Steep jump in improving housing markets

The list of improving U.S. housing markets tracked by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) almost doubled in January 2012 with the addition of 40 new metro areas. The NAHB’s First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) now counts 76 improving markets, up from 41 in December, with 31 states and the District of Columbia represented by at least one entry.

"The fact that the list of improving housing markets nearly doubled this month shows that a significant, positive trend is developing, and is even more relevant when you consider the expanding geographic distribution of the list,” said NAHB chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev.

"While relatively small metropolitan areas continue to dominate the list of improving housing markets, it's important to note that several major metros in diverse parts of the country have now joined the field as well, including such metros as Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Nashville and Philadelphia," added NAHB chief economist David Crowe. "This is an encouraging sign that gradually strengthening economic conditions are starting to take hold across a broader swath of America."

The index identifies metropolitan areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. New entrants to the list in January include the following:

• Florence, Ala.;
• Tuscaloosa, Ala.;
• Fayetteville, Ark.;
• Denver;
• Greeley, Colo.;
• Bridgeport, Conn.;
• New Haven, Conn.;
• Cape Coral, Fla.;
• Jacksonville, Fla.;
• Punta Gorda, Fla.;
• Honolulu;
• Ames, Iowa;
• Des Moines, Iowa;
• Dubuque, Iowa;
• Elkhart, Ind.;
• Indianapolis;
• Lafayette, Ind.;
• Lake Charles, La.;
• Worcester, Mass.;
• Grand Rapids, Mich.;
• Lansing, Mich.;
• Monroe, Mich.;
• Minneapolis;
• Columbia, Mo.;
• Joplin, Mo.;
• Fargo, N.D.;
• Manchester, N.H.;
• Cincinnati;
• Oklahoma City;
• Tulsa, Okla.;
• Corvallis, Ore.;
• Erie, Pa.;
• Philadelphia;
• Chattanooga, Tenn.;
• Clarksville, Tenn.;
• Nashville, Tenn.;
• College Station, Texas;
• Dallas;
• Victoria, Texas; and
• Madison, Wis. 

Only five metropolitan areas dropped from the NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index in January. These included Anchorage, Alaska; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Canton, Ohio; Scranton, Pa.; and Charleston, W.Va. A complete list of all 76 metropolitan areas currently on the IMI is available here