Thursday, January 29, 2015

HVS: Q4 2014 Homeownership and Vacancy Rates

by Bill McBride on 1/29/2015 10:15:00 AM

The Census Bureau released the Residential Vacancies and Homeownership report for Q4 2014.

This report is frequently mentioned by analysts and the media to track the homeownership rate, and the homeowner and rental vacancy rates.  However, there are serious questions about the accuracy of this survey.

This survey might show the trend, but I wouldn't rely on the absolute numbers.  The Census Bureau is investigating the differences between the HVS, ACS and decennial Census, and analysts probably shouldn't use the HVS to estimate the excess vacant supply or household formation, or rely on the homeownership rate, except as a guide to the trend.

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 decreased to 64.0% in Q4, from 64.4% in Q3.

I'd put more weight on the decennial Census numbers - and given changing demographics, the homeownership rate is probably close to a bottom.

Homeowner Vacancy RateThe HVS homeowner vacancy increased to 1.9% in Q4. 

Are these homes becoming rentals?

Once again - this probably shows the general trend, but I wouldn't rely on the absolute numbers.

Rental Vacancy RateThe rental vacancy rate decreased in Q4 to 7.0% from 7.4% in Q3.

I think the Reis quarterly survey (large apartment owners only in selected cities) is a much better measure of the rental vacancy rate - and Reis reported that the rental vacancy rate increased slightly over the last few quarters - and might have bottomed.

The quarterly HVS is the most timely survey on households, but there are many questions about the accuracy of this survey.