When a parking space in Manhattan costs $136,000 and only 15 percent of San Francisco’s homes are affordable for the middle class, it’s easy to worry that another housing bubble is around the corner.
The vast majority of American homeowners have little to fear: A new gauge from Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, Ohio, suggests the national market is in its best shape since 2001 and there’s no reason to fear a national downturn, no less a bursting bubble.
In its first data release, the national Leading Index of Healthy Housing Markets rose to 109.8 in the fourth quarter. Values greater than 100 indicate a robust industry. The index uses local data in 373 metropolitan statistical areas that are underlying drivers of the housing market, including measures on employment changes, demographics and the mortgage market.
When it comes to predicting bubbles, Nationwide’s data is worthy of your attention. It accurately showed signs of unraveling in early 2005, long before the S&P/Case Shiller index of home prices peaked at the end of 2006 .