Millions of homes are vacant in large cities across America

Millions of homes are vacant in large cities across America

According to a recent analysis of U.S. Census Bureau 2022 American Community Survey data by LendingTree Inc., there are nearly 5.5 million vacant housing units in the nation’s 50 largest metro areas. That puts the housing vacancy rate across those metros at about 8%.

But the reasons why millions of homes are sitting vacant at a time when the nation’s housing market is starved of inventory and home prices remain high — the median price of new houses sold in August was $430,300, down slightly from $436,600 a month prior — are varied and nuanced.

The study found, on average, 26.6% of the vacant housing units are empty because they’re for rent, while about 17% are vacant because they’re only used part time, such as a vacation home or second home. An average of 8% are empty because they’re being repaired or renovated.

For rental units sitting vacant, questions persist about what could help incentivize renting those units out — potentially to a lower-income household that’s been priced out of a market.

Most of the 50 markets analyzed by LendingTree don’t have an elevated vacancy rate because a bunch of homes are sitting on the market for sale. The markets with the highest share of those types of homes were Richmond, Virginia (10.7%); Austin, Texas (9.3%); and San Antonio (9.3%).

The issue of vacant homes in America is a complicated one, despite a seemingly simplistic cause-and-effect correlation: that unlocking vacant homes would add inventory to an undersupplied market and, perhaps, create conditions for price relief.

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