More homes than bodies to fill them: One in 9 new houses sitting emtpy


New US Census data shows that a full 15% of homes in the United States are vacant -- That compares unfavorably to the 11% rate in 1991 and 9.4% in 1984 -- two recent recessions.

More than 9% of homes built since 2000 are sitting empty compared with just 2% of older homes and shockingly, homes valued at $500,000 or more are just as likely to be vacant as homes worth $100,000 or less. That contrasts interestingly with the rising number of homeless families living in foreclosure-ravaged areas like Springfield, MA.

The soaring number of empty homes also bodes badly for a housing recovery: You can introduce all the tax credits and subsidized mortgage rates you want but if there are more houses than bodies, prices will still stay low.

For homebuyers, the best advice is to look for a statistic that is normally overlooked by people looking for single-family primary residences: vacancy rates. In 2007, real estate brokerage Marcus & Millichap released its list of the cities with the highest and lowest rental property vacancy rates: Based on that data, cities like Houston, Dallas and Indianapolis might be bad places to buy homes. New York City and Los Angeles looked like the best bets, but recent data shows rising vacancies in the Big Apple.