Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

A Snapshot of Housing in 2020

The American Community Survey is one of the most comprehensive sources of U.S. population and housing information. Nevertheless, the pandemic complicated the operations of the ACS in a variety of ways. For instance, both mail operations and in-person interviews were suspended starting from mid-March through June 2020 due to the stay-at-home orders. Despite the Bureau's efforts to mitigate these collection disruptions, they weren't able to limit the effects of the pandemic on data quality. As a result, the U.S. Census Bureau recently released experimental 1-year ACS estimates for 2020 instead of their standard products.

This piece uses these experimental estimates to provide a snapshot of housing in America in 2020. While the Census Bureau does not recommend comparing the 2020 ACS 1-year experimental estimates with the standard ACS estimates from previous years, we provide housing statistics for the year 2020 only. Going one step further, we also compared these housing statistics at the local level to identify the states that outperformed in 2020.

65% of the U.S. homes were owner-occupied in 2020

This translates to nearly 84 million homes across the country. At the local level, people are more likely to be homeowners in more affordable areas. The states with the top 5 highest homeownership rates were: Maine (75%), West Virginia (74%), Wyoming (74%), Minnesota (74%), and New Hampshire (73%). In contrast, only 40% of the households own a home in the District of Columbia.

12% of U.S. homes were vacant in 2020

This translates to nearly 16.4 million vacant housing units. For vacancy rates, it's the case that a low value is a good indicator. Specifically, a low vacancy rate is considered positive for the market because it means that housing demand is high, and people want to live in that particular area; higher rates mean just the opposite. While a low vacancy rate is an indicator of higher demand, we are seeing that Oregon (8%), Washington (8%), Connecticut (8%), New Jersey (9%), and California (9%) were the top 5 states with the lowest vacancy rates. In contrast, Vermont (23%), Maine (23%), Alaska (21%), West Virginia (18%), and Alabama (18%) were the states with the highest vacancy rates. This may indicate a population decline. Indeed, total population dropped by 3.2% in West Virginia in the last decade, according to the decennial estimates. Meanwhile, in wealthier coastal or mountain areas, many homes are only used seasonally by owners or as rental properties, and vacancy rates in these areas may therefore be higher.

88% of households had a broadband internet connection

While the pandemic changed quite a lot about the way we work, a reliable internet connection has become the most important utility for most people. It's actually one of the main factors that people consider before moving to an area. Colorado (92%), Utah (92%), Washington (91%), California (91%), and Alaska (91%) were the top 5 states with the most households with a broadband connection. However, more efforts need to be made in order to improve broadband connection in Mississippi (80%), West Virginia (81%), Arkansas (82%), New Mexico (82%), and Louisiana (83%) so more households will have access to a good internet connection.

42% of homes had one or more people 60 years and over

This translates to nearly 52.3 million homes. One of the positive effects of the pandemic is that people were closer to their families. Many of them decided to live together so they can take care of their parents. According to the data, 2 in 5 homes had at least one person older than 60. Hawaii (51%), Florida (49%), West Virginia (48%), Delaware (48%), and Maine (48%) were the states with the most homes with one or more people 60 years and over. While southern states are regarded as retirement magnets, states in the Northeast and Midwest have among the largest proportional shares of older adults.

12% of the population moved in 2020

This translates to nearly 40.3 million people. While people typically move close to their previous residence, 53% of them moved within the same county, 25% moved from a different county within the same state, and 18% moved from different state. At the state level, the District of Columbia (19%), Idaho (16%), Wyoming (16%), Alaska (16%), and Colorado (16%) were the states with the most movers in 2020. Although interstate migration accounts for less than 20% of all moves, this type of move has many implications for regional demographic and economic change. It's interesting to see that the areas with the most interstate movers were located in Northeast. For instance, 37% of the people who moved in Vermont and New Hampshire relocated from a different state.