The March NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index stands at 99 markets or over one-quarter of all metropolitan areas. The index measures improvement in three aspects: employment, single-family building permits and home prices. To make the list, a metropolitan area must see improvement in all three indicators for six or more months.
At 99, the March index added 31 metropolitan areas to the 68 that remained from the February list but lost 30 metro areas primarily because of weaker house prices. In those 30 areas, home prices had moved forward by 2.6% since their trough while the areas that remained on the list had an average 4.7% increase since their respective troughs. Small declines placed the 30 area back below their previous trough.
Four metro areas (Anchorage AK, Washington DC, Jackson MS and Iowa City IA) that fell off the list in the past made it back on in less than six months because the employment data was revised by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the previous drop was eliminated.
Two-thirds of the states have at least one metro on the list and they are geographically spread across the country. A complete list and the change in each indicator can be found at www.nahb.org/imi. Texas leads the states with 12 metro areas, followed by 9 in Florida and 8 in Michigan.
The index highlights markets that are improving, some because the underlying damage was not as severe and some because their bottom has been so far from normal that home buyers and investors are finding bargains are available.