Last Updated on March 27, 2024

What Does Occupancy Mean? | Real Estate Definition

By Alan F Macdonald

What does Occupancy Mean in Real Estate?

On a real estate listing, occupancy describes who currently lives in the home.

Real Estate Agent Explains Occupancy

All listing on the MLS system show who lives in the home or on the property. There are only a few occupancy options in residential real estate. They are:

Occupancy Abbreviation
New (Never Occupied) NEW
Seller SELLR
Show Home SHOWH
Tenant TEN
Tenant Rights TENRT
Vacant VACNT

Vacant properties could get broken into because there is no one to keep an eye on the home, so often vacant is left off the listing and replaced with “seller” as the occupancy to prevent people from knowing that the home is not occupied.

Show homes are not really occupied per se. They are being used as sales offices, however, which may have implications for possession dates.

Tenant occupied homes are those with renters in them. Tenants and sellers are the most common types occupants in homes listed for sale.

Why Does it Matter?

Occupancy determines a few things when it comes to residential real estate. For one, it dictates how the home can be shown. According to landlord and tenants’ rights in Alberta, a home that has tenants who claim tenant’s rights can request 24 hour’s notice for all showings, and their possession must be three full months from the time that notice is given to them (provided they are on a month-to-month lease). So someone may not want to purchase a house they cannot have for three months. Seller occupied houses can be shown more easily than tenant occupied homes, but sellers may still need a long possession date to give them time to find another home. And when it comes to new homes, they may not even be complete, so they are easy to show because no one lives there, but if the home is not complete, then possession could be along way off. Vacant homes are the best for buyers, but often sellers are perceived as desperate when a property is labeled as vacant. In other words, occupancy can tell you quite a bit about a property – and some of the complications that may come along with putting in an offer to buy it.

2 thoughts on “What Does Occupancy Mean? | Real Estate Definition

  1. Alan, I respectfully disagree. It depends on how the word “occupancy” is used. You stated: “There are only a few occupancy types in real estate.” For everyday residential brokers, what you’ve stated may suffice. But even residential may have many more “occupancies”. When I look in our local MLS at a commercial listing and under “Occupancy” I see “vacant” or “80%”, I know we are speaking different languages. In commercial real estate circles, the question of “occupancy” is of building type and use. And so it will be with an MAI or anybody doing a cost approach to value (very common with certain properties for ad valorem tax purposes). When I see a retail property for sale, occupancy may be: discount store, convenience drug store, anchor/big box, etc. For medical, it may be veterinary, clinic, etc. Residential occupancies include: High-Rise Apartments, Elderly Apartments, Motels, Inns, Hotels, Group Care Homes, etc., etc. etc.

    1. Hi David. Those are good points. I will change that sentence to “There are only a few occupancy types in residential real estate.” Commercial real estate really does have a lot of different ways of using the term occupancy. Thank you!

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