Fifty-six of the 350 metro areas surveyed by the NAHB have returned to “normal” or exceeded their historical averages, according to the group’s latest survey.

The figures come from the National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index.

The index score rose to 0.89, which means that housing activity is currently at 89 percent of normal. Seventy-eight percent of markets showed an improvement from the previous year.

"Things are gradually improving," said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del. "As the job market grows, we expect to see a steady release of pent up demand of home buyers."

NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said there is a lot of good news in the latest report.

"With the national tally only reaching 43 percent of normal, single-family housing permits continue to be the lagging component of the index," Crowe said. "The big bright spot is employment, where the number of metro areas having reached or exceeded their norms grew from 26 to 46 in a year."

Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of report co-sponsor First American Title Insurance Co., said there are several cities that can be considered healthy. These include Baton Rouge, La.; Honolulu; Oklahoma City; and Austin, Texas.

"In the 22 metros where permits are at or above normal, the overall index indicates that these markets have fully recovered," Pfotenhauer said. "This finding shows the impact that an uptick in permits can have on the overall health of markets."

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