The Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (CPS/HVS) reported the U.S. homeownership rate was flat at 65.4% in the third quarter of 2021. Compared to prior reports, the data was affected less significantly by the pandemic, since in-person interviews were back in 99.5% of the sample. The national homeowner vacancy rate stayed at a record low of 0.9%, while the rental vacancy rate decreased to 5.8%.
The data collection restrictions have been ended in most areas in the third quarter. However, technical issues involved with data collection changes limit useful comparisons of the data during the pandemic with the prior data series. We have especially noted the last three quarters of 2020 homeownership rate data with separated dots below to denote these technical changes and encourage readers to consider these data points separately from the existing data series. Nonetheless, the first two quarters of 2021 likely return the series to a more apples-to-apples comparison with the prior history of the series.
It is worthwhile to look at the homeownership rates among all age groups. The homeownership rates for households under 35 was 38.5% in the third quarter of 2021, and 61.3% for households led by 35-44 years old, 70.1% for 45-54 age groups, 73.7% for 55-64 age groups and 79.7% for households ages 65 years and over.
The data collection changes during the COVID-19 pandemic period likely affected the estimates of homeownership rates, vacancy rates, and the components of housing inventory, with the exception of total housing inventory unaffected. Compared to the second quarter when all in-person interviews were replaced by telephone contact attempts, in-person interviews were gradually resumed in the third quarter of 2020. In the third quarter of 2021, 99.5% of in-person interviews were carried out nationwide. The overall response rate for the third quarter of 2021 was 76%, compared to 82% in January 2020 and 83% in February 2020 when the normal data collections were carried out before the pandemic.
Looking forward, the Census Bureau is not yet certain whether in-person interviews will be allowed nationwide in the fourth quarter of 2021. But it looks promising as 100% of the country was open for in-person data collection in September 2021.
Nonetheless, the third quarter 65.4% homeownership rate reading signals a strong housing market in 2021.