Cities With the Most (and Fewest) Vacant Homes

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This story originally appeared on Porch.

The U.S. is facing a severe housing shortage as the number of homes for sale hits new lows, driving up home prices and making homeownership less affordable. At the same time, buyers are eager to take advantage of record low interest rates. However, finding an affordable home in many parts of the country is incredibly challenging. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the homeowner vacancy rate—the share of owner-occupied housing units that are vacant and for sale—is just 1.0%.

Since reaching a record high of 2.9% in 2008 in the midst of the Great Recession, the homeowner vacancy rate in the U.S. has trended downward. After diving to 0.9% last spring in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the homeowner vacancy rate has inched back upwards. The low rate indicates a housing shortage at the national level, but tracking the homeowner vacancy rate at the metro level can help identify cities with bigger supply-demand imbalances. Changes in homebuyer preferences have resulted in large changes in vacancy rates year-over-year for some metros. The current shift towards working from home—and a shift in preferences away from crowded cities—has spurred demand for homes in smaller cities and towns.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the construction industry was struggling to fill a severe housing shortage. The pandemic has only made this more challenging as construction in many parts of the country has faced stoppages, and the price of materials has increased. The number of new housing units authorized, housing starts, and new housing units completed fell drastically during the 2008 housing market collapse. While these numbers have been steadily climbing since 2012, they remain well below the levels seen in 2005. The current supply of new homes has not been able to keep pace with demand.

Large Metros With the Highest Homeowner Vacancy Rates

woman child sold home
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While the U.S. is grappling with a serious housing shortage nationally, the severity of the housing shortage varies widely by location due to factors such as affordability and local job market conditions. Overall, the Western U.S. has lower homeowner vacancy rates, indicating a lower stock of available homes, compared with the eastern half of the country. Louisiana and North Dakota have the highest homeowner vacancy rates in the U.S., at 2.0% and 1.9%, respectively. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Oregon and Utah, both with homeowner vacancy rates of 0.2%, have the lowest share of vacant homes in the country.

To determine the metros with the highest (and lowest) homeowner vacancy rates, researchers at Porch analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey/Housing Vacancy Survey and Building Permits Survey as well as home price data from Realtor.com. The researchers ranked metro areas according to homeowner vacancy rates in the fourth quarter of 2020. In the event of a tie, rates from previous quarters were used. Researchers also calculated the total housing units authorized in 2020, the median home price, and the homeownership rate.

The following are the large metros with the highest homeowner vacancy rates.

1. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY

Albany, New York
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: 4.9%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 23
  • Median home price: $360,050
  • Homeownership rate: 73.1%

2. Charleston-North Charleston, SC

Charleston, South Carolina
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: 3.7%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 107
  • Median home price: $529,050
  • Homeownership rate: 73.7%

3. Baton Rouge, LA

Baton Rouge Louisiana
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: 2.7%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 45
  • Median home price: $275,050
  • Homeownership rate: 71.6%

4. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

Tampa waterfront homes with boats.
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: 2.2%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 63
  • Median home price: $302,380
  • Homeownership rate: 69.3%

5. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL

Sarasota, Florida
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: 1.9%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 113
  • Median home price: $396,150
  • Homeownership rate: 75.5%

6. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI

Overhead view of Chicago shoreline
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: 1.9%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 16
  • Median home price: $337,970
  • Homeownership rate: 68.4%

7. Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN

Louisville Kentucky
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: 1.7%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 35
  • Median home price: $249,950
  • Homeownership rate: 66.8%

8. Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR

Little Rock, Arkansas
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: 1.7%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 35
  • Median home price: $232,950
  • Homeownership rate: 66.5%

9. Tulsa, OK

Tulsa Oklahoma
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: 1.7%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 49
  • Median home price: $294,950
  • Homeownership rate: 62.1%

10. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

Charlotte North Carolina
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: 1.5%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 92
  • Median home price: $385,050
  • Homeownership rate: 74.9%

Large Metros With the Lowest Homeowner Vacancy Rates

A senior couple in front of their house with their dog
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While those cities have the most vacant houses for sale, the following large metro areas have the lowest homeowner vacancy rates in the country.

1. Syracuse, NY

Syracuse New York
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: <0.05%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 4
  • Median home price: $189,950
  • Homeownership rate: 65.3%

2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

San Jose California
Uladzik Kryhin / Shutterstock.com
  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: <0.05%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 30
  • Median home price: $1,198,938
  • Homeownership rate: 51.6%

3. Greensboro-High Point, NC

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: <0.05%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 41
  • Median home price: $279,050
  • Homeownership rate: 66.9%

4. Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City, Utah
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: <0.05%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 89
  • Median home price: $599,950
  • Homeownership rate: 69.3%

5. New Haven-Milford, CT

Woman riding a bicycle
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: <0.05%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 13
  • Median home price: $289,950
  • Homeownership rate: 62.0%

6. Akron, OH

Akron, Ohio
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: <0.05%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 8
  • Median home price: $145,050
  • Homeownership rate: 66.4%

7. Tucson, AZ

Tucson
Chris Rubino / Shutterstock.com
  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: <0.05%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 47
  • Median home price: $340,050
  • Homeownership rate: 61.0%

8. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT

Connecticut marina.
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: <0.05%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 20
  • Median home price: $747,050
  • Homeownership rate: 63.3%

9. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL

Cape Coral Florida
mginley / Shutterstock.com
  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: <0.05%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 139
  • Median home price: $340,000
  • Homeownership rate: 79.2%

10. Buffalo-Cheektowaga, NY

Buffalo, New York
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  • Homeowner vacancy rate Q4 2020: 0.3%
  • Total housing units authorized in 2020 (per 10,000 residents): 13
  • Median home price: $240,050
  • Homeownership rate: 73.2%

Detailed Findings & Methodology

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The metros with the most vacant homes are scattered across the East Coast, Midwest, and South. At nearly 5.0% and almost five times the national rate, the Albany, New York, metro area has the highest homeowner vacancy rate. The homeownership rate in Albany—73.1%—is also higher than the national rate (65.8%). Indeed, homeownership rates are higher than the national rate for all the metros in the top 10 except for the Tulsa, Oklahoma, metro area. Home prices in these metros skew lower than the national level.

Among the metros with the fewest vacant homes, home prices in these metros vary substantially, ranging from quite low to very high compared to the national median. There’s also no strong correlation between vacancies and construction activity, indicating that some areas will continue to face significant housing shortages/surpluses in the coming years.

To determine the metros with the highest (and lowest) homeowner vacancy rates, researchers analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey/Housing Vacancy Survey. Researchers also used the Census Bureau’s Building Permits Survey in their analysis, as well as home price data from Realtor.com. The researchers ranked the 75 largest metropolitan areas by their homeowner vacancy rate in the fourth quarter of 2020. In the event of a tie, the metro with the higher homeowner vacancy rate for the previous quarter (or quarters) was ranked higher. Researchers sourced the total housing units authorized in 2020 from the Building Permits Survey—adjusted per 10,000 residents using population data from the Census Bureau—and the median home price data from Realtor.com. Homeownership rates are from the Current Population Survey/Housing Vacancy Survey.

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