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Freddie Index Offers Quick Read on U.S., Local Housing Markets

MAR 26, 2014 2:48pm ET
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Home prices have come back, but how strong and for how long? Freddie Mac has created a quick way to get a handle on the national and local housing markets.

On Wednesday the government-sponsored enterprise introduced its Multi-Indicator Market Index, covering all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the top 50 metropolitan areas. The free interactive tool on Freddie's website combines proprietary company data with current local market information such as home purchase application volume, payment-to-income ratios, the proportion of borrowers current on mortgage payments, and the local employment rate.

The McLean, Va., GSE then calculates a score combining these four indicators which assesses where a market stands relative to its own long-term normal range and where it's heading over the next three months.

"MiMi contains current information and provides an overall barometer of the 'well-being' for a local housing market," said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac, on a conference call. "This tool makes it easy to see which of the metrics are improving in a certain market and why it may be weak compared to its historical levels."

The first national MiMi report for January revealed a national value of -3.08 points, which indicates a weak overall housing market. However, compared to a year ago, the score improved by 0.81 percentage points, Freddie Mac said.

The lowest MiMi occurred in November 2010 with a score of -4.49.

Eleven of the 50 states are deemed to be stable and in range with historical averages, the MiMi determined, with North Dakota, the District of Columbia, Wyoming, Alaska and Louisiana rounding out the top five.

No markets had an elevated total score in the January MiMi report relative to historical averages, Nothaft said. Some cities had certain metrics that were elevated, he said.

Meanwhile, four of the 50 metros are stable through January, including San Antonio, Houston, Austin and New Orleans. Additionally, 35 of the 50 metropolitan markets are improving based on their three-month trend, the report says.

"As we enter the spring homebuying season, we hope to see recent trends continue with more markets moving closer to their long-term stable range," said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist for Freddie Mac, in the MiMi January report.

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