SANTA ANA, Calif., Dec. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF), a leading global provider of title insurance and settlement services for real estate transactions, today released the monthly National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI).
This month's NAHB/First American IMI reveals that the number of improving housing markets continued to expand for a fourth consecutive month, rising from 30 in November to 41.
The index identifies metropolitan areas that have shown at least six months of improvement in employment and housing prices as well as an increase in housing permits.
The December list featured 20 new additions, including several major markets such as Washington, D.C., San Jose, Calif., and Toledo, Ohio. Meanwhile, nine smaller markets dropped off the list, primarily due to softer house prices. The following metro areas are new to the list for December:Ann Arbor, Mich. Athens, Ga. Boulder, Colo. Burlington, Vt. Canton, Ohio Charleston, W. Va. Danville, Va. Fort Wayne, Ind. Grand Forks, N.D. Jackson, Miss. Kingsport, Tenn. Laredo, Texas Lincoln, Neb. Muncie, Ind. Muskegon, Mich. San Jose, Calif. Scranton, Pa. Toledo, Ohio Washington, D.C. Winchester, Va. "The increases we continue to see in the number and geographic diversity of improving metros are quite encouraging, and evidence of the fact that all housing markets are dependent on uniquely local factors," said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev. He noted that as of December, a total of 21 states and the District of Columbia are represented on the improving markets list -- up from14 states represented in November. "The continued modest improvement we see across diverse housing markets combined with the recent improvement in unemployment are encouraging signs that the economy may finally be gaining some traction," said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Company. The nine markets that dropped off the IMI in December include Alexandria, La., Fairbanks, Alaska, Hinesville, Ga., Houma, La., Jonesboro, Ark., Lima, Ohio, Pine Bluff, Ark., Sumter, S.C., and Waco, Texas. All but two of these metros fell from the list due to softening house prices. The exceptions to the rule were Jonesboro and Waco, where declines were registered in employment and single-family housing permits, respectively. The total list of improving housing markets in December, as defined by the IMI, includes the following 41 entries (listed alphabetically by state):