The latest sales numbers from the nation's multiple listing services are in, and housing is looking good.
As of May 1, only nine of the 100 core-based statistical areas (CBSAs) with more than 500 sales in the previous three months saw prices decline. The other 91 booked higher prices -- some quite significantly.
Overall, according to data supplied by Pro Teck Valuation Services of Waltham, Mass., the average mean price of the hundred most active CBSAs was up almost 12 percent from the same period a year ago. CBSAs are defined as "micropolitan" areas of at least 10,000 people who are tied to an urban center by commuting.
The average median nationally as of May 1 was $212,869. At the same time last year, it was $190,278.
But throw those numbers out with the morning trash. Since all real estate is local, the national median is useful only as a headline. What's more important to buyers and sellers -- and even owners -- is knowing whether the real estate market is rising or falling where they live.
Much more valuable in gauging the path of house prices is price per square foot, which is the great equalizer. Whereas other measures are often influenced by an unusually high number of sales at one end of the price spectrum or the other, the median price per square foot evens things out.
By normalizing for swings in the type and price of houses sold, the price per square foot -- or PPSF -- represents a truer market snapshot and is a better way by which all houses can be judged against one another.
That alone makes Pro Teck's figures more meaningful. And giving them ever greater credence is the fact that they are the most recent.
Whereas other measures you might read or hear about are often up to six months old, the numbers supplied to this column by the Massachusetts valuation company are collected from the country's 850 multiple list services and updated daily. You can't get much more current than that.
With that as a backdrop, let's take a peek at what's happening in selected places around the country.
The latest leader in the quarterly price dance is Atlanta. The median PPSF of a house sold in the last three months in the Atalanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta CBSA jumped 41 percent, from $46.64 a year ago to $65.74, while the median price rose 43 percent, from $95,000 to $136,000.
Atlanta's PPSF numbers compare quite favorably to the national average median, which was $115.91 per square foot as of May 1, an increase of nearly 11 percent from a year ago.
Detroit was another big gainer. The median PPSF there rose almost 33 percent, from $38.30 to $50.79, the lowest PPSF of the hundred most active markets.
Of the eight next best-performing CBSAs, one is in Arizona, another is in Florida, two are in Nevada and four are in California. And in all eight, the average median jump in square foot price was from 22 percent to 28 percent.
The most expensive market is San Francisco, at least pricewise. There, the median price rose an astonishing $180,000, from $735,000 this time last spring to $915,000 as of May 1, nearly a 25 percent gain.
And as a result, the per-square-foot price in the Bay Area rose 22 percent, only the 11th-strongest gain, from $448.61 to $545.60.
Down the Pacific coast: In Los Angeles, the PPSF rose 18.91 percent during the period, from $229.28 to $272.63, while the PPSF in San Diego rose 17.89 percent, from $200 to $235.77.
Moving across the country, the median PPSF was up 7.55 percent, to $76.82, in Houston, and 7.51 percent, to $85.19, in Dallas. In Chicago, it was up 1.71 percent, to $95.87.
In Florida, the median was up strongly across the state. In Orlando, it was up nearly 19 percent, to $82.59. Miami's PPSF was up 17.4 percent, to $112.74. In Tampa-St. Pete, it was up 15.2 percent, to $83.98. And in Sarasota, it rose 13.2 percent, to $66.71.