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Housing Vacancies and Homeownership (CPS/HVS)

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of data are available?

Rental and homeowner vacancy rates and homeownership rates are available for the U.S., regions, states, and for the 75 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). National, regional, state, and MSA data are available both quarterly and annually. Homeownership rates are also tabulated by age of householder and by family status for the U.S. and regions and by race/ethnicity of householder and by median family income for the U.S. In addition, estimates of the total housing inventory and percent distributions of vacant for-rent and for-sale-only units are available for the U.S. and regions.

How many housing units are in the monthly sample?

There are about 72,000 housing units, occupied and vacant, selected in the Current Population Survey (CPS) sample. Of these units, about 61,200 are occupied and are eligible for interview each month. In addition to the 61,200, about 10,800 are visited, but found to be vacant or otherwise not interviewed each month. About half of the 10,800 units are vacant and interviewed for the Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS). The HVS is a supplement of the CPS.

Are multi-family vacancy rates available nationally, regionally, and by Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)?

Multi-family vacancy rates are only available nationally from the HVS. Overall vacancy rates (which include single and multi- family units) are available by region, state, and for the 75 largest MSAs. Multi-family vacancy rates, by region, are available every two years from the American Housing Survey (AHS - national). Multi-family vacancy rates for selected MSAs are also available from the AHS.

Are housing unit estimates available by region, state, and Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)?

Housing unit estimates are available for the U.S. and regions by tenure (own/rent) and type of vacant unit (for rent, for sale, rented or sold but not yet occupied, held off the market, and seasonal). Estimates are also available for the U.S. and regions by age of householder and family status. However, we do not produce estimates by state or by MSA. The decennial censuses and American Community Survey provide housing unit estimates down to the zip code level.

When are the quarterly data normally available?

The four quarterly press releases are generally issued during the last week of the month following the previous quarter at 10:00 AM. The detailed tables previously shown in quarterly reports will normally be available on the day of the press release. The annual data will be available after the fourth quarter press release is issued, generally in February.

Where are all the foreclosures in the HVS data?

Foreclosures may be in any of the housing stock categories in Table 3 (Estimates of the Total Housing Inventory for the United States) of the press release. A foreclosed housing unit could still be occupied by the owner or by the renter, making them "owner occupied" or "renter occupied", respectively.

They could also be vacant and available for sale or for rent. If the unit is classified as "vacant for sale only", it will be included in the "vacant for sale" category. If the unit is for rent or "for sale or rent, " it will be included in the "vacant for rent" category.

Many foreclosures will be in the "other vacant” category, because they are neither for sale or for rent - they are still in the foreclosure process and tied up in legal proceedings, or being held off the market until the legal owner of the property decides what to do. In addition, it is possible the unit could be undergoing repair for future use. Also included in the "held off the market" category are units "for occasional use" and units "temporarily occupied by persons with usual residence elsewhere", both of which may contain foreclosures. Foreclosures could also be included in the seasonal category.

In conclusion, foreclosed properties may appear in all of the housing unit categories, not just the "vacant for sale" category. However, please note that the formulas for calculating the rental and homeowner vacancy rates shown on pages 10 and 11 of the press release do not include "other vacant" or "seasonal" units in the calculation of the vacancy rates.

Why are there differences in the housing unit estimates published in the HVS and Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC)?

The ASEC is weighted to the population to describe characteristics of people living in households. The HVS is weighted to housing units, rather than the population, in order to more accurately estimate the number of occupied and vacant housing units. Because of the differences in weighting, estimates of the number of households in the ASEC and HVS do not match.

If you are primarily interested in housing inventory estimates, then refer to the HVS data. If you are primarily interested in characteristics about the population and people who live in households, then see the H table series and reports from the ASEC.

What is the difference between the non-revised and revised historical tables?

The historical tables ending with an “a” are revised annually based on the latest vintage housing unit controls. The non-revised, “as published” tables do not receive any revisions as new quarterly data is added. See the Source and Accuracy statement for more information.

Who answers the survey questions for a vacant housing unit?

The most knowledgeable respondent participates in the HVS. The knowledgeable respondent can be the owner, property manager, an employee from the homeowners association or rental company, or neighbor.

Are there metadata available?

No, all available HVS data can be found on the website.

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