Vacancy rates in the third quarter declined from one year earlier for both homeowner properties and those held as rentals according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but rates were little changed from the second quarter of this year.  The Bureau said that homeownership rates also declined on a year over year basis.

The Census Bureau reported that there were 132.8 million housing units in the U.S. in the third quarter, 114.70 million of which were occupied or 86.3 percent.  Of the occupied units 75.1 million were owner occupied (56.3 percent) and 29.6 million or 29.8 percent were renter occupied.   

Of the 18.15 million vacant housing units, 13.59 million were classified as year round properties (10.3 percent of all units) and 4.56 million were seasonal.  Of year-round properties, 3.81 million were for rent, a decline of 430,000 from the third quarter of 2011 and 1.48 million were for sale only, 386,000 less than a year earlier.

The vacancy rate for rental properties was at 8.6 percent in the third quarter of 2012, unchanged from the second quarter but down from 9.8 percent a year earlier.  Rental vacancies most recently peaked at 11.1 percent in the third quarter of 2009.

Homeowner vacancies stood at 1.9 percent in the third quarter compared to 2.1 percent in the second and 2.4 percent in the third quarter of 2011.  That rate hit a recent high in 2008 when it varied between 2.8 and 2.9 percent through all four quarters of the year.

The rental vacancy rate inside of principal cities was 8.8 percent, 8.1 percent in the suburbs, and 9.7 percent.  All three rates were down from a year earlier.

The rental vacancy rate in the South declined from 12.2 percent in the third quarter of 2011 to 10.5 percent while homeowner vacancies were down from 2.5 percent to 2.1 percent.  In the West rental vacancies fell from 7.3 percent to 6.5 percent and homeowner vacancy rates fell 6 basis points to 1.7 percent.  In the Northeast the rental vacancy was 7.1 percent compared to 8.0 percent a year earlier and homeowner vacancies went from 2.2 percent to 1.9 percent.  The greatest changes were in the Midwest where rental vacancies fell from 10.5 to 9.4 percent and homeowner vacancies from 2.4 percent to 1.8.

The rate of homeownership in the third quarter of 2012 was 65.5 percent, unchanged from the second quarter but down from 66.3 percent in the third quarter of 2011.  The most recent peak in home ownership, 69.0 percent, occurred in the third quarter of 2006.

Homeownership was highest in the Midwest at 69.6 percent and lowest in the West at 60.1 percent.  The third quarter rate was up slightly in the West and the Northeast compared to the second quarter, down in the South, and unchanged in the Midwest.  The rate of homeownership declined in every age cohort except among those 45 to 54 years of age where it increased six basis points quarter-over-quarter and lower than one year earlier for all groups except those over age 65. 

Annual homeowner rates fell slightly for all racial groups except White non-Hispanics and that group's rate at 73.6 percent remains far higher than any other group except All Other Races, the only other classification to break 50 percent.

Homeownership in both family income classifications declined slightly on an annual basis.  Households with family income greater than or equal to the median income declined from 81.3 percent in the third quarter of 2011 to 80.3 percent and in those with family income less than the median the rate was down from 51.3 percent to 50.6 percent.