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County in every state with the most unoccupied homes

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Andrew F. Kazmierski // Shutterstock

County in every state with the most unoccupied homes

Vacant housing is everywhere and while it might be an eyesore, a crime scene, or a sad reminder of loss, vacancy rates can be important to home buyers and owners, investors, banks, and communities. A vacant house might be a boarded-up city row house, a collapsed farmhouse, or an empty vacation cottage in the woods.

Vacancies serve as a huge drag on the local housing market by diminishing the quality of life and the value of nearby properties. They also can cost millions for policing, cleanup, or demolition—and they reached epidemic proportions following the Great Recession that lasted from December 2007 through June 2009. The number of unoccupied dwellings between 2005 and 2010 rose to 12 million from 9.5 million between 2005 and 2010.

A 2018 report from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy called “The Empty House Next Door” took a close look at vacant properties (whether abandoned or simply unused). The study shows that “hyper-vacancy”—areas where vacant buildings or lots account for 20% or more of structures—represented half of all census tracts in Cleveland.

The report also underscores earlier studies, like the one from 2005 that found blocks with vacant buildings in Austin, Texas, had triple the number of drug calls to police and twice as many calls reporting violence than blocks without vacant buildings. Another study, from 2010, estimated vacancies in Philadelphia reduced real estate value in the city by $3.6 billion—or $8,000 per household.

Rural areas and small towns have seen vacancy rates nearly double those of metropolitan areas; especially in Appalachia, the South, and the Great Plains. With resurgent growth, some locales have seen vacancies return to pre-recession levels, while others have had far slower recoveries. But some places are plagued by what is called hyper-vacancy.

The U.S. Census Bureau found that 17,019,726 homes were vacant in 2018. The government’s count does not define how long a home must be vacant, and some may be for sale, for rent, or seasonal.

The most recent data showed national vacancy rates in the second quarter of 2019 at 6.8% for rental housing and 1.3% for homeowner housing. Among rentals, the recent occupancy rate in the summer of 2019 was at its highest point since 2000, and it has been rising for several consecutive months.

With housing vacancy rates a useful measure for homebuyers or investors, Stacker used the most recent available data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2018 American Community Survey to compile a list of the county with the most vacant homes in each state. Counties are ranked by the percentage of unoccupied homes out of all homes in each county, and ties are broken by considering the total number of unoccupied homes. The homes are also broken down into different categories to show a full picture of the vacant home status in America. Please note that Vermont is not included in this list, as the available data was insufficient.

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GTD7 // Shutterstock

Alabama: Baldwin County

- Total homes in county: 116,632
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 33,131 (28.4% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 16,578
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 405
--- Homes for sale: 1,228
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 879
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 9,890
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 4,151

Baldwin County, Ala., is located on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay, and most of it is rural and unincorporated. Its beaches are a tourist destination, but the region has been badly damaged by powerful hurricanes. More than a quarter of its homes are unoccupied, but housing sales have ticked up recently,and rental housing is plentiful as well.

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Beeblebrox // Wikimedia Commons

Alaska: Matanuska-Susitna Borough

- Total homes in county: 41,986
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 9,788 (23.3% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 603
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 129
--- Homes for sale: 380
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 182
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 6,904
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,590

Alaska’s mountainous Mat-Su between Anchorage and Denali is the size of West Virginia. The population in the borough has grown significantly in recent years, outpacing the rest of the state, and it is the second most populous borough in Alaska. Its housing prices are nearly a third of those in nearby Anchorage, appealing to commuters. The housing market is on an upswing, although it is easily affected by factors from from gas prices to bad weather and wildfires.

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Arizona: Navajo County

- Total homes in county: 58,164
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 23,879 (41.1% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 813
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for sale: 1,508
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 171
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 17,803
--- Homes for migrant workers: 25
--- Other vacant homes: 3,559

More than 40% of homes are vacant in Arizona’s Navajo County, which has been grappling with the economic fallout from the closure of the Kayenta Coal Mine and the Cholla Power Plant. Shutdown of the mine meant the loss of 300 jobs and a $1.6 million annual cut to county revenue, slashing funds available for law enforcement, emergency services, and teachers’ paychecks, and it slowed the recording real estate transactions, making closings difficult.

