and price range. The thing feels like it could tip over if someone sneezes wrong, it doesn’t block any outside sound, the windows and doors let in so much air you would think they are open. Air even gets in through the wall outlets. That’s not all, there are things falling apart all over the house. The older house is all brick and built with quality that doesn’t need as much maintenance work. It still has the original doors and most of the original windows that don’t leak (some were replaced only because they were ugly), you don’t hear every outside sound, and it just feels sturdier. Can’t wait until we upgrade to a better house in a year or two.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        They can definitely be a headache at times but I really like old homes — I live in a 100 year old Foursquare and can put up with the lack of storage, high utility bills, etc. because I’m a huge fan of having oak floors and trim, solid doors, a sound proof brick & plaster frame, etc.

    • neilb says:

      Hey, we are also renting a 60s-tastic house!
      It is a large and comfortable perch from which to view housemageddon and I am thankful for it.
      However, I would like to get rid of the:
      -“Let’s make all doors open into other doors or hallways” design
      -Who needs a pantry? We could have empty wall space there!
      -People love needlessly low ceilings (Ours is above the stairs. A full-sized bed BARELY fits up it.)
      -The makeup mirrors/counter, cheap unmanaged hardwood, and very dark wood are still super-fashionable.
      Nevertheless, I love it. It is home, but it would be much easier to just move into something newer.
      On the good side, the original olive-green garage door opener is built like a tank.

  16. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Maybe it’s because I’ve lived most of my life in the rust belt but 11% seems pretty low, even during a good year.

  17. BradenR says:

    It’s more than empty houses. It is the developers who insist on plotting out subs that no one can afford or want. Looking at lots the past few months, 95 percent of the 423 listed were in subs tightly controlled by idiotic developer association rules The developers decide if the house is large enough (nothing under 1500 sq ft), the color, whether you can have a garage, and whether you can leave your car in the drive. We are still looking.

  18. khooray says:

    The banks would rather they sit empty than take smaller payments. Real smart. Lets all live on the street.