13 Percent of US Homes Vacant

Many US neighborhoods have been plagued by high vacancy rates as they continue to try and recover from the nation’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. A report issued last week from the US Census Bureau showed that 13 percent of homes in the nation sat vacant, well above the 12.1 percent vacancy rate reported before the recession hit in 2007. Homes sitting unsold on the market are applying downward pressure to prices, and foreclosures continue to add more homes, driving the rate even higher.

Among the 50 US states, Maine had the highest vacancy rate at 22.8 percent. Other states high on the list included Vermont (20.5 percent), Florida (17.5 %), and Arizona and Alaska, each with vacancy rates right around 16 percent. Some analysts call the Census report inaccurate, however, because the bureau includes properties like vacation homes and ski lodges in its tally, which other purveyors of housing statistics do not.

Many of the homes included in the data are summer homes or second homes, but the Census bureau throws them in the mix with empty homes listed for sale or rent, as well as homes used by migrant workers. Essentially, the bureau includes any address not currently listed as somebody’s primary residence.

Consequently, many states had what insiders call “artificially-inflated” vacancy rates, including the state with the highest-reported rate, Maine. Of the 160,000 vacancies reported for the state, more than two-thirds of them served as vacation homes in 2009, according to a separate report, which obviously inflates the reading.