The U.S. housing market is at its healthiest level since 2001, according to a new index from economists at insurer Nationwide who evaluated the housing market nationally and for 373 metropolitan areas.
Housing markets in the vast majority of metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, are healthy, according to the index, with the healthiest being in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Philadelphia and the least healthy in Bismarck, N.D. and Atlantic City, N.J.
The inaugural Nationwide Health of Housing Markets Report (The HoHM Report) report finds that the current leading national indicator score is 109.8, a modest increase from the 108.7 score for the fourth quarter of 2014 and the highest level since 2001, which is the earliest date for which data is available. An index value over 100 suggests the national housing market is healthy, with lower chances of a housing downturn over the next year as the index moves increasingly above the 100 breakeven value, according to Nationwide.
The report indicates that the housing markets in the vast majority of MSAs are healthy, signaling that few regional housing markets are vulnerable to a housing downturn in the next year.
Also, while almost all local housing markets are healthy, about 25 percent worsened over the past year. Still, slightly more improved than worsened.
Nationwide’s experts used fourth quarter 2014 data to determine the index level, capturing statistics for employment, the mortgage market and house price growth components. In the latest period, household formations rose at a faster pace, but a continued tight mortgage-lending environment persists as an impediment to even stronger national housing activity.
Other results from the index:
- The Top 10 MSAs in the initial index are in order: Pittsburgh; Cleveland-Elyria; Philadelphia; Rockford, Ill; Burlington, N.C.; Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa; Fayetteville-Springdale, Ark.-Mo; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Tulsa, Okla.; and Kennewick-Richland, Wash.
- The Bottom 10 MSAs in order are: Bismarck, N.D.; Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J.; New Orleans-Metairie; Lafayette, La; Casper, Wyo; Ocean City, N.J.; Austin-Round Rock; Monroe, La.; Dallas-Plano-Irving; and Houston, Texas.
- Showing the most improvement in the past year were in order: Elmira, N.Y.; Ithaca, N.Y.; Erie, Pa.; Decatur, Ill.; Johnstown, Pa.; Danville, Ill.; Bowling Green, Ky.; Flint, Mich.; Clarkston, Tenn.; and Anniston-Oxford, Ala.
- Weakening the most in the past year in order were: Bismarck, N.D.; Bellingham, Wash.; Roanoke, Va.; Bloomington, Ind; Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J.; Rapid City, S.D.; Wheeling, W.V.; Gainesville, Fla.; Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa; and Ocean City, N.J.
“Unlike most other housing indices or surveys, the HoHM Report provides a look into the future instead of the rearview mirror,” said David Berson, Nationwide’s chief economist and senior vice president. “The quarterly report should serve as a resource to gauge how healthy housing markets are today but, perhaps more important, what to expect in the future and why.”
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