WASHINGTON - The number of metro areas showing signs of improved housing continues to grow, rising for a fifth consecutive month to 242 markets.

According to the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) the January figures are up from 201 markets listed as improving in December. The IMI identifies improving metro areas based on housing permits, employment and house prices for six consecutive months. The latest data includes metro areas in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

"We created the improving markets list in September of 2011 to spotlight individual metros where — contrary to the national headlines — housing markets were on the mend," NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, FL, said in a statement. "Today, 242 out of 361 metros nationwide appear on that list, including representatives from almost every state in the country. The story is no longer about exceptions to the rule, but about the growing breadth of the housing recovery even as overly strict mortgage requirements hold back the pace of improvement."

"The IMI has almost doubled in the past two months as stronger demand during prime home buying season boosted prices across a broader number of metropolitan areas," NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said in a statement. "Similar home price gains, and hence the IMI, may be tempered in the future as we see data from typically slower months for home sales."

Click here to see a complete list of the 242 metro areas on the IMI, as posted on NAHB's website.

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