Housing markets continue improving

"Today the story is about how widespread the recovery has become as conditions steadily improve in markets nationwide," Crowe said. 

The index identifies metro areas that have shown improvement from their lows in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. 

A total of 20 new areas were added to the list and three were dropped this month. 

Newly added sites include Rome, Ga.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Racine, Wis.

"The fact that all 50 states now have at least one metro [area] on the improving list shows that the housing recovery has substantial momentum and continues to expand from one market to the next," said Rick Judson, NAHB's chairman and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. 

The index's results come a day after two groups reported big jumps in housing prices amid falling supply and increasing demand. 

Prices rose 8.3 percent in December compared with a year earlier, the biggest annual gain since May 2006, according to a report Tuesday from CoreLogic. 

Prices rose last year in 46 of 50 states.

In addition, asking prices were up 0.9 percent month-over-month, the largest monthly gain since the home-price recovery began, according to Trulia.

Prices are up year-over-year in 86 of the 100 largest metro areas.

Most of the places with the largest year-over-year price gains — including Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Detroit — are still facing challenges such as slow job growth, high vacancy rate or a high foreclosure inventory. 

In San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle, strong job growth, fewer vacancies and a smaller foreclosure inventory are bolstering prices.