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Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

Arkansas: Garland County

- Total homes in county: 51,025
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 10,618 (20.8% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,718
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 547
--- Homes for sale: 478
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 871
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 5,717
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,287

Garland County in Arkansas is home to rugged landscapes, the heavily forested Ouachita Mountains and Hot Springs National Park. Recreation and tourism are mainstays of the county’s economy, bringing in tens of millions of dollars in revenues and creating thousands of jobs. But the county’s opioid crisis is the worst in Arkansas, and nearly 1 in 5 people lives in poverty.

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Flystock // Shutterstock

California: Nevada County

- Total homes in county: 54,264
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 12,817 (23.6% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 120
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 239
--- Homes for sale: 512
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 477
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 10,272
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,197

California’s mountainous Nevada County lay at the heart of the 1848 gold rush that drew thousands of miners. Geologists estimate as much as 80% of the lode remains, and the area still attracts modern-day gold panners. Economists say costs in the area leave more and more people unable to pay rising rents. The population is stagnant, and about a quarter of county residents leave to find work.

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Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

Colorado: Pueblo County

- Total homes in county: 71,451
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 6,497 (9.1% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 476
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for sale: 672
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 539
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 871
--- Homes for migrant workers: 155
--- Other vacant homes: 3,784

Pueblo County has long been considered an affordable alternative to the pricey Denver area, but with its explosive growth in recent years, the cost of living is on the rise. An increase in population has driven up demand for goods and services, leading to higher prices. The mayor recently said the booming local economy has led to increasing rents and housing costs.

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Elisa.rolle // Wikimedia Commons

Connecticut: Litchfield County

- Total homes in county: 88,402
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 14,804 (16.7% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,212
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for sale: 780
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 826
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 7,428
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 4,558

Across Connecticut, residential real estate is still recovering from the recession of a decade ago, and less desirable residences can sit on the market for months. But this past summer, despite an overall decline in single-family home sales statewide, Litchfield saw a strong percentage gain. Recent data called it a “pocket of affordability” for homebuyers.

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Sharon Gar-El // Shutterstock

Delaware: Sussex County

- Total homes in county: 141,092
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 47,613 (33.7% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,110
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 473
--- Homes for sale: 1,569
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 733
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 38,279
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 5,449

Sussex County is largely rural, with Atlantic Ocean beaches popular among summer tourists. Some seasonal visitors buy vacation homes that sit vacant for much of the year. More broadly, with a third of its homes unoccupied, Sussex County is seeing increasing housing costs and a lack of affordable rental units.

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Lenush // Shutterstock

Florida: Monroe County

- Total homes in county: 53,457
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 22,095 (41.3% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 3,094
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 94
--- Homes for sale: 220
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 399
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 14,064
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 4,224

Home to the Florida Keys, Monroe County has been struggling to maintain its critical tourism industry amid environmental threats and hurricane scares that keep visitors away. Workforce housing was already scarce with housing costs rising for years. But Hurricane Irma in 2017 hit hard, destroying or damaging more than 4,000 homes throughout the Keys and leaving little affordable rentals. Rents in Key West have doubled in less than a decade, although the housing strains get a little less dire the further one gets up the 120-mile island chain.

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Kevin Ruck // Shutterstock

Georgia: Richmond County

- Total homes in county: 89,098
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 18,564 (20.8% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 5,216
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 388
--- Homes for sale: 1,883
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 376
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 1,218
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 9,483

In Richmond County, Ga., which includes the city of Augusta, 1 in 5 houses is vacant. Vacant homes and apartments are a drag on its real estate market, pulling prices down.

