Monday, April 30, 2012

HVS: Q1 Homeownership and Vacancy Rates

by Bill McBride on 4/30/2012 10:15:00 AM

The Census Bureau released the Housing Vacancies and Homeownership report for Q1 2012 this morning.

This report is frequently mentioned by analysts and the media to track the homeownership rate, and the homeowner and rental vacancy rates. However, based on the initial evaluation, it appears the vacancy rates are too high.

It might show the trend, but I wouldn't rely on the absolute numbers.

Homeownership Rate Click on graph for larger image.

The Red dots are the decennial Census homeownership rates for April 1st 1990, 2000 and 2010. The HVS homeownership rate declined to 65.4%, down from to 66.0% in Q4 2011 and at the lowest level for this survey since the mid-90s.

I'd put more weight on the decennial Census numbers and that suggests the actual homeownership rate is probably in the 64% to 65% range.

Homeowner Vacancy RateThe Census researchers are investigating differences in Census 2010, ACS 2010, and HVS 2010 vacant housing unit estimates, but there is no scheduled date for any report.

The HVS homeowner vacancy rate declined to 2.2% from 2.3% in Q4. This is the lowest level since Q2 2006 for this report.

The homeowner vacancy rate has peaked and is now declining. However - once again - this probably shows that the trend is down, but I wouldn't rely on the absolute numbers.

Rental Vacancy RateThe rental vacancy rate declined to 8.8% from 9.4% in Q4.

I think the Reis quarterly survey (large apartment owners only in selected cities) is a much better measure of the overall trend in the rental vacancy rate - and Reis reported that the rental vacancy rate has fallen to the lowest level since 2001.

The quarterly HVS is the most timely survey on households, but there are many questions about the accuracy of this survey. Unfortunately many analysts still use this survey to estimate the excess vacant supply. However this does suggest that the housing vacancy rates are falling.

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