Homeownership across US Counties

While US homeownership rates have been rising since 2015 and received an extra boost during the post-pandemic housing boom, they remain below the levels reached during the housing boom of the mid-2000s. With the national trends reflecting fundamental drivers of homeowners, local markets often tell different and unique stories. NAHB’s analysis of the 2021 5-year ACS county-level data reveals substantial variation in homeownership rates across US counties, ranging from less than 25% in urban counties of New York to over 90% in exurban counties of Denver and in the South.

The geospatial analysis of cross-county variation in homeownership rates reveals a familiar geographic pattern with high cost of living coastal areas registering some of the lowest homeownership rates. Within California, for example, homeownership rates in coastal Monterey and Santa Barbara are below 53%. At the same time, homeownership rates in High Sierra counties of California approach and exceed 80% (Alpine, Calaveras, Sierra, Amador, El Dorado).

Population density also helps explain substantial variation in homeownership rates across US counties. Urban high-density counties register some of the lowest rates. Four core urban counties in the New York metro area appear in the bottom ten homeownership rate list – Bronx (19.8%), New York County (24.7%), Kings County (30.7%), Hudson County (32.3%). In California, the lowest homeownership rates are in San Francisco County (38.2%) and Los Angeles County (46.2%). In the Washington DC metro area, the three core central counties register homeownership rates below 43% – District of Columbia (41.5%), Arlington County (42.3%), Alexandria city (42.9%). At the same time, its outlying Madison and Calvert Counties show homeownership rates of 82.4% and 85.3%, respectively.

Counties on the top ten list register homeownership rates in excess of 90%. The list includes four counties in the Mountain division. Two are in the Denver metro area – Elbert County (92.6%) and Park County (91.1%) – as well as Storey County, NV (96.5%), Meagher County, MT (92.1%). Out of the remaining six highest homeownership rate counties, five are in the south (Terrel County, TX, Cameron Parish, LA, Powhatan County, VA, Washington County, AL, Doddridge County, WV). While the counties with highest homeownership rates are spread through out the country, the common feature is that these are all outlying lower density counties.

Using NAHB’s Home Building Geography Index (HBGI) delineation confirms that the highest home ownership rates are registered by exurban counties, averaging slightly above 75% for this geographic grouping. High-density core counties in large metro areas register a considerably lower average home ownership rate of about 54%, with less dense core urban counties of small metro areas showing an average homeownership rate of 65%.

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2 thoughts on “Homeownership across US Counties

  1. Natalia,
    Thanks so much for this detailed information.

    I’m a reporter for the NPR member station in Phoenix, AZ. Can you please share the image for AZ? I’m having a hard time distinguishing which colors go with which counties.

    Thanks very much.
    Christina Estes

    1. In an older story here titled “Homeownership: A County-Level Analysis” they provide this citation:

      “Data for all variables were taken from the 2015 U.S. Census American Community Survey (2011-2015).”

      So, try Census dot gov.

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