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housing_market_concept_blocksHousing markets in 52 out of the approximately 350 metro areas nationwide have now returned to or exceeded their pre-recessionary levels of activity, according to the newly minted National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI), released recently.

The index’s nationwide score of .85 indicates that, based on current permits, prices and employment data, the nationwide housing market is running at 85 percent of normal activity.

Baton Rouge, La., tops the list of major metros on the LMI, with a score of 1.41 – or 41 percent better than its last normal market level. Other major metros at the top of the list include Honolulu, Oklahoma City, Austin and Houston, Texas, as well as Harrisburg, Pa. – all of whose LMI scores indicate that their housing markets now exceed previous norms.

Looking at smaller metros, both Odessa and Midland, Texas, boast LMI scores of 2.0 or better, meaning that their housing markets are now at double their strength prior to the recession. Also at the top of the list of smaller metros are Casper, Wyo.; Bismarck, N.D.; and Florence, Ala., respectively.

“This index helps illustrate how far the U.S. housing recovery has come, and also how much further it has to go as we continue to face some significant headwinds in terms of credit availability, rising costs for lots and labor, and uncertainties regarding Washington policymaking,” says NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C.

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