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About that Yahoo Vacancy Rate Article

Could anything be more misleading than to use Census Bureau figures to cast an “expert” opinion on the real estate market? The Yahoo article that is making the rounds this week claims a vacancy rate of 20% in Florida. But, what does vacancy mean?

The Census statistic is an occupancy statistic, not a real estate indicator per se.  From the Florida Realtors Association:

Many homes the Census Bureau considers vacant are empty by choice – homes in which snowbirds live only a few months out of the year, for example, or homes under construction but not yet inhabitable.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the definition of “vacant” means “no one is living in it at the time of the interview, unless its occupants are only temporarily absent” or “entirely occupied by persons who have a usual residence elsewhere.” The latter would include snowbirds or other part-time Florida residents.

In addition, “New units not yet occupied are classified as vacant housing units if construction has reached a point where all exterior windows and doors are installed and final usable floors are in place.” Many media reports have not included or explained the Census definition for “vacant” homes, resulting in a misleading impression of Florida’s housing market.

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