According to the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS), the U.S. homeownership rate increased to 64.8% in the third quarter of 2019, which is 0.7 percentage points higher than the previous quarter reading of 64.1%. This puts the national homeownership rate back to a level near where it started dropping as interest rates increased. The rate reached a cycle low of 62.9% in the second quarter 2016. Compared to the peak of 69.2% by the end of 2004, the homeownership rate is still 4.4 percentage points lower and remains below the 25-year average rate of 66.3%.
The HVS also provides a timely measure of household formations – the key driver of housing demand. The housing stock-based HVS revealed that the count of total households increased to 122.7 million in the third quarter of 2019 from 121.4 million a year ago. The gains are largely attributed to strong owner household formation. Indeed, the number of homeowner households has been climbing since the third quarter of 2015, while the number of renter households has been on a downward trend. This implies a transition from renting to owning is the powerful driver of household change. Specifically, the number of homeowners increased by 1.4 million, but the number of renter households declined by 33,000 in the third quarter.
The homeownership rates among all age groups, except for households ages 55-64, increased in the third quarter 2019. Households lead by 35-44 year-olds registered the largest gains among all households, 0.8 percentage points from a year ago. The homeownership rate of households under 35, mostly first-time homebuyers, stood at 37.5 % in the third quarter, 0.7 percentage points higher than a year ago. The homeownership rates of households ages 45-54 edged up a 0.4 percentage point. Households ages 65 and older saw their homeownership rates rise to 78.9% in the third quarter 2019 from 78.6% a year ago. However, the homeownership rate of households lead by 45- 54 year-olds did see a drop in the third quarter compared to a year ago.
The homeowner and rental vacancy rates remained in the record low territories, signaling a supply-constrained housing market. The nonseasonally adjusted homeowner vacancy rate remained low at 1.4% in the third quarter 2019. At the same time, the national rental vacancy rate stood at 6.8%, unchanged from the second quarter.