Characteristics of New Housing

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About Survey of Construction Microdata Files

Annual microdata files contain all Survey of Construction (SOC) sampled single-family houses started, sold, and/or completed during the year. Houses authorized by building permits but not started at the end of the year, under construction at the end of the year, or for sale at the end of the year are also included. Houses for which construction was abandoned after permit issuance or after start are not included.

SOC is a national sample survey of new houses selected from building permits and a canvassing of areas not requiring permits. Builders or owners of the houses selected are interviewed for information including start, sale, and completion dates, and more than 40 physical and financial characteristics of the houses. The characteristics are collected throughout the construction process, thus the highest response rate is associated with completed homes. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds the collection of these characteristics and allows the Census Bureau to provide the data to the public free of charge. The overall national sampling rate is about 1 in 50 new houses, although this varies considerably by individual survey location based on activity.

Available geography on the files include the nine Census Divisions (DIV) and whether a house is inside or outside a metropolitan area (METRO).

All new houses are classified into one of four categories (CAT):

  1. houses built for sale (whether sold or not) where the house and land are sold as a package
  2. contractor-built houses where the owner of the land hires a general contractor to build the house
  3. owner-built houses where the owner of the land builds the house him/herself or acts as the general contractor
  4. houses built for rent
Only houses "built for sale" can have a sale date.

Tabulating records on the files by characteristics for a given year (for example, all houses completed in 2013) can be done by using one of the available dates (start, sale, or completion), which appear in year/month (YYYYMM) format. The files also allow tabulations of the number of units authorized but not started, under construction (started but not completed), or for sale (built for sale but not sold) at the end of the year.

Each record contains a sampling weight (WEIGHT) that indicates how many houses a sampled house represents. Tabulated totals from the files will not exactly match published estimates, primarily because the files were produced at different times. The files do not provide accurate tabulations of total units authorized by permits for a number of reasons.

The files contain no information that would identify the specific addresses or builders of the sampled houses. In addition, certain variables such as sales price (SLPR) and square footage (SQFS) have been "top and bottom-coded" to further remove the possibility of disclosure. Cases that have been modified as such are identified with "flags." The relationship of modified variables with other variables will be altered.

Note: These data are from a sample survey and are subject to both sampling error and nonsampling error. Please refer to the section on How the Data Are Collected for a full description of SOC including a discussion of the reliability of the data and measures of sampling error.

Download Files

Select a year and click "Download File" to download SOC Microdata. Due to the size of these files [up to 8 MB], they have been zipped to save file space.


Information on each variable contained in the files is shown in the Microdata Variables Excel Guide [48 kb] or the Printer-friendly Microdata Guide PDF [261 kb]. Files for the previous year are released on the first workday of June (excluding weekends and holidays) every year.

If you are unsure how to use the Microdata files, you may want to download the Working with SOC Microdata guide to get you started. This guide walks though the steps of creating basic data tables using Excel PivotTables.

To obtain SOC microdata file(s) in SAS format, please call (301) 763-5160.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Characteristics of New Housing | (301) 763-5160 |  Last Revised: June 01, 2015