The collapse of the U.S. housing market about seven years ago was a major factor in plunging the nation and much of the world into the Great Recession. But real estate prices are now recovering, along with the rest of the economy.
A report by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI) found that during the first quarter of this year, 68 of the estimated 360 metro area markets in the U.S. have either returned to, or have exceeded, their prerecession levels of economic and housing activity. It also found that 68 percent of these areas have shown year-over-year improvement.
"The markets are continuing to make gains," NAHB Chairman Tom Woods said in a press statement. "A strengthening economy and low interest rates should spur the release of pent-up demand and keep housing moving forward this year."
That pent-up demand has also pushed housing prices in some states to unexpectedly high levels. FindTheHome.com has published a guide to the most expensive states for buying a home using data from its real estate market trends to determine median home sale prices in each state. The rankings used reflect median home prices as of January 2015, although FindTheHome now has data as of February.
Median home price: $227,668
Utah's economy has come bounding back from the recession. A recent report from industry research group MetroStudy notes that, despite last year's slowdown, the Salt Lake City market "remains one of the healthiest in the country." And the Bank of Utah reports record growth in the volume of new residential construction loans in the state.
Median sales prices for homes in Utah have risen 1.19 percent in the last year.
Utah homes' January median sales price of $227,668 placed the state at No. 11. Home values in Utah are expected to appreciate faster than most states in the U.S., with a one-year price forecast of 6.90 percent, compared to the national average of 4.45 percent.
FindTheHome also rates the health of Utah's real estate market at 66 out of a possible 100, a fairly typical score.
Median home price: $230,250
The median sales price for homes in Delaware has risen 7.09 percent in the last year. Brokers say the number of transactions, along with average prices, has been steadily rising.
"We're not back to the 2005-2006 prices, but we're definitely creeping along," Barbara Morales, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Rehoboth Beach, recently told DelmarvaNow.com. "All the arrows are pointing up."
Delaware homes' January median sales price of $230,250 is above the U.S. average of $180,000. They're expected to appreciate at a slower rate than in most other states, with an one-year price increase of 2.94 percent vs. 4.45 percent for the U.S. overall.
FindTheHome ranks the health of Delaware's real estate market at a 51 out of a possible 100, or slightly below the average for most states.
Median home price: $245,000
Rising consumer confidence, coupled with the economic recovery, is creating heavy demand for homes in Washington state, leading to a record number of pending sales in the state's western part.
"Long building pent-up demand is being unleashed," Ken Anderson, the managing broker and owner of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympia Realty, told the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NMLS).
Median sale prices for homes in Washington have risen 8.89 percent in the last year. "We are still very clearly in the midst of a seller's market and unless we see a significant increase in listings, it will remain that way for the foreseeable future," OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate, told NMLS.
The state's January median sale price of $245,000 ranked No. 9 nationally. Washington homes are expected to appreciate at a higher rate than in most other states, with a one-year price forecast of 7.15 percent vs. 4.45 percent in the U.S. overall.
FindTheHome rates the health of Washington's real estate market at 62 out of a possible 100.
Median home price: $25o,000
According to a recent CoreLogic housing price survey, Colorado was one of top five states for year-over-year home price appreciation. And this past February, Colorado prices rose faster than in any other state.
"This is the hottest home-price appreciation prior to the spring-selling season in nine years," Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic, recently told the Denver Post.
The median sales price for homes in Colorado has risen 11.11 percent in the last year.
Colorado ranked eighth in January median price, at $250,000. And with a one-year increase forecast at 5.37 percent, the state's home values are expected to appreciate more rapidly than in the country overall, at 4.45 percent.
FindTheHome rates the health of Colorado's real estate market at an 85 out of a possible 100, a relatively high score compared to other states.
Median home price: $261,250
Despite pressure on the state's crucial oil industry from the global tumble of oil prices, a low housing inventory, combined with low interest rates, low unemployment and rising demand have all heated up Alaska's housing market.
The median sales price for homes in Alaska has risen 8.85 percent in the last year. "The demand outstrips the supply," Anchorage real estate agent Niel Thomas told the Alaska Dispatch. "There aren't as many homes for sale as we consider normal in this market."
Alaska homes' $261,250 ranked seventh-highest in January median sale price, with a one-year price increase forecast at 6.52 percent vs. 4.45 percent on average nationally.
