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How Seasonal Factors Change Homeowner Vacancy Rates


Each quarter, the Census Bureau releases the Homeowner Vacancy Rate, a housing statistic the measures the percentage of homes for sale that are vacant.

A home listed for sale may be vacant for several reasons including:

  1. The home has been foreclosed and the owner has moved out
  2. The home seller moved into a new home and not sold his former home
  3. The home was a rental property and is being sold without a tenant

In Q4 2007, the Homeowner Vacancy Rate matched its all-time high of 2.8 percent.

The statistic can be misleading, however, because Homeowner Vacancy Rates appear to be seasonal and the fourth quarter is more prone to high figures.

As evidence: In 6 of the last 7 years, Q4 posted higher vacancy rates than for the preceding three quarters.

Vacancy rates may increase in the fall because homesellers without a “need” to sell tend to take their properties off the market during the Holiday Season. That leaves an over-weighting of empty homes for sale — precisely what the Homeowner Vacancy Rate measures.

For an interactive version of the chart above, visit the Wall Street Journal Online.

Housing Markets: A Vacant Look
The Wall Street Journal Online
March 21, 2008

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