Nearly 20% of Florida homes are vacant

chart_florida_vacancy_rates.top.gif By Les Christie, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- It's not always easy to feel sorry for sunny Florida. But they just got hit with another blow.

On Thursday, the Census Bureau revealed that 18% -- or 1.6 million -- of the Sunshine State's homes are sitting vacant. That's a rise of more than 63% over the past 10 years.

Having this amount of oversupply on the market will keep home prices depressed and slow any recovery.

During the housing boom, Florida was among the hottest real estate markets in the nation. Homes were snapped up by the state's growing population as well as hordes of investors confident that prices would continue to soar.

"You'd drive through downtown Miami and see 30 or 40 cranes sticking up in the air," said Michael Larson, a housing market analyst for Weiss Research.

The bust brought an end to that. Development ground to a halt. Retirees stopped relocating. And prices started falling and vacancies rising.

"Housing went from being the preeminent investment of choice to toxic waste," added Richard DeKaser, an economist with the Parthenon Group.

The vacancy problem is more dire in Florida than in any other bubble market: In California, only 8% of units were vacant, while Nevada, the state with the nation's highest foreclosure rate, had about 14% sitting empty. Arizona had a vacancy rate of about 16%.

In Florida, the worst-hit county is Collier -- home of Naples -- with a whopping 32% of homes empty. In Sarasota County, 23% of the housing stock sits vacant, while Lee County (Cape Coral) has a 30% vacancy rate. And Miami-Dade County has a vacancy rate of about 12%.

The housing recovery will take years, perhaps many years, to complete, according to Ingo Winzer, a housing market analyst and founder of Local Market Monitor.

Not helping is the the fact that the state's rate of population growth slowed in the second half of the last decade to just 5.7%. Still, the 2000s saw the state population grow overall by nearly 18%, the Census Bureau reported. I

"It will take about eight years just to put the vacancy numbers back into the single digits," said DeKaser.

The inventory overhang has sent home prices plunging. The median price for homes sold in January was just $122,000, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. That was down 7% from 12 months earlier and less than half the price at the peak of the market.

Winzer thinks prices in Florida will drop even more, another 5% in 2011 and 3% in 2012. "Even after that, they're not going to rebound, they'll just sit on the bottom," he said.

Celia Chen, a housing market analyst for Moody's Analytics, is also downbeat in her forecasts for Florida. Not only will prices fall another 11%, she said, but the bottom won't hit until mid-2012, about a year later than the nation as a whole. Some metro areas won't get back to their pre-recession peaks until long after the present owners are old and gray.

She doesn't expect Naples, for example, to come all the way back until the late 2030s. Other Florida metro areas with a 20-year wait or longer include Punta Gorda, Palm Bay and North Port.

"If you're buying in Florida for retirement," said Winzer, "maybe you buy next year when prices will be near the bottom. If you're buying for investment -- don't." To top of page


Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.19%4.27%
15 yr fixed3.27%3.27%
5/1 ARM3.36%3.35%
30 yr refi4.17%4.23%
15 yr refi3.25%3.25%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
  • Find Homes for sale
    Real estate and homes for sale on Trulia

  • Property Type
  • Find a home in: New York | Atlanta | Chicago | Los Angeles
  • Washington D.C | Houston | Philadelphia | More options
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,730.46 -149.90 -0.89%
Nasdaq 4,414.71 -48.19 -1.08%
S&P 500 1,951.60 -18.47 -0.94%
Treasuries 2.58 0.02 0.94%
Data as of 10:09am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Micron Technology In... 30.86 -1.67 -5.13%
Tyson Foods Inc 37.69 -0.51 -1.34%
Bank of America Corp... 15.48 -0.10 -0.65%
Apple Inc 96.87 -1.28 -1.30%
Facebook Inc 73.66 -1.02 -1.36%
Data as of 9:54am ET

Sections

Brian Cornell, who once headed Sam's Club, will take on challenge of helping recovery from data breach. More

At an age when they should be thinking about retirement, these workers are working harder and in more jobs than ever. More

After serving 8 years in prison, Marcus Bullock is helping the incarcerated stay connected with loved ones with his Flikshop app. More

Terrell White has had a profit-sharing plan for his employees since 1981, believing that if the staff isn't happy, guests won't be either. More

The Mason family, which has been struggling to pay the $100,000 student loan bill they were left with when their daughter passed away five years ago, is now seeing an outpouring of support. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.