"Housing markets across the nation
are continuing their slow and steady climb back to normal levels," National
Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Rick Judson said today. Judson announced that the NAHB/First American
Title Insurance Leading Markets Index hit .87 this month, indicating that the nation
is now running at about 87 percent of normal economic and housing
activity. In addition, 58 metropolitan
areas made the NAHB list of leading markets, meaning they have returned to or
exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity.
The Leading Markets Index is based on
data from the U.S. Census, Freddie Mac, and the Department of Labor Statistics
on permits for housing construction, home prices, and employment. More than 350 metro areas are scored by
taking their average number for each of the three types of information over the
previous 12 months and dividing each by their annual average over the last
period of normal growth; 2000-2003 for single-family permits and home prices,
and 2007 for employment. The national
score is calculated based on national measures of the three metrics.
NAHB says the index serves to identify
those areas that are now approaching and/or exceeding their previous normal
levels of economic and housing activity. There are two more metro areas on this month's
list than last and the nationwide score is up from .86 January.
The highest score on the index for major
markets was for Baton Rouge at 1.41.
This indicates that the area is performing 41 percent above its last normal
market level. Other major metros at the top of the list include Honolulu,
Oklahoma City, Austin and Houston, as well as Harrisburg and Pittsburgh - all
of whose LMI scores indicate that their market activity now exceeds previous
Looking at smaller metros, both Odessa and Midland, Texas, boast LMI scores of
2.0 or better, putting them at more than double their strength prior to the
recession. Also at the top of the list of smaller metros are Bismarck, North Dakota;
Casper, Wyoming; and Grand Forks, North Dakota, respectively.
"Firming home prices are hastening
the return of normal economic and housing activity in an increasing number of
markets," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "The healthiest
markets continue to be centered in smaller metros that boast strong local
economies, particularly in the oil and gas producing states of Texas, North
Dakota, Louisiana and Wyoming."
"We are pleased about the continued market trends, highlighted by the fact
that eighty-five percent of all metropolitan areas have shown signs of
improvement over the past year," said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of
First American Title Insurance Co., which co-sponsors the LMI report.
The improving market levels are good
news for the housing industry Judson says.
"As employment and consumer confidence slowly improves, this is
spurring pent-up demand among potential buyers."