National Association Of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index Expands From 30 Metropolitan Areas In November To 41 In December

Twenty New Markets Join the List, including Washington, D.C., Toledo, Ohio, San Jose, Calif., and Boulder, Colo.

December 6, 2011, Santa Ana, Calif.,

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):

Anchorage, Alaska

San Jose, Calif.

Boulder, Colo.

Fort Collins, Colo.

Washington, D.C.

Athens, Ga.

Davenport, Iowa

Waterloo, Iowa

Kankakee, Ill.

Fort Wayne, Ind.

Muncie, Ind.

Monroe, La.

New Orleans, La.

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Muskegon, Mich.

Jackson, Miss.

Fayetteville, N.C.

Winston-Salem, N.C.

Bismarck, N.D.

Grand Forks, N.D.

Lincoln, Neb.

Canton, Ohio

Toledo, Ohio

Pittsburgh, Pa.

Scranton, Pa.

Williamsport, Pa.

Kingsport, Tenn.

Amarillo, Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas

Laredo, Texas

McAllen, Texas

Midland, Texas

Odessa, Texas

Sherman, Texas

Tyler, Texas

Danville, Va.

Winchester, Va.

Burlington, Vt.

Charleston, W.V.

Casper, Wyo.

Cheyenne, Wyo.

"The December IMI results are very much in keeping with the latest government housing data and our own builder surveys, which have shown modest signs of improvement in certain individual markets where employment is gaining and distressed properties are not as numerous," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "These gradual improvements are now becoming evident not just in small, energy-producing metros that have previously dominated the IMI, but also in several larger markets and areas with more diverse economies."

The IMI is designed to track housing markets throughout the country that are showing signs of improving economic health. The index measures three sets of independent monthly data to get a mark on the top improving Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The three indicators that are analyzed are employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price appreciation from Freddie Mac and single-family housing permit growth from the U.S. Census Bureau. NAHB uses the latest available data from these sources to generate a list of improving markets. A metro area must see improvement in all three areas for at least six months following their respective troughs before being included on the improving markets list.

Please visit www.nahb.org/imi for additional data, tables and a list of 2011 future economic release dates.

Editor’s Note: The NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) is released on the fourth business day of each month at 10:00 a.m. ET, unless that day falls on a Friday, in which case, the index will be released the following Monday. A full calendar of 2011 release dates can be found at www.nahb.org/imi.

About First American
First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF)is a leading provider of title insurance and settlement services to the real estate and mortgage industries, that traces its heritage back to 1889. First American and its affiliated companies also provide title plant management services; title and other real property records and images; valuation products and services; home warranty products; property and casualty insurance; and banking, trust and investment advisory services. With revenues of $3.9 billion in 2010, the company offers its products and services directly and through its agents and partners in all 50 states and abroad. More information about the company can be found at www.firstam.com.

About NAHB
The National Association of Home Builders is a Washington-based trade association representing more than 160,000 members involved in home building, remodeling, multifamily construction, property management, subcontracting, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing and other aspects of residential and light commercial construction. NAHB is affiliated with 800 state and local home builders associations around the country. NAHB's builder members will construct about 80 percent of the new housing units projected for this year.

 

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