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States with the strongest housing markets

Matt York / AP

The first home in a new Trend Homes community sits under the Arizona flag in Gilbert, Ariz. Real estate experts say the Phoenix metro housing market is recovering faster than other U.S. cities, bolstered by an upswing in home prices and a decrease in the number of houses on the market.

The housing market is showing signs of a recovery, albeit a halting one. In 10 states, median home prices increased by more than 5.5 percent from July 2011 to July of this year. While there is no single reason why housing markets in these states have done so well, most have several things in common.

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Many of them, like North Dakota and South Dakota, have maintained jobless rates at nationwide lows. In these states, home prices barely dropped when the national housing bubble burst. Since then, home prices in some of have even risen, while the national market plummeted. In these economically stable areas, home prices are expected to continue to move higher, although recoveries are expected to be modest.

However, some of the states with the biggest home price increases were hit particularly hard by the housing collapse. In Florida and Arizona, home prices dropped by nearly 50 percent. In Nevada the drop was nearly 60 percent. In all three states, the recovery is expected to be temporary. Median home value change will lag the national trend in the next year, but will improve over the next five years according to Fiserv.

If the data tell anything, it is that the housing market recovery will continue to be uneven, and will be based to a large extent on what happened to home prices geographically since 2007. Housing markets in the states that exhibited economic strength throughout the recession will continue to improve relative to the national average. States that were broken by high unemployment and sharp drops in home values can expect their recoveries to be difficult, and in many cases, very long.

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To create the list of the 10 states with the strongest housing markets, 24/7 Wall St. relied the Corelogic Home Price Index for the year that ended in July. We also reviewed foreclosure data from RealtyTrac to reflect the extent to which foreclosures rates undermine ongoing recoveries. We obtained home price forecast for the near-term, measured from the first quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013, the first quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014, and the first quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2017 from Fiserv. Median sales prices as of Friday, August 28 are from Trulia. State unemployment as of July 2012 is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Arizona

  • 1 yr. home price change: +16.6 percent
  • Median home price: $248,229
  • Unemployment rate: 8.3 percent (18th highest)

The Arizona real estate market was damaged as badly as any other when the home market collapsed, perhaps with the exception of Nevada. And the pain is not near the end yet, despite ranking first in home price improvement from July 2011 to July 2012. Arizona home prices fell 49.9 percent from the first quarter 2007 to the first quarter 2012. The state continues to have the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country, according to RealtyTrac, with one in every 346 housing units with a foreclosure filing in July. That troubling trend may be why the Arizona’s housing market recovery is expected to be extremely weak, over the shorter and longer term. Home prices are expected to rise only 1.4 percent from the first quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014, which puts Arizona 48th among all states. Over the period from the first quarter of this year to the first quarter of 2017, the improvement is expected to be 2.5 percent per annum -- 39th among all states.

2. Idaho

  • 1 yr. home price change: +10 percent
  • Median home price: $85,000
  • Unemployment rate: 7.5 percent (25th lowest)

Idaho is one of only seven states with a median home price below $100,000. Unlike Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota to the east of it, Idaho did suffer from an unemployment problem. At 7.5 percent, the jobless rate is not terribly better than the national average. This may have contributed to the drop in Idaho home prices, which fell 29.6 percent from the first quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of this year. The home price recovery is expected to be stronger than almost any other state, a continuation of the 10 percent improvement over the past year. For the period from the first quarter 2013 to the first quarter 2014, home prices are expected to rise 8.8 percent -- the highest in the nation. For the five-year period that began in the first quarter of this year, the per annum improvement is expected to be 4.8 percent, which rates Idaho eighth by that measurement.

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3. Utah

  • 1 yr. home price change: +9.3 percent
  • Median home price: $129,000
  • Unemployment rate: 6.0 percent (11th lowest)

The damage to the Utah housing market during 2007 to 2011 was worse than most states -- home prices fell 21.6 percent over that period. That rate Utah 34th among all states based on that measurement. The recovery of the market is predicted to be particularly strong for the next several years, nearly as strong as the 9.3 percent jump in median home price from July 2011 to July 2012. Corelogic expects home prices to rise 5.8 percent from the first quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014, which ranks it 10th among all states on that metric. Over the five years through the first quarter 2017, on a per annum basis, the improvement is forecast to be 3.9 percent, which ranks its 15th among states.

4. South Dakota

  • 1 yr. home price change: +8.3 percent
  • Median home price: $101,700
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4 percent (3rd lowest)

South Dakota, another Plains State, has the same advantage of being home to industries that employ a great many of its residents as its neighbors do. Home prices are 44th among all states. Those prices barely budged when the housing market throughout most of the nation disintegrated. The median price of a home actually rose 3 percent between the first quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of this year. On that basis, South Dakota ranked second among all states. The improvement in the market is only expected to be mediocre moving forward, and certainly nowhere near the 8.3 percent home price increase of last year. Home prices are forecast to rise 4.6 percent from the first quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014. That places its 15th among all states. But the growth rate will moderate considerably for the five years that began in the first quarter of this year. On a per annum basis, home prices are forecast to increase 3.4 percent during that time -- 23rd among all states. 

5. Colorado

  • 1 yr. home price change: +7.3 percent
  • Median home price: $240,000
  • Unemployment rate: 8.3 percent (20th highest)

The Colorado housing market was not badly damaged when the housing bubble broke. Home prices dropped 9.5 percent from the first quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2012, which was the 18th best among all states. The market’s recovery rate will put it in the middle among the 50 states. Colorado home prices are forecast to recover at 3.7 percent between the first quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year, the 22nd-highest increase. Over the longer period from the first quarter of this year until the first quarter of 2017, prices are expected to improve 2.4 percent per annum, which ranks it 42nd.

Click here to read all of 24/7 Wall St.'s States with the strongest housing markets.