According to the National Association of Home Builders, 63 of the approximately 350 metro areas across the country returned to or exceeded normal levels of economic and housing activity during the fourth quarter of 2014. The gains, which include year-over-year improvement in 69 percent of local real-estate markets, are measured based on current home price, building permit, and employment data. Tom Woods, NAHB’s chairman, said markets are improving at a consistent pace. “A growing economy and rising consumer confidence should help drive the release of pent-up demand in 2015,” Woods said. Nationwide, the housing market is now 90 percent back to normal, with markets in Louisiana, California, South Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee making up the list of top performing markets. Among the categories the NAHB tracks, employment leads the way, with 23 metropolitan areas rising above previous norms over the last year. Permits to build single-family homes, on the other hand, still lag behind other indicators. In fact, building permits are just 44 percent back to normal nationwide. More here.