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Eugene Kalenkovich // Shutterstock

Hawaii: Maui County

- Total homes in county: 73,786
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 20,992 (28.4% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 10,402
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 689
--- Homes for sale: 1,257
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 360
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 6,323
--- Homes for migrant workers: 210
--- Other vacant homes: 1,751

The median home value in Maui is more than triple the national value. The market is considered hot, meaning the number of houses sitting empty is likely to drop.

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bs4173 // Wikimedia Commons

Idaho: Kootenai County

- Total homes in county: 72,500
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 7,545 (10.4% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 72
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for sale: 603
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 198
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 5,430
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,242

Kootenai County sits in northern Idaho, 25 miles east of Spokane, Wash. It is a popular destination for retirees. Its economic climate has been healthy, and its vacant housing rate is relatively low.

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Randy von Liski // Flickr

Illinois: Vermilion County

- Total homes in county: 36,125
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 5,959 (16.5% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,444
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 113
--- Homes for sale: 496
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 2,973
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 208
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 725

In Vermilion County in eastern Illinois along the border with Indiana, 1 in 5 homes has negative equity, meaning its value is less than the outstanding mortgage. But home values rose nearly 10% in the past year and are expected to keep rising.

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Unknown // Wikimedia Commons

Indiana: Kosciusko County

- Total homes in county: 38,744
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 7,946 (20.5% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 148
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for sale: 497
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 523
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 5,194
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,584

Between South Bend and Fort Wayne, Kosciusko County is agricultural, with a big poultry business. Its housing market is heating up. Seen as boosting the market are an unemployment rate well below the national average and a growing job market. Job growth over the next 10 years is predicted to be higher than the U.S. average.

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JamesPatrick.pro // Shutterstock

Iowa: Scott County

- Total homes in county: 74,655
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 7,750 (10.4% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 2,748
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 190
--- Homes for sale: 749
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 508
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 728
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 2,827

Housing vacancy in Scott County, Iowa, located halfway between Chicago and Des Moines, is the highest in the state, but low compared to highs in other states. The area has seen a significant amount of new housing growth in recent years, attracting residents with its job supply and healthy local economy. An active real estate market is driving up residential property values across the county, realtors say.

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Jeff Zehnder // Shutterstock

Kansas: Riley County

- Total homes in county: 31,340
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 4,723 (15.1% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,640
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 1,065
--- Homes for sale: 295
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 24
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 644
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,055

Riley County in northeast Kansas is home to the U.S. Army’s Fort Riley and Kansas State University, and the military and college students drive its rental market. The local housing market outperformed the rest of the state in recent years, and real estate in the city of Manhattan is some of the most expensive in Kansas.

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jessica.kirsh // Shutterstock

Kentucky: Jefferson County

- Total homes in county: 347,119
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 35,856 (10.3% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 10,874
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 1,563
--- Homes for sale: 3,023
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 621
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 2,331
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 17,444

Anchored by the city of Louisville, Jefferson County is located along the Ohio River at the Indiana border. Boosting its real estate market are a low cost of living and predictions for strong job growth.

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Jarred Armfield // Shutterstock

Louisiana: Ouachita Parish

- Total homes in county: 69,035
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 13,436 (19.5% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 3,153
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 56
--- Homes for sale: 990
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 1,464
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 821
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 6,952

Much of the housing in Ouachita Parish in northern Louisiana was built in the 1940s through the 1960s. Local real estate appreciation rates have tracked the national average over the last 10 years but slowed more recently and trail nearly all other areas of the state. Particularly in the city of Monroe, vacant housing is an issue.

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Paul VanDerWerf // Flickr

Maine: Aroostook County

- Total homes in county: 39,986
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 10,055 (25.1% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 450
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 248
--- Homes for sale: 486
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 162
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 6,434
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 2,275

Aroostook County, the northernmost county in Maine, is the largest county east of the Mississippi and bigger than Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. Its housing is some of the most affordable in Maine, but more than a quarter of the local housing stock is vacant. Housing appreciation rates in the area have been well below the national average for the last 10 years and lower than most of the state.

