The ""National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index"":http://www.nahb.org/reference_list.aspx?sectionID=2223 reached its highest level on record in September with a little more than 80 percent of markets qualifying as ""improving.""[IMAGE]
The index, released Monday, tracks 361 metropolitan areas for improvement in housing permits, employment, and house prices. Markets have to demonstrate improvement in all three areas for six consecutive months to make it on the list.
Of the 291 markets that made it onto the latest Improving Markets Index, 242 were repeats from the previous month, and 49 were new to the list.
Five markets dropped off the list over the past month. Those markets include Kankakee, Illinois; Burlington, North Carolina; Jacksonville, North Carolina; Winston, North Carolina; and Danville, Virginia.[COLUMN_BREAK]
""While there is still plenty of room for growth, this is an excellent indication of how the housing recovery has begun to take hold across more geographical areas,"" ""said Rick Judson, chairman of the NAHB and a home builder from Charlotte, North Carolina.
The NAHB pointed out that markets new to the index this month spanned several regions of the country, including such metros as Macon, Georgia; St. Cloud Minnesota; Brownsville, Texas; Spokane, Washington; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
However, NAHB's chief economist, David Crowe, pointed out that ""[t]he dramatic increase in markets qualifying for the IMI in September was partly due to a recent improvement in the way that Freddie Mac measures home prices."" NAHB relies on Freddie Mac's housing data for its index.
""Even so, the broadened list of metros on the IMI continues to demonstrate the slow but steady gains that individual housing markets are making to bolster the national outlook,"" he added.
In fact, all 50 states have at least one county represented on the index, and 23 states have at least one new market on the index this month.
Salinas, California, outranks all other metros on the index in terms of permit growth from its trough with a 44.2 percent rise.
Phoenix, Arizona, ranked highest for price growth with a 41.5 percent increase from its trough.
Midland, Texas, has experienced the greatest employment growth of any market on the index--a 33.5 percent rise from the market trough.