The nation’s housing markets continued to improve in March, with one more state, Michigan, returning to its historical benchmark level of housing activity, according to Freddie Mac’s Multi-Indicator Market Index (MiMi).
The index, which was introduced last year, measures the overall strength of the housing market based on four indicators: purchase applications, payment-to-income ratios, percent of borrowers current on their mortgages and employment.
As of March, the national index value stood at 83, indicating a housing market that’s on the outer range of its historic benchmark level of housing activity.
The index increased 0.36% from January to February and increased 1.05% from January to March, according to Freddie Mac. On a year-over-year basis, it improved 7.46%.
Since its all-time low in October 2010, the national MiMi has rebounded 40% but remains significantly off from its high of 121.7.
As of the end of March, 35 states plus the District of Columbia had MiMi values within range of their benchmark averages, with the District of Columbia (101.7), North Dakota (95.3), Hawaii (95.2), Montana (94.8) and Utah (94.6) ranking in the top five.
Fifty-nine of the 100 metro areas tracked had MiMi values within range, with Austin, Texas (100.5); Denver (100.8); Salt Lake City (97.7); Honolulu (97.4); and Los Angeles (97.0) ranking in the top five.
States that saw the most improvement month over month in March were Tennessee (+1.93%), Mississippi (+1.46%), Texas (+1.11%), Oregon (+1.08%) and Nevada (+0.91%).
States that saw the most improvement year over year were Colorado (+15.54%), Florida (+15.33%), New Jersey (+14.37%), Oregon (+14.30%) and Nevada (+14.24%).
Metro areas that saw the most improvement month over month were Youngstown, Ohio (+3.55%); Memphis, Tenn. (+2.54%); Jackson, Miss. (+1.82%); Knoxville, Tenn. (+1.58%); and Dallas (+1.43%).
Metro areas that saw the most improvement year over year were Orlando, Fla. (+19.88%); Denver (+19.01%); Tampa, Fla. (+18.36%); Cape Coral, Fla. (+18.07%); and Portland, Ore. (+16.85).
The report shows that the improvement in the housing market is accelerating: In February, 36 states and 68 of the top 100 metros were showing an improving three-month trend, whereas in February 2015, only 21 states and 69 of the top 100 metro areas were showing an improving three-month trend.
“The U.S. housing market is poised to have its best year in a decade,” says Len Kiefer, chief economist for Freddie Mac, in a statement. “The National MiMi currently stands at 83, the highest since September of 2008. And the trends are nearly all positive. Home purchase applications are headed higher, with the National MiMi purchase applications indicator increasing nearly 12 percent from one year ago.”
Kiefer, however, is careful to emphasize that “the mortgage delinquency crisis is not completely behind us.”
Still, “delinquencies are generally trending down, with the National MiMi current on mortgage indicator at 85.5, the highest reading since August 2008,” he says.
An improving job market has led to lower unemployment, and that, in turn, has helped boost the MiMi index score, Kiefer says.
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