ORLANDO, Fla. – Even with home prices skyrocketing and low inventory, a recent Lending Tree study found Florida is one of the top states with the highest vacancy rates. While realtors and economists said this may seem shocking, knowing that information can help homebuyers make better decisions.
Jacob Channel is a senior economic analyst for Lending Tree. He said the study found more than 16 million homes across the U.S. are sitting vacant.
“I think when people hear that they say ‘That’s crazy. There’s no inventory where I live. Home prices are skyrocketing right now,’” Channel said.
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Channel said using data from the U.S. Census Bureau to track states by the shares of unoccupied homes, the study found Florida is in the top 10.
“There are over 1.6 million vacant homes there,” Channel said.
That means 17% of the total housing units in the state are vacant. But Channel said it is important to understand what a vacant home is.
“They think ‘Oh it’s abandoned, it’s rundown, nobody wants to live there,’ but in reality homes can be vacant for all sorts of reasons,” Channel said.
That includes homes on the market waiting for people to buy or rent, vacation homes, and timeshares. Channel said it’s the seasonal homes that are driving up Florida’s high vacancy rates.
“It’s just a matter of how those people are choosing to use their homes that makes them vacant most of the time,” he said.
Channel said potential homebuyers can use vacancy rates to get a better understanding of the housing market and help make informed decisions. If vacancy rates are high and home prices low, that could be an indicator your home may not appreciate in value as much. On the flip side, with high vacancy rates and high home prices, like in Florida, that could indicate a vacation hot spot with more seasonal housing.
“You want to have a vivid picture of where you’re buying, just to make sure that you’re making the best possible choice for you,” Channel said.
Realtor Mike Yebba with Keller Williams Winter Park said he wasn’t shocked by the study’s findings.
“Once you really dive in and really read the information and see what it’s saying, it’s no surprise at all that Florida being a hot spot has so many vacancies,” Yebba said.
He adds while vacancy rates are important, homebuyers and sellers shouldn’t be scared.
“I don’t want people to look at these vacancies and freak out, essentially. The fact is we are in a very thriving market from both a sellers’ and buyers’ perspective,” Yebba said. “Sellers, because we have a lack of inventory of course and especially with a lot of those vacant homes. Buyers, because of the historically low mortgage rates. It’s still a good time to cash in and invest in real estate.”