Phoenix Area Housing Vacancy Rates (U.S. Census Data)

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Census-Bureau-FactFinder-LogoLast Thursday the U.S. Census Bureau released local-level demographic data from the 2010 census for Arizona (along with five other states bringing the total number of states with data released so far to 18). There is a TON of data now available on all sorts of demographics that we’ll be taking a peak at over the next few weeks.

Up first is housing vacancy rates for the Phoenix metro area. Why vacancy rates? Well, this is a real estate blog after all, and vacancy rates (the number/percentage of homes that are unoccupied) are of interest to some. Likely of little interest to many but hey, you can’t please everyone…

Here is a table showing the percentage of vacant homes for various locations in the Phoenix Metro area:

Phoenix-Area-Vacancy-Rates-2011-Census-Table 

What Does It Mean?

After the meteoric rise in the Phoenix real estate market circa 2005 – 2007, and the subsequent torpedoing from 2007 forward, it’s not surprising the percentage of vacant homes generally increased from 2000 to 2010. Only Apache Junction, El Mirage, and Surprise showed a decrease in vacancy rates from 2000 to 2010. Maricopa and Queen Creek took the biggest percentage increases in vacancies – again no surprise given those outlying areas have been hammered the hardest during the market downturn.

The year 2000 was by almost any definition a “normal real estate market”. It would be interesting to see vacancy rates during the peak of the frenzy, but the census is only conducted once every 10 years, and I don’t know where else to find this data. So we’re left to assume during that time vacancy rates were pretty low. I think that’s a safe assumption given how fast homes were flying off the market, along with the general lack of foreclosures and short sales in that time period.

But that’s past history and really neither here nor there. In the mean time, we can see that there is a pretty significant number of empty homes sitting around out there.

Here are the actual numbers from the 2010 census. In 2000 they used sampling rather than “100% data” so there’s no point in showing those numbers.

Phoenix-Area-Vacancy-Total-Vacant-Units

Yep, there are apparently almost a quarter of a million homes sitting around the Valley devoid of humans. Why then is it so difficult then to find a place to rent? Some of those vacancies, and I have no idea how many, are second/vacation homes. But that certainly doesn’t account for 16.2% of the homes out there. Some, like my neighbors house, are just sitting empty waiting to hit the foreclosure auction. Again, I have no idea how many fall into that category, though my neighbor mailed in his keys in April of 2010. Yes, it’s been sitting there on the lenders books for 15 months. But that’s another blog post.

Hard to believe that one out of five homes in the Phoenix area is vacant…

If you want to check out census data for your area, go here. We’ll share more in the somewhat near future.

Update 7/19/2011: When I first published this, I had typo’ed the number of vacant homes on Peoria, erroneously reporting there were 77,361 vacancies. That number is actually 7,361. This has been corrected in the table as well as the summary. Sorry for any confusion!

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About the Author
Jay Thompson

I'm a real estate broker in Phoenix, Arizona and the publisher of the Phoenix Real Estate Guy blog. I tend to drive too fast and scream at the University of Texas and Denver Broncos football teams. My two kids are smarter than most adults I know and my wife is simply amazing.

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  1. Blythewood says:

    I think the Census data may be as difficult to understand as an IRS tax form. But I appreciate the link.

    PS, Looking forward to you using “asshat” in a blog post

  2. Danny Street says:

    Thanks for all the numbers and charts Jay but are the 2010 numbers for Peoria correct? If so that is pretty bad compared to all the others.

  3. Very interesting data. How many of the vacant homes do you think are owned by snowbirds? I lived in Arizona for a while in the late 90′s, and rember that several houses in our neighborhood were winter homes for snowbirds.

    Thanks for sharing the link. I just checked out our occupancy data here in Deschutes county Oregon. Our vacancies have doubled since 2000.

    • Jay Thompson says:

      Hey Dylan – like I said in the article, I have no idea how many homes are vacation/second homes. We definitely have our fair share of winter visitors, but not THAT many…

  4. Jay – I am curious about the commercial properties within the areas that show the greatest number of vacant homes. Have the big box retailers pulled out of those areas as well?

  5. Jay, I’m wondering if you can comment on commercial real estate in your area. Specifically, how is it behaving in relationship to residential. Do you have any data that shows a relationship between the two or a general opinion of how the commercial market follows residential.

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