How Many Vacant Homes Are There in America? (2023 Update)
Whether you’re shopping for a new home or you simply want to know why there are so many empty homes in your neighborhood, we’re here to answer the question. That’s why we came up with this comprehensive guide to give you the most up-to-date information about vacant homes in the United States.
The truth is that there are tons of vacant homes around, but they’re not the panacea you’re looking for to solve the current housing shortage. We’ll break down everything you need to know about the vacant homes in the United States here.
How Many Vacant Homes Are There in America?
It’s a question that many of us want an answer to, and it’s only become more prominent in the current housing shortage: How many empty homes are in America? The truth is that the number fluctuates, but the Federal Reserve for Economic Data keeps up with these statistics and pushes them out for public use.
The number lags some, but currently, there are about 15 million vacant homes in the United States. That might seem like an abnormally large number, but it’s a number that’s actually been on a steady decline in 2009.
At that point, there were just over 19 million vacant homes in the United States. But with so many vacant homes, it’s only natural to wonder why, which is exactly what we’re going to dive into next.
Why Are There So Many Vacant Homes?
The United States Census Bureau tracks the number of vacant homes in the United States and pushes that data out for the public, but it does lag compared to other data out there. Still, it’s some of the most reliable data available, and it tends to follow similar trends, no matter the total number of vacant homes out there.
The Census Bureau breaks down vacant homes into seven different categories: for rent, rented not occupied, for sale only, sold not occupied, for seasonal and recreational use, for migrant workers, and other vacant.
But while those are the seven categories that the Census Bureau uses to track data, we decided to break them down a bit further for you here.
The Different Types of Vacant Homes
To really understand what’s going on with all the vacant homes in the United States, it’s essential to understand why these homes are vacant in the first place. While the Census Bureau breaks it all down into seven different categories, it’s actually possible to combine a few of those categories.
Here, we highlighted three different reasons for the vacancies, and each category generally makes up 1/3 of the vacant home market at any given time.
1. Abandoned Homes
When you look at the CDC data, these homes will fall under the “other vacant” category. Almost all the homes in this category meet the definition of an abandoned property, but the exact reason for the abandonment can vary from home to home.
But regardless of the reason for the abandonment, eventually, these homes fall into disrepair and need extensive repairs to become livable again. That’s why most abandoned homes are no longer livable and need expensive repairs before anyone can move in.
That means currently, in the United States, there are roughly 5 million abandoned homes that need repairs.
2. Home Awaiting Use or Sale
Just because there’s no one in a home doesn’t mean that it’s automatically an abandoned home. The Census Bureau breaks homes down in this category into the following three categories: for rent, for sale only, and sold not occupied.
These are homes that simply need someone to move into them, but it doesn’t mean that they’re sitting on the market ready for purchase. Often, it’s time between sales or moving in, which means that they’re not new homes hitting the market.
3. Temporary or Seasonal Homes
Temporary and seasonal homes make up a relatively large market share of the vacant homes in the United States. These properties make up vacation homes or simply second homes for many Americans, and while they might sit vacant for large portions of the year, they’re not abandoned.
In the Census Bureau data, these homes make up two different categories: for seasonal/recreational use and for migrant workers.
However, while homes for migrant workers are tracked, these are a tiny portion of the vacant homes in the United States. Many of the homes in this category are for seasonal/recreational use.
Can Vacant Homes Solve the Housing Shortage in the United States?
In short, no. Of the three types of vacant homes, only the awaiting use/sale homes help the housing crisis in any way. The problem is that these homes are already accounted for when addressing the shortage of homes.
So, while NPR estimates that the United States needs 4 million more homes to help solve the housing shortage, they already factored in the estimated 5 million homes awaiting use/sale. Meanwhile, the abandoned homes need extensive repairs to become livable, and nobody can make the recreational/seasonal homeowners move their second property.
So, if you’re looking at vacant homes as a potential solution to the housing crisis, chances are that it’s not there. The only way to solve this shortage is to build more homes, so it’s likely a problem that isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Final Thoughts: Vacant Houses in the US
While there’s a ton of vacant homes in the United States, they’re not going anywhere any time soon. Even with the number of vacant homes dropping a bit each year, there are still so many out there.
Having some vacant homes is a necessity, but as the housing shortage continues, we can expect the number to keep dropping. Houses jump off the market sooner, and more people choose to repair or replace vacant homes as the cost of new homes continues to rise!
Featured Image Credit: paulbr75, Pixabay