BOSTON (MainStreet) -- The U.S. real estate market continues to struggle, but some cities actually saw housing booms of sorts over the past year.

Consider Fort Myers/Cape Coral, Fla.
Long the poster child for Florida's housing bust, Fort Myers/Cape Coral, Fla.'s median list prices soared more than 20% during 2011's first 11 months.

Long the poster child for Florida's housing bust, the Gulf Coast community's median list prices soared more than 20% during 2011's first 11 months as investors grabbed low-cost homes, according to Realtor.com.

"Like many Florida markets, Fort Myers has experienced a large increase in investor activity, which has driven down inventories and put a floor under prices," says Paul Bishop of the National Association of Realtors, which operates Realtor.com. "As the rest of the national economy stabilizes and picks up, vacation buyers will also look to snap up bargains."

Here's a look at 2011's five best U.S. housing markets, based on increases in Realtor.com's median list prices for each community between January to November of 2010 and January to November of this past year:

Fifth-best market: San Antonio, Texas
Median 2011 price gain: 4.05%
San Antonio's housing benefited from strong population growth, a below-average foreclosure rate and some of the nation's best job gains in 2011.

Manpower Group recently predicted the city will have the best employment increases of any major U.S. metropolitan area during the fourth quarter, with health care and bioscience jobs leading the way.

"More than half of the recent job growth has been in health care -- a stable sector that attracts professionals and skilled workers from all areas of the country," Bishop says. "With strong population growth and gains in employment, household formation in San Antonio has continued at a solid pace."

That helped push the city's median list price up to $169,500 during 2011's first 11 months -- a 4.05% gain from the same 2010 period.

Fourth-best market: Fort Wayne, Ind.
Median 2011 price gain: 5.11%
Fort Wayne's median list price rose more than 5% during 2011's first 11 months, hitting $105,000. Bishop attributes the gains to a combination of affordable home prices and an improving employment picture.

"Fort Wayne is recovering from a significant recession, but has managed to see tally job growth in the past few months," he says. "The unemployment rate is on par with the national average, but the metro area has performed better than the state overall in generating new jobs."

The community, which ranked ninth on Realtor.com's third-quarter list of "Top 10 Turnaround Cities," has also seen an improving foreclosure picture.

The number of foreclosed Fort Wayne homes listed for sale on Realtor.com dropped 19% over the past year, with asking prices on bank-owned homes rising 6.5% due to strong demand and falling supply.

Third-best market: Washington, D.C.
Median 2011 price gain: 5.16% (city), 5.11% (Virginia suburbs)
Median list prices rose more than 5% during 2011's first 11 months in the District of Columbia and Washington's Virginia suburbs.

Median asking prices increased to $369,900 in the District, while Virginia suburbs saw the typical list price rise to $332,970.

Bishop attributes the gains to Washington's large base of federal government jobs.

"The federal government and contractors provide a stable, well-paying block of jobs that has allowed D.C. to weather the recession better than most areas," he says. "Rents have also risen strongly, pushing some households to purchase their first home either in the District or in one of the nearby suburbs. "

Second-best market: Shreveport/Bossier City, La.
Median 2011 price gain: 7.01%
This northwest Louisiana community's median list price increased to $168,000 during 2011's first 11 months.

Bishop cites "better-than-average job growth, especially in higher-wage sectors such as manufacturing, mining/energy and construction. Homes remain affordable and with an unemployment rate of just over 6%, the areas has attracted job seekers from other areas of the country."

Historically an oil-and-gas powerhouse, Shreveport /Bossier City has become a tourism and gambling mecca in recent years, with five riverboat casinos and one racetrack. The local economy also benefits from the presence of nearby Barksdale Air Force Base, which has some 9,000 employees.

>>St. Joe's Field of Dreams

Best market: Fort Myers/Cape Coral, Fla.
Median 2011 price gain: 20.7%
Fort Myers/Cape Coral saw prices drop more than 60% during the housing bust, but has since begun a rebound.

Foreclosure filings are down, median list prices hit $174,900 in 2011's first 11 months and real estate investors are pouring in.

"Underlying all of this is a modest increase in employment and a decline in the unemployment level -- although it's still above 10%," Bishop says.

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