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U.S. Census Bureau finds monthly housing costs reach $1,000 for homeowners

Aug 19, 2010

The nation's homeowners paid a median of $1,000 in monthly housing costs in 2009, compared with $808 for renters, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). However, renters usually paid a higher percentage of their household income on these costs than did owners (31 percent compared with 20 percent). These new figures come from the 2009 American Housing Survey, the definitive source of information on the quality of housing in the United States. Statistics are provided for apartments, single-family homes, manufactured housing, new construction and vacant housing units. Issued jointly bi-annually by the Census Bureau and HUD, this survey provides detailed information on the characteristics of the nation's housing stock. A wide range of specific topics is covered, such as the presence of air conditioning, crowding, housing costs, special living services offered to older residents, safety equipment present, type of heating fuel used, satisfaction with the neighborhood, cost of utilities and size of the home. The survey also covers the demographic characteristics of the housing units' occupants. "So many of these measures are really unique to this survey," said Tamara Cole, chief of the Census Bureau's American Housing Survey Branch. "Together they provide a comprehensive view of the quality of the nation's housing stock. This survey is also a longitudinal one, meaning it follows the same unit over time. For example, you can track the remodeling done to a specific unit from one survey to the next." The 2009 survey indicates that respondents are generally quite content with where they live: Approximately 70 percent rate their homes an 8, 9, or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 28 percent giving them the "best" rating of 10. Residents of new construction tend to rate their homes even more highly: 84 percent gave them between an 8 and 10, and 45 percent gave a perfect 10 rating. Likewise, more than two-thirds of residents (68 percent) rated their neighborhood highly with 25 percent giving it a "best" rating. People living in newly built homes rate their neighborhoods especially highly: 75 percent (rated highly) and 35 percent (rated best), respectively. Other highlights for the nearly 112 million occupied housing units: ►The median year housing units were built was in 1974, with owner-occupied units being slightly newer (median of 1975 compared with 1971 for renter-occupied units). ►The median purchase price of homes was $107,500; for a newly constructed home, it was $240,000. ►Thirty-two percent of owner-occupied units were owned free and clear, 66 percent had a regular and/or home equity mortgage and 2 percent had only a line-of-credit. ►The most important consideration for recent movers in choosing their homes was financial (28 percent), followed by room layout/design (15 percent) and size of home (10 percent). Furthermore, the most common reasons recent movers had for choosing their neighborhoods were convenience to job (20 percent), convenience to friends or relatives (14 percent), look/design of neighborhood (10 percent) and the house itself (10 percent). ►About two-thirds (64 percent) of the units used a warm-air furnace for heating; 12 percent used an electric heat pump; and 11 percent used a steam or hot water system. The latter is increasingly falling out of use as only two percent of new units use this system. ►About half of homes (48 percent) had a separate dining room and three in 10 (30 percent) reported two or more living rooms or recreation rooms. About one-third (35 percent) had a usable fireplace. ►About two-thirds of housing units (65 percent) had central air conditioning and another 21 percent had window units; for new units, the percentage with central air conditioning was even higher (89 percent). ►About nine in 10 units (93 percent) reported the presence of a smoke detector. Additionally, 36 percent reported having a working carbon monoxide detector, 45 percent purchased or recharged a fire extinguisher in the last two years and 5 percent had a sprinkler system. ►Most homes had three or more bedrooms (64 percent), with the percentage even higher in new homes (80 percent). Additionally, about half of homes (51 percent) had two or more bathrooms, with the percentage even higher (89 percent) in new homes. ►Ten percent of communities had secured entrances, with the likelihood somewhat higher (15 percent) in new communities. To view a copy of the 2009 American Housing Survey, click here. For more information, visit  
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