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Improving Markets Index Touches New High in October

The number of markets listed on the ""National Association of Home Builders"":http://www.nahb.org/default.aspx (NAHB) and ""First American Title's"":http://www.firstam.com/index.html Improving Markets Index (IMI) broke the triple-digit mark in October, NAHB reported.

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The index identifies metro areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment, and house prices for at least six straight months. A total of 103 housing markets across the country qualified for the list in October, up from 99 in September and the highest level since the list started a year ago, NAHB said. At its October level, the number of qualifying markets approaches nearly 10 times the number from when the index was first created.

The markets on the list represent metros from 33 different states and the District of Columbia. NAHB noted that 11 new housing markets received the ""improving"" designation in October, while seven slipped off the list. Ninety-two metros retained their spots.

Markets added to the October list include Santa Cruz, California; Pocatello, Idaho; Abilene, Texas; and Savannah, Georgia.

The metro areas included in September's index but absent in October's were: Jacksonville and Lakeland, both in Florida; Lawton, Oklahoma; Bloomington, Indiana; Bend, Oregon; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Texarkana, Texas.

Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman at First American, remarked that the index's improvement should signal to potential buyers that the time to purchase is now.

""The expansion of the improving markets list to more than 100 metros marks an important milestone on the road to recovery,"" Pfotenhauer said. ""For potential buyers across the country, it is becoming increasingly apparent that now is a good time to explore a new-home purchase.""

However, NAHB chief economist David Crowe said that restrictive credit conditions are limiting buyers' options and hampering further growth in the improvement index.

""The fact that most markets are maintaining their spots on the improving list from month to month is an important indication that the recovery trend is solidifying,"" Crowe said. ""At the same time, overly tight credit conditions are certainly constraining consumer's ability to purchase homes as well as builders' ability to construct them.""

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