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Andrew F. Kazmierski // Shutterstock

Maryland: Baltimore city

- Total homes in county: 293,633
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 56,429 (19.2% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 13,577
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 902
--- Homes for sale: 3,994
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 1,939
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 922
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 35,095

Nearly 1 in 5 homes sit empty in Baltimore. Foreclosure rates and the number of delinquent mortgages are twice as high as the national averages. But forecasts say the outlook for the housing market is positive, with prices set to rise.

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Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

Massachusetts: Barnstable County

- Total homes in county: 164,329
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 77,658 (47.3% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,702
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for sale: 2,041
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 1,314
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 69,692
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 2,909

Almost half of all homes in Barnstable County, which includes Cape Cod, are vacant, but nearly all of those are homes for recreational or seasonal use in the popular coastal resort area. In recent years, prices for vacation homes have risen more than those of existing and new homes. Barnstable, where 41% of the housing stock is vacation homes, was among the U.S. counties with the greatest price increases for vacation homes from 2013 to 2018.

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Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

Michigan: Marquette County

- Total homes in county: 34,937
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 8,609 (24.6% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 307
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 266
--- Homes for sale: 231
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 5,974
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,831

Most of the vacant homes in Marquette County, located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the shores of Lake Superior, are for recreational or seasonal use. The local housing market is short on newer homes; population growth in the region is slow and does not justify building more. The region’s long winters will likely keep the population and housing prices down, locals say.

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Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

Minnesota: St. Louis County

- Total homes in county: 105,006
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 20,636 (19.7% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,472
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 463
--- Homes for sale: 620
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 241
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 13,444
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 4,396

St. Louis County, located in northeastern Minnesota, is home to wilderness areas popular with outdoor enthusiasts including a national park and national forest, state parks, lakes, and rivers. Most of its vacant homes are for recreational or seasonal use. Much of the county’s population lives in Duluth, the world’s third-largest inland port, on Lake Superior.

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C5 Media // Shutterstock

Mississippi: Hinds County

- Total homes in county: 104,339
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 18,856 (18.1% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 4,677
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 445
--- Homes for sale: 1,083
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 840
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 502
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 11,309

Jackson—Mississippi’s largest city and its capital—sits in Hinds County, which is filled with rolling terrain and pine forests. The Jackson metropolitan area is home to a fifth of the state’s population. Dampening the area’s housing market is high unemployment that makes it hard for would-be buyers to get mortgages. The local housing appreciation rate has notably lagged the national average for the past decade.

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

Missouri: St. Louis city

- Total homes in county: 177,169
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 32,874 (18.6% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 8,836
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 717
--- Homes for sale: 3,093
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 5,477
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 807
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 13,944

The housing market in St. Louis is still recovering from the recession of more than a decade ago. There is high demand but a shortage of affordable housing, and the city’s population is shrinking. In the last couple of years, houses have been taking longer to sell, realtors say. Houses that might need updating or renovating, in particular, are staying on the market longer. The city’s rental market is booming, meanwhile.

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Montana: Flathead County

- Total homes in county: 49,088
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 10,716 (21.8% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,031
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 57
--- Homes for sale: 335
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 467
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 7,701
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,125

Flathead County, Mont., which shares a border with Canada, is dominated by Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest. Most of the county’s vacant housing is seasonal or used for recreation. The county’s housing market is hot, with homes in Kalispell and Whitefish selling quickly.

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Aspects and Angles // Shutterstock

Nebraska: Douglas County

- Total homes in county: 237,325
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 16,467 (6.9% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 6,562
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 804
--- Homes for sale: 1,871
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 343
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 1,004
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 5,883

The rate of housing vacancy in Douglas County, Neb., home to Omaha, the state’s largest city, is low. The region’s economy is robust, and Omaha is said to have more millionaires per capita than any other U.S. city. Housing prices have climbed in the strong market, appreciating from 2000 to 2018, by 47%.

