Property vacancy rates are dropping — good news or bad news?

U.S. residential property vacancy rates are on the decline, but this trend may not live up to its appearances, as noted in RealtyTrac’s 2016 U.S. Residential Property Vacancy Analysis report for the first quarter.

The report includes foreclosure status, owner-occupancy status and equity data for 85 million U.S. properties, which are compared to monthly vacancy data provided by the U.S. Postal Service. Only metropolitan statistical areas with at least 100,000 properties were included in the rankings.

According to the report, as of the beginning of February, vacancies were down 9.3 percent from the last analysis in the third quarter of 2015. Only 1.3 million properties, or 1.6 percent of all properties, were vacant.

Of those vacant homes, more than 76 percent of were investmen…