FindTheHome rates the health of Alaska's real estate market at 100 out of a possible 100, giving it the highest health rating of all states.
6. New Jersey
Median home price: $275,000
While still nowhere near their prerecession, housing-bubble highs, Garden State home prices are again creeping upward, Zillow reports. Thanks to an improving economy and pent-up demand, houses are especially in demand in the parts of New Jersey closest to New York City -- causing many would-be homeowners to look elsewhere.
"Many businesses and residents are now getting priced out of those areas, so the developers are looking for new locations," Al Santos, mayor of Kearny, a suburb of Newark, told NJ.com.
The median sales price for homes in New Jersey has risen 5.77 percent in the last year, reaching $275,000 in January, the sixth-highest of all U.S. states.
Home values in New Jersey are expected to grow at 3.45 percent, just less than the U.S. average of 4.45 percent. FindTheHome rates the health of New Jersey's real estate market at a relatively low 36 out of a possible 100.
Median home price: $312,250
The median sales price for homes in Massachusetts has risen 5.85 percent in the last year. And realtors say despite this past winter's historic snowfalls, they're currently seeing a lot of springtime house-hunting activity.
"This indicates that there are motivated buyers and sellers out there," Timothy Warren Jr., CEO of The Warren Group, told the Boston Herald in April, "and they are both eager to make deals happen."
At $312,250 in January, Massachusetts homes had the fifth-highest median sale price. Home values in the Bay State are expected to appreciate more rapidly than most other states, with a one-year price increase forecast at 5.34 percent, compared to the average national rate of 4.45 percent.
FindTheHome gives Massachusetts a housing market health rating of 75 out of a possible 100.
4. New York
Median home price: $317,191
While New York City and its suburbs are notorious for their high-priced real estate, housing prices elsewhere in the Empire State are also benefiting from the economic recovery. The median sales price has risen 24.39 percent in the last year.
"While there is a good selection of homes available throughout the state, inventory levels will bear watching as the market faces the traditional seasonal increase in buyer demand," Duncan MacKenzie, CEO of the New York State Association of Realtors, said in a statement last month. "The combination of sales growth and a lag in the number of newly listed homes continues to keep inventory levels hovering near a nine-year low."
New York homes have the fourth-highest median sale price, at $317,191 in January. The state's home values are expected to grow at a relatively slow 3.28 percent, compared to the 4.45 percent U.S. national average.
FindTheHome rates the health of New York's real estate market at 69 out of a possible 100, a fairly typical score.
Median home price: $360,000
The economic uncertainty of California's historic drought doesn't appear to have put a dent in the state's real estate market. In fact, the Los Angeles Times describes Southern California's housing market as "awakening from a slumber" after years of sluggish demand, thanks in part to an improving economy and a smaller inventory of available homes.
The median sales price for homes in California has risen 3.75 percent in the last year.
At $360,000 in January, California homes have the third-highest median sale price of all U.S. states. Home prices in the Golden State are projected to appreciate at a rate of 10.66 percent, one of the highest in the country, compared to the national average of 4.45 percent.
FindTheHome rates the health of California's real estate market 91 out of a possible 100, a very high score.
Median home price: $430,000
Hawaii is known for having real estate costs well above mainland norms, but prices have been climbing even further lately on Maui, the Big Island of Hawaii and elsewhere.
"The Honolulu real estate market really heated up in April," Honolulu Board of Realtors President Jack Legal said in a statement quoted by Pacific Business News. "Although the inventory of single-family homes and condos is slowly improving, demand continues to outpace supply."
The median sales price for homes in Hawaii has risen 2.38 percent in the last year, giving Hawaii homes the second-highest median sale price of all U.S. states, at $430,000 in January. Home values are expected to grow at a rate of 5.25 percent, or close to the national average of 4.45 percent.
FindTheHome rates the health of Hawaii's real estate market at 90 out of a possible 100, a very high score.
1. District of Columbia
Median home price: $459,498
OK, it's not a state. But D.C.'s homes had a January median sales price that trumped all 50 states. And according to the Washington Post, home prices in the District of Columbia have tripled over the past 15 years.
Home values in the nation's capital are expected to grow at 5.23 percent, just ahead of the national average of 4.45 percent.
The median sales price for homes in District of Columbia has risen 2.11 percent in the last year, and FindTheHome rates the health of D.C.'s real estate market at 75 out of a possible 100.