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Empty homes a California rarity as vacancies at 13-year low

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One challenge folks shopping for California housing face is the rarity of a vacant home.
The U.S. Census Bureau tracking of the empty-but-owned homes found that 1 percent of ownership residences were vacant in California in 2017, the lowest since 2004 and the fifth-lowest rate nationally. That tied the statewide rate for 2016, which was No. 4 among the states.
California’s vacancy rate tied Massachusetts. Vacancies were only lower in Colorado, Rhode Island, Washington and Michigan. By the way, 1.6 percent of homes across the U.S. were vacant last year, down from 1.7 percent in 2016 and the lowest rate since 2000.
Owned homes go vacant for many reasons, but a common one is the time it takes to sell a home. Another cause: bank repossessions.
It wasn’t too long ago — in 2008 amid the housing market’s bubble bursting and foreclosure explosion — that California was among the states with high vacancy levels: 3.1 percent. Only 10 states were higher.
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But the economic recovery out of the Great Recession changed that.
Before and through the recession, ownership residences vacancies in California averaged 2.2 percent, just below the national average of 2.5 percent. Since 2011, empty California homes filled up and the vacancy rates fell to an average 1.3 percent, the second-lowest among the states. The scale of California’s dramatic vacancy reversal was outpaced only by  Colorado, Michigan, Florida, Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

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