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Steve Lagreca // Shutterstock

Nevada: Clark County

- Total homes in county: 913,385
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 104,780 (11.5% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 41,060
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 4,789
--- Homes for sale: 7,525
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 3,414
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 25,267
--- Homes for migrant workers: 60
--- Other vacant homes: 22,665

Clark County at the southern tip of Nevada is home to the gaming mecca Las Vegas. After a hot 2018, the real estate market has cooled slightly to a more balanced pace. Price growth has slowed, builders are selling fewer houses and once-depleted inventory is back up. But the market is among the nation’s most competitive. Recent data showed one in five recent offers in Las Vegas featured a bidding war, nearly twice the national average.

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Winston Tan

New Hampshire: Grafton County

- Total homes in county: 53,071
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 17,677 (33.3% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 710
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 32
--- Homes for sale: 504
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 67
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 14,998
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,366

Grafton County, N.H., where Dartmouth College is located, is largely rural and about half of its land is part of the White Mountain National Forest. While a third of its housing is vacant, nearly all of those are homes for recreational or seasonal use.

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Creative Family // Shutterstock

New Jersey: Cape May County

- Total homes in county: 99,427
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 60,219 (60.6% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 4,713
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 41
--- Homes for sale: 957
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 92
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 52,262
--- Homes for migrant workers: 110
--- Other vacant homes: 2,044

A whopping 60% of Cape May’s housing is vacant, but nearly all are homes for seasonal or recreational use. About half of the county’s residential real estate is vacation homes. Nationwide, vacation home sales rose 10% from 2015 to 2018.

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Kristi Blokhin // Shutterstock

New Mexico: Otero County

- Total homes in county: 31,843
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 8,096 (25.4% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 310
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 130
--- Homes for sale: 682
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 131
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 2,976
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 3,867

One in four homes in Otero County is vacant, although a sizable portion are seasonal housing. Taking a toll on the county’s housing market are concerns over crime and drug trafficking, as the county lies in a major border smuggling corridor. The county seat is Alamogordo, where the unemployment rate is higher than the national average. Job growth stalled in the past year and is predicted to trail the national average over the coming decade.

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Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

New York: Jefferson County

- Total homes in county: 60,041
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 15,384 (25.6% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,619
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 422
--- Homes for sale: 320
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 1,320
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 10,558
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,145

Located in northern New York state near the St. Lawrence River, Jefferson County has seen little employment growth since the Great Recession. It is home to the U.S. Army’s Fort Drum, which is a major employer. But the economy in northern New York has lagged the rest of the country, and the area has seen an exodus of residents, dampening demand and activity in its housing market. In 2017, Jefferson County suffered the second-most dramatic population decrease of 2.8% in the United States. Only San Juan County, N.M., lost more of its population.

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Alexey Smolyanyy // Shutterstock

North Carolina: Carteret County

- Total homes in county: 50,719
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 21,999 (43.4% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 225
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for sale: 1,087
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 18,226
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 2,461

Coastal Carteret County in eastern North Carolina incorporates the southern end of the Outer Banks. Tourism and recreation are keys to its economy, and nearly all of its vacant homes are for recreational or seasonal use.

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Kit Leong // Shutterstock

North Dakota: Ward County

- Total homes in county: 33,203
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 5,316 (16.0% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,779
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 283
--- Homes for sale: 81
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 262
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 2,911

One in six homes is vacant in Ward County, N.D., where the economy and housing market are indelibly linked to the state’s huge oil and gas industry. Statewide, the industry contributes more than $3 billion to the state’s gross domestic product each year. During a 2012 boom, rents soared, new construction grew, rising prices put financial pressures on many residents and vacancies in housing units were near zero. Housing costs in Ward County have since moderated and residential construction is moving at a more normal pace.

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Ken Winters // Wikimedia Commons

Ohio: Ashtabula County

- Total homes in county: 46,198
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 10,753 (23.3% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,548
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 330
--- Homes for sale: 584
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 305
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 3,582
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 4,404

Northeast of Cleveland, Ashtabula County features 26 miles of Lake Erie shoreline. Nearly 1 in 5 homes is vacant, and in nearby Cleveland, the foreclosure rate is high and the median value home value is four times less than the U.S. median. Nearly 1 in 5 in Ashtabula County lives in poverty.

