10 Housing Markets Recovering Most — Are They Bubbles?

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Home prices nationally in the United States currently average just over 1% below their peaks in 2006 and more than 36% above their valleys in 2012. Like all averages, though, there is a wide range between the metropolitan areas doing best and those doing worst.

Among the top performing metros, home prices are around 50% above their 2006 peaks, while among struggling metro areas, home prices remain nearly 45% below their peaks at the same time. Given that, an average of around 1% or so below the break-even line seems about right.

That sharp uptick in home prices, especially in some U.S. cities, is leading to concerns that another housing bubble is being inflated. There is little concern that a national crisis will resurface, but housing prices do seem to be rising. In Nashville, Tennessee, for example, the median sale price of a home rose to more than $250,000 in April, but home sales rose by double digits year over year. That’s not a bubble, yet, but the market seems to be taking a deep breath and getting ready to blow some more air in.

Researchers at HSH.com have used the home price index published quarterly by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to determine how home prices have moved since the housing price collapse began in 2005-2006. The following list includes the 10 U.S. metropolitan areas where current housing prices have reached a new high compared with previous peaks. We’ve included the peak index value, the bottom index value, the current index value, and the current value’s percentage amount above the previous peak.

1. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado
> Peak index value: 277.13
> Bottom index value: 256.94
> Current index value: 425.70
> Amount above peak: 53.61%

2. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
> Peak index value: 270.30
> Bottom index value: 260.73
> Current index value: 403.60
> Amount above peak: 49.32%

3. Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas
> Peak index value: 172.69
> Bottom index value: 165.55
> Current index value: 248.57
> Amount above peak: 43.94%

4. San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, California
> Peak index value: 277.17
> Bottom index value: 215.50
> Current index value: 394.01
> Amount above peak: 42.15%

5. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas
> Peak index value: 201.08
> Bottom index value: 194.74
> Current index value: 285.04
> Amount above peak: 41.75%

6. Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas
> Peak index value: 169.19
> Bottom index value: 161.25
> Current index value: 224.85
> Amount above peak: 41.75%

7. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro, Tennessee
> Peak index value: 225.15
> Bottom index value: 198.41
> Current index value: 288.58
> Amount above peak: 28.17%

8. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
> Peak index value: 181.07
> Bottom index value: 176.78
> Current index value: 227.16
> Amount above peak: 25.45%

9. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
> Peak index value: 216.47
> Bottom index value: 199.37
> Current index value: 265.97
> Amount above peak: 22.87%

10. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
> Peak index value: 289.80
> Bottom index value: 198.67
> Current index value: 354.94
> Amount above peak: 22.48%

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The Home Price Index is a broad measure of the movement of single-family house prices. It has been published by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and precursor agencies since the fourth quarter of 1995.

For each market, the index uses 1990 home prices as a basis. Those dollars are “normalized” to a value of 100 for each market; that is, regardless of the actual dollar cost, the index value for a given market becomes 100. For example, a home price in Allentown, PA in 1990 might have been $65,000; this becomes a base value for Allentown of 100, and changes since then are presented as percentage changes from that initial 100 value.