According to the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS), the U.S. homeownership rate is at 63.9% in the third quarter 2017, which is statistically unchanged from its last quarter reading of 63.7%. The rate of homeownership is on an upward trend after dropping to a cycle low of 62.9% in the second quarter 2016. Compared to the peak of 69.2% in 2004, the homeownership rate is below by 5.3% and remains below the 25-year average rate of 66.3%.
Younger homebuyers are gradually entering the housing market after the Recession. Compared to a year ago, the homeownership rates among households ages 35-44 increased from 58.4% to 59.3%. Millennials also registered noticeable gains – from 35.2% to 35.6%. Older households, ages 65 and over, is the only group where homeownership rates showed a slight decline of 0.1%.
The nonseasonally adjusted homeowner vacancy rate remained low at 1.6% in the third quarter 2017, down by 0.2% from previous year and statistically not different from the rate in the second quarter. At the same time, the national rental vacancy rate increased to 7.5%, compared to only 6.9% a year ago.
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 119.1 million during the third quarter of 2017. This is 0.4 million higher than a year ago and sustains gains recorded in 2016. Growth in household formations will spur rental housing demand first, and ultimately, home sales. Indeed, the number of homeowner households rose by 0.8 million, after experiencing a large gain of 1.3 million in the second quarter.