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Oklahoma: Comanche County

- Total homes in county: 51,688
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 9,199 (17.8% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 2,541
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for sale: 783
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 2,276
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 575
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 3,024

Comanche County, Okla., is anchored by the city of Lawton, recently ranked as one of the most affordable rental and sales markets in the nation. Demand for local housing comes in large part from the Ft. Sill Army base. Cuts in the Army mid-decade reached Ft. Sill and caused the area’s housing market to fall. The county’s unemployment rate is slightly higher than the national average, and its job growth over the next 10 years is predicted to be significantly lower than in the rest of the country.

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Marisa Estivill // Shutterstock

Oregon: Klamath County

- Total homes in county: 33,682
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 6,884 (20.4% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 439
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 266
--- Homes for sale: 218
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 307
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 3,201
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 2,453

The site of Crater Lake National Park and several national forests, scenic Klamath County, Ore., is located in south central Oregon just north of California. It suffers from high unemployment, and Klamath County’s real estate market is in dire need of new housing and rentals, local experts say. The Klamath Basin has not had any new market-rate, multi-family apartment or housing built in decades. The average home in Klamath Falls is 49 years old.

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Zadranka // Shutterstock

Pennsylvania: Monroe County

- Total homes in county: 81,664
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 26,555 (32.5% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 285
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 125
--- Homes for sale: 1,178
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 344
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 18,576
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 6,047

Monroe County, in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, was slammed by the recession and housing crisis a decade ago, and its recovery has been painfully slow. Like other exurbs, Monroe County’s income and job growth has been too weak to build up much economic momentum. At the end of 2018, Monroe County had more “upside-down” homes—those that are worth less than the mortgage—than almost any other county in the nation. But the county’s population is on the rise again after a significant decline that began with the economic downturn.

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Timothy J. Quill // Wikimedia Commons

Rhode Island: Washington County

- Total homes in county: 64,332
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 16,652 (25.9% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,819
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for sale: 386
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 370
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 12,305
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,772

Washington County in southwestern Rhode Island features Narragansett Bay and Block Island, popular with summer visitors. It is the richest county in Rhode Island, with a median household income of about $78,000 that is some 27% higher than in the rest of the state. Many residents work in tourism. About three-quarters of its vacant housing is for recreational or seasonal use.

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StacieStauffSmith Photos // Shutterstock

South Carolina: Horry County

- Total homes in county: 210,700
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 79,520 (37.7% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 15,785
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 388
--- Homes for sale: 2,777
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 129
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 53,252
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 7,189

Myrtle Beach is the largest city in Horry County, S.C., where tourism is the biggest industry. Two-thirds of its vacant housing is for seasonal or recreational use. The coastal county is vulnerable to hurricanes, most recently by Hurricane Dorian in 2019 and Hurricane Florence in 2018. The economy is limited by an abundance of low-paying jobs, and Myrtle Beach has too much housing for the amount of its job growth. A campaign is underway to stop any new construction by locals who say Horry County has ignored flood dangers and failed to make plans to deal with natural disasters.

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Sopotnicki // Shutterstock

South Dakota: Pennington County

- Total homes in county: 49,249
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 4,455 (9.0% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,303
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 239
--- Homes for sale: 454
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 166
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 990
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,303

The housing vacancy rate in Pennington, S.D., is low, and the housing market in the area, which includes Rapid City, is hot, experts say. There’s a shortfall in the number of homes on the market. One realtor said homes are being purchased sight unseen, with agents doing walk-throughs via videos with their clients.

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J654567 // Wikimedia Commons

Tennessee: Sevier County

- Total homes in county: 58,279
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 21,418 (36.8% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 5,270
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 1,067
--- Homes for sale: 285
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 160
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 12,173
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 2,463

More than a third of homes in Sevier County, Tenn., the “Gateway” to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, are vacant—although more than half of those are for recreational or seasonal use. The area’s median annual income is lower than the national median, and its poverty rate is higher. Economists say the region has a severe shortage of affordable housing, and new housing is limited due to the high cost of land and lack of available services.

