Homeownership Rate Edges Up

According to the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS), the U.S. homeownership rate rose to 63.5% in the third quarter 2016, reversing the downward trend of homeownership rate nationwide. It is 60 basis points higher than the rate in the second quarter 2016, which is largely driven by the increase in the millennial and 65+ homeownership rates.

Compared to the peak at the end of 2004, the homeownership rate has steadily decreased by 5.7 percentage points and remains below the 25-year average rate of 66.2%.
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The millennial homeownership rate increased by 1.1% after reaching its own historically lowest level of 34.1% in the second quarter 2016. It suggests that millennials are gradually returning to the housing market.

Compared to a year ago, homeownership declined among all age groups except for those ages 35 to 44 and over 65 since a year ago. The homeownership rate for 44-45 age group decreased from 69.9% in the third quarter of 2015 to 69.1%, which is the largest drop among all age groups.

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The nonseasonally adjusted homeowner vacancy rate remained low at 1.8% in the third quarter 2016. At the same time, the national rental vacancy rate held at 6.8%, around the historical lowest level ever since 1990s.
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The HVS also provides a timely measure of household formations – the key driver of housing demand. Although it is not perfectly consistent with other Census Bureau surveys (Current Population Survey’s March ASEC, American Community Survey, and Decennial Census), the HVS remains a useful source of relatively real-time data.

The housing stock-based HVS revealed that the number of households increased to 118.6 million for the third quarter 2016. This is 1.2 million higher than a year ago and sustains gains recorded at the end of 2015. Growth in household formations will spur rental housing demand first, and ultimately, home sales.

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