Month-by-month economists and prospective buyers of homes for sale nationwide have seen improvements to many housing market factors including home prices while mortgage rates have extended affordability for those refinancing or first-time buyers. The latest Improving Markets Index from the National Association of Home Builders/First American for the month of March revealed the list grew to include 15 markets from the February IMI.
According to the report, the list has grown for the seventh straight month as of March and currently includes 274 metropolitan areas, with representation form all 50 states in addition to the District of Columbia. While 34 markets were added, 19 were dropped. The diversity of the areas indicates that more parts of the country are noticing improvements to local housing markets, with the addition of cities including Santa Barbara, California; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Birmingham, Alabama and Bloomington, Indiana.
February was the first month in which every state was represented by a minimum of one metro, as noted by Rick Judson, NAHB chairman. He went on to mention that residents of communities nationwide are likely becoming more active as economic improvements have provided additional job opportunities, and further growth expected this year will add to application levels and sales.
Lending requirements still too tight for many applicants
It is still widely believed that strict lending standards are preventing many qualified applicants from getting approved for mortgages, but these restrictions are anticipated to becomes less challenging in coming months.
"With just over 75 percent of the 361 metros covered by the IMI now seen as improving, the housing market is on considerably more solid footing than it was at this time last year," said David Crowe, chief economist of NAHB. "While we expect this positive momentum to continue, it's important to understand that many markets are just beginning the recovery process, and that numerous issues – from credit availability to the rising cost of building materials and emerging lot shortages - are slowing the pace of that advancement."
While national reports can provide important information about housing trends, prospective buyers are urged to work with a local real estate agent, as average mortgage rates and home prices can vary greatly in comparison to national averages and medians.