Each month, Trulia
's Housing Barometer
charts how quickly the housing market is moving back to "normal." We summarize three key housing market indicators: construction starts (Census
), existing home sales (NAR
) and the delinquency-plus-foreclosure rate (LPS First Look
). For each indicator, we compare this month's data to (1) how bad the numbers got at their worst and (2) their pre-bubble "normal" levels. In December 2012, construction starts jumped dramatically, while home sales and the delinquency-plus-foreclosure rate remained near their strong November levels:
Construction starts leaped to a 54-month high in December.
Starts were at a 954,000 annualized rate, up 12% month-over-month and up 37% year-over-year. That's the highest level since June 2008. Looking at all of 2012, starts were up 28% compared with 2011, led by construction in Texas and the Carolinas
and by a rebound in multi-unit building construction. Construction starts are now 47% of the way back to normal.
Existing home sales slipped slightly in December.
Sales dropped 1% to 4.94 million -- still the second-highest level since November 2009. That puts sales 68% back to normal. Year-over-year, sales were up 13%. The better news is that "distressed" sales (foreclosures
and short sales
) represent a declining share of overall sales. Excluding distressed sales, "conventional" home sales
were up 26% year-over-year in December.
The delinquency-plus-foreclosure rate held steady.
In December, 10.61% of mortgages
were delinquent or in foreclosure, down a hair from 10.63% in November. The combined delinquency-plus-foreclosure rate is at its lowest level in four years and is 41% back to normal.
Averaging these three back-to-normal percentages together, the housing market
is now 52% of the way back to normal, compared with 27% in December 2011. In just the past three months, Trulia's Housing Barometer has jumped 11 points, from 41% in September 2012 to 52% in December 2012. However, the recovery is uneven: In some of the healthiest markets
, such as Houston
, San Francisco
, and Raleigh, N.C.
, construction is above normal levels and there are few foreclosures left to come. At the same time, in Miami
, and Riverside
, Calif., construction remains far below normal and there are many foreclosures in the pipeline; in those markets, the recovery is still an uphill climb.
Jed Kolko is the chief economist for online listings site Trulia. This article originally appeared on the Trulia Trends blog.
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