The notion that any town or city could have high vacancy rates in the red-hot real estate market seems absurd. Homeowners have received multiple bids for their houses. Some houses only stay on the market for a few days. These trends may be ending as mortgage rates rise. However, some places in America do have very high vacancy rates.
One can imagine high vacancy rates in some inner cities. Large sections of Detroit are barely inhabited and thousands of homes have fallen into disrepair. Detroit has a program to sell some of these for $1,000. The city also has bulldozed hundreds. Most older industrial cities have similar neighborhoods, although none are as large as Detroit’s.
LendingTree recently looked at the American places with the highest vacancy rates. The analysis for its Empty but Expensive: Vacancy Rates in America’s Most Expensive Towns Top 23% report examined cities at the far end of the spectrum from Detroit. Researchers looked at 2020 census figures for the nation’s top 50 metropolitan areas. They only considered places with populations of 10,000 to 50,000, which narrowed the universe considerably.
The 50 places have 320,000 empty homes. The number is misleading at first. Two-thirds are not occupied because they are seasonal or second homes. The rich can afford to not be at home because they have more than one place to live. The primary conclusion of the study was that “Towns with higher vacancy rates tend to have more expensive homes than those with lower vacancy rates.”
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The town with the highest vacancy rate was Breckenridge, Colorado. The rate was 62.74%, against a total of 31,158 homes. Of these, 93.83% were vacant because they had seasonal use. The median home value was a high $596,300.
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Breckenridge sits in the Rocky Mountains. The resort town is west of Denver, in a sky resort area.
The rich are different from you and me. They can afford to own houses they do not live in.
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