The number of improving housing markets continued to expand for a sixth consecutive month to a total of 259 metropolitan areas on the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) for February, released recently. This is up from 242 markets listed as improving in January, and includes entrants from all 50 states and the District of the Columbia.
The IMI identifies metro areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. A total of 20 new metros were added to the list and three were dropped from it this month. Newly added metros include such geographically diverse locations as Rome, Ga.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Racine, Wis.
"The fact that all 50 states now have at least one metro on the improving list shows that the housing recovery has substantial momentum and continues to expand from one market to the next," said 2013 NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. "Of course, there is still much room for improvement in metros that have not yet been listed as well as those that have, and we know that a key factor slowing this progress is today's overly stringent mortgage standards that are keeping qualified buyers on the sidelines."
"Just over 70 percent of the 361 metros covered by the IMI are listed as improving this month," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "That's a far cry from when we initiated this index with just 12 improving metros in September of 2011 for the purpose of highlighting places that didn't fit the mold of the national headlines. Today, the story is about how widespread the recovery has become as conditions steadily improve in markets nationwide."
"The continued expansion of improving housing markets in February should help convince those who have been considering a home purchase that now is the time to go forward with those plans," said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Company.
The IMI is designed to track housing markets throughout the country that are showing signs of improving economic health. The index measures three sets of independent monthly data to get a mark on the top improving Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The three indicators that are analyzed are employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price appreciation from Freddie Mac and single-family housing permit growth from the U.S. Census Bureau. NAHB uses the latest available data from these sources to generate a list of improving markets. A metropolitan area must see improvement in all three measures for at least six consecutive months following those measures' respective troughs before being included on the improving markets list.
A complete list of all 259 metropolitan areas currently on the IMI, and separate breakouts of metros newly added to or dropped from the list in February, is available at www.nahb.org/imi.