99 Housing Markets Improve in September; Americans More Optimistic



An increasing number of metro areas are experiencing improvements in the housing market, according to a survey released this week.

The National Association of Homebuilders reported the number of U.S. housing markets that are perking up increased to 99 in September, up from 80 improving metro areas in August.

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The NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index uses housing permits (from the U.S. Census Bureau), employment (from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) and house price information (from Freddie Mac) for six back-to-back months to come up with the figures.

Among the 31 new markets are a handful of diverse regions, including:

  • Tucson, Ariz.
  • Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Springfield, Ill.
  • Greenville, N.C.
  • Bend, Ore.

“More metros across the country are experiencing a sustained uptick in house prices, employment and new building activity as rising consumer confidence in local market conditions pushes more people to consider a new-home purchase,” observed NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “That said, overly tight lending conditions for builders and buyers continue to slow this process considerably.”

Hard-hit states Arizona, Florida, and California are represented with 16 markets: four in Arizona, 12 in Florida, and two in California.

“Combined with recent positive reports on builder confidence, housing starts and new-home sales, the September IMI adds to the growing consensus that housing is finally moving in the right direction, which in turn is spurring more potential buyers to get off the fence,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman at First American Title Insurance Company.

A complete list of all 99 metropolitan areas currently on the IMI, and separate breakouts of metros newly added to or dropped from the list in September, is available at www.nahb.org/imi.

Meanwhile, Americans’ optimism about the housing market is growing, according to a separate, just-released Fannie Mae monthly survey of more than 1,000 Americans.

Findings from the survey, taken in August, include:

  • Most of those surveyed expect home prices to rise 1.6 percent in the next year.
  • About 18 percent think now is a good time to sell. That’s the biggest response since the survey started.
  • 73 percent think it’s a good time to buy.
  • The percentage of respondents who say they would buy if they were going to move increased slightly to 67 percent, while 28 percent would rent.
  • About 40 percent expect mortgage rates to rise.

“Consumer attitudes toward the housing market remain modestly positive, despite signs of increased concern over the direction of the economy,” says Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. “While the latest results showed a pickup in the share of consumers expecting mortgage rates to rise, reflecting the uptrend of long-term interest rates since mid-July, that may soon change.”