According to the NAHB/First American Leading Markets Index, markets in 146 of the approximately 340 metro U.S. areas nationwide returned to or exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity in the second quarter of 2016. This represents a year-over-year net gain of 66 markets.
The index's nationwide score ticked up to .97, meaning that based on current permit, price and employment data, the nationwide average is running at 97% of normal economic and housing activity. Meanwhile, 91% of markets have shown an improvement year over year.
"This gradual uptick is in line with NAHB's forecast for a slow but steady recovery of the housing market," said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady. "With a strengthening economy, solid job growth and low mortgage interest rates, the market should continue on an upward trajectory throughout the rest of the year."
"Among the LMI components, house prices are making the most far-reaching progress, with almost 97% of markets having returned to or exceeded their last normal levels. Meanwhile, 78 metros have reached or exceeded normal employment activity," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "Single-family permits have edged up to 50% of normal activity, but remain the sluggish element of the index."
"More than 85 percent of all metros saw their Leading Markets Index rise over the quarter, a signal that the overall housing market continues to move forward," said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Company, which co-sponsors the LMI report.
Baton Rouge, La., continues to top the list of major metros on the LMI, with a score of 1.61 - or 61% better than its last normal market level. Other major metros leading the list include Austin, Texas; Honolulu; and San Jose, Calif. Rounding out the top 10 are Houston; Provo, Utah; Spokane, Wash.; Nashville, Tenn.; Los Angeles; and Oklahoma City.
Among smaller metros, both Odessa and Midland, Texas, have LMI scores of 2.0 or better, meaning that their markets are now at double their strength prior to the recession. Also at the top of that group are Manhattan, Kansas; Walla Walla, Wash.; and Grand Forks, N.D.; respectively.