If the struggling housing market has you confused, it’s understandable. Americans were treated to seemingly contradictory pieces of information about the American real estate market on Tuesday. One of them may have given you hope. The other, not so much.
According to U.S. Census data, recent foreclosures and more homes for sale have led to nearly 18.9 million houses in America being left empty. About 85.6% of U.S. homes are occupied, according to the Census Bureau's report. That’s the lowest occupancy level since 1999.
Generally, that kind of rise might be seen as the beginning of a real estate market recovery, but not so fast, says Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight. Despite the positive impression that the increase in home prices leaves, neither statistic is particularly encouraging.
First off, the Census Bureau’s data don’t include homes that are empty while pending foreclosure, according to Newport. “A lot of these homes are not for sale yet,” he says.
“It may take up to a year for a foreclosure to occur, and homes that have been simply abandoned would not be included in the statistics we’re seeing,” says Kurt Gleeson, vice president of National Sales at Realestate.com.
That means that the actual number of empty homes could be even higher than the already elevated numbers the Census Bureau is reporting.