The list of improving housing markets posted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and First American Title took a huge jump in January, increasing from the 201 markets listed in December to 242.  The list now includes at least one metropolitan area in each of 48 states and the District of Columbia.  Forty-seven new metropolitan areas were added to the list while six were dropped.

The NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) lists metro areas which have shown improvement from their post crisis troughs in each of three economic areas for six consecutive months.  These benchmark elements are housing permits (from Census Bureau data), house prices (measured by Freddie Mac) and employment (as provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.).

Newly added metros include such geographically diverse locations as Los Angeles, Auburn, Alabama; Des Moines, Iowa; Nashville, Richmond, Virginia.; and Cleveland.  Cities dropped included Montgomery, Alabama and Lima, Ohio

"We created the improving markets list in September of 2011 to spotlight individual metros where -- contrary to the national headlines -- housing markets were on the mend," noted NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg.  "Today, 242 out of 361 metros nationwide appear on that list, including representatives from almost every state in the country. The story is no longer about exceptions to the rule, but about the growing breadth of the housing recovery even as overly strict mortgage requirements hold back the pace of improvement."

"The IMI has almost doubled in the past two months as stronger demand during prime home buying season boosted prices across a broader number of metropolitan areas," noted NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Similar home price gains, and hence the IMI, may be tempered in the future as we see data from typically slower months for home sales."

"Potential home buyers should be encouraged by the positive momentum in home prices, permitting and employment that is increasingly evident in not just isolated housing markets, but a broadening swath of the country," added Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Company.