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Five markets you wouldn't expect are on road to recovery

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While prospects for the housing market are moderate, at best, several markets are showing signs of improvement — even some that endured the brunt of the crisis. The official website of the National Association of Realtors released a report that found areas generally perceived as in decline, such as Southern California and parts of Florida, are actually on the road to recovery. " 'All real estate is local' is a truism that applies to this local market recovery we're witnessing because critical factors today restoring life to home sales vary greatly from one locale to another," according to NAR's Realtor.com website. The trade group looked at market data to identify its top turnaround cities for the spring home-buying season. The Los Angeles-Long Beach metropolitan area, which was the poster child for the subprime mortgage meltdown, is poised for economic turnaround as homes fly off the market at the fifth-most rapid sales pace nationwide, Realtor.com said. Housing inventory between January and March decreased almost 8% and is up 1.17% from March 2010. Los Angeles was the third-most searched market in the first three months of 2011. San Diego is also recovering from the housing crisis that enveloped California from north to south, and has been for about a year. "The median age of inventory for San Diego listings on the market in March was 79 days, about half the national median, and almost 16% lower than in February," NAR said, adding that San Diego was the 15th most popularly searched MSA on Realtor.com in both February and March. Washington is another improving market. Median listing prices in the nation's capital were up 4.11% in March compared to the year prior, and unemployment remains low. In addition, housing inventory remained stable over the last year rising only 1.08% since March 2010. In November, Washington created a "quasi-judicial" foreclosure process to slow the influx of foreclosure cases around the area. Florida is in the top three states with the highest foreclosure rate, and has been since the housing bubble burst. But Realtor.com said the Fort Myers-Cape Coral metro is seeing improvements in both median listing price and inventory supply. According to the site, prices in March spiked more than 24% compared to the year earlier and inventory is beating the national trend, down 2.47%. "Like much of Florida, Fort Myers-Cape Coral has been plagued by distressed sales and prices have a long way to go to make up for a loss of nearly 60% over the past four years," according to Realtor.com, but that means there is plenty of room for improvement. Austin, Texas, rounds out the five least-expected markets in recovery. Texas didn't experience the worst of the economic downturn. And the Austin-San Marcos MSA leads the nation in job growth. Demand for housing is also particularly strong. Last year Austin was the No. 1 economy for commercial real estate growth. Other markets on the rise this home-buying season include Philadelphia, Colorado Springs, Colo., Boston, Dallas, and Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.

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