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Nicolas Henderson // Flickr

Texas: Henderson County

- Total homes in county: 41,483
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 10,640 (25.6% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 412
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 263
--- Homes for sale: 1,000
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 213
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 5,658
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 3,094

Situated between Dallas and Houston, Henderson County draws retirees from the two cities. It leads the area and the state in its proportion of investment and retirement income. Its unemployment rate and cost of living are low, and its biggest employers are health care and medical device manufacturing.

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Paul W Thompson // Shutterstock

Utah: Weber County

- Total homes in county: 93,205
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 7,590 (8.1% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 729
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 105
--- Homes for sale: 795
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 399
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 3,709
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 1,853

The housing vacancy rate in Utah’s Weber County is relatively low. The county’s poverty rate recently dipped below 10% for the first time in a decade. Unemployment fell as well while the median household income climbed. The strong housing market is leaving a lack of affordable housing and pushing up rental costs. But housing prices have cooled recently, a possible signal that the market may be moderating and more accessible.

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Jon Marc Lyttle // Shutterstock

Virginia: Bedford County

- Total homes in county: 37,001
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 5,730 (15.5% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 355
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 0
--- Homes for sale: 571
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 298
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 2,450
--- Homes for migrant workers: 174
--- Other vacant homes: 1,882

Bedford County has low unemployment, and its job market has been growing. Like other rural areas in Virginia, it was hard hit by the recession and still dealing with the decline of key industries such as coal mining, textiles, and furniture-making.

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Irra // Shutterstock

Washington: Grant County

- Total homes in county: 37,969
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 7,163 (18.9% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 905
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 367
--- Homes for sale: 162
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 247
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 3,630
--- Homes for migrant workers: 859
--- Other vacant homes: 993

The local economy of rural Grant County, between Seattle and Spokane, is made up of ranching and agriculture. The county is the site of the Grand Coulee hydropower facility on the Columbia River, the biggest power station in the nation. Its inexpensive electricity, transportation, reasonably priced land, and high-speed fiber-optic network have made Grant County attractive to software and manufacturing firms. The economy has been on a recovery path since the recession, and its recent pace of job growth has been robust.

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Tim Kiser // Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia: Cabell County

- Total homes in county: 46,324
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 8,300 (17.9% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 1,480
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 924
--- Homes for sale: 941
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 452
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 498
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 4,005

Cabell County’s economy has been under pressure from the decline of coal, and the region has been in the grips of the opioid epidemic. But it has an efficient transportation infrastructure of rail, interstate highway and inland shipping, and entrepreneurship is growing. Considered particularly good for small-business owners, Cabell County is one of just a few counties in West Virginia that has shown much economic growth.

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David Prahl // Shutterstock

Wisconsin: Kenosha County

- Total homes in county: 70,646
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 7,696 (10.9% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 2,132
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 598
--- Homes for sale: 619
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 229
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 1,989
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 2,129

Kenosha County, Wisc., considered part of the Chicago metropolitan area, is one of the top 10 fastest-growing counties in the United States. Its vacancy rate is relatively low. It is the site of several industrial projects underway, and a big local employer is warehouse distribution centers.

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Vasiliymeshko // Wikimedia Commons

Wyoming: Laramie County

- Total homes in county: 43,892
- Number of unoccupied homes in 2018: 4,214 (9.6% of total homes)
--- Homes for rent: 538
--- Homes rented but not occupied: 233
--- Homes for sale: 482
--- Homes sold, but not occupied: 127
--- Homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use: 778
--- Homes for migrant workers: 0
--- Other vacant homes: 2,056

The most populous county in Wyoming, Laramie is home to the state’s university. It has seen steady growth in employment rates and its economic strength, although it lacks affordable housing. With demand for homes outweighing supply and driving up prices, inventory is tight.

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