The healthiest housing markets? It’ll surprise you

Others have more dire predictions.

“If I was a Phoenix real estate ‘investor’ sitting on the upside—or in the long process of readying dozens, hundreds, or thousands of houses for rent into a market about to get pounded for years with single-family rental supply—I would push the ‘sell button’ on everything I could, immediately, on data such as these,” said California-based housing analyst Mark Hanson. “In fact, by the looks of the November supply and demand metrics, it’s already happening.”

Inventories of homes for sale in Phoenix are up 40 percent from a year ago. Some of it may be investors, and some may be regular home owners who have finally come into a positive equity position and can move.

(Read more: The days of 3.5% 30-year fixed mortgages are over)

What happened in Phoenix and Las Vegas is a testament to how impossible this housing recovery is to predict. The usual rules don’t apply. Prices usually lag sales, but in this case, prices nearly leapfrogged sales. Housing analyst Ivy Zelman said as much, as she revised her earlier projections for the home building market way down in a report to clients Friday.

“In many ways, the current recovery is unique in that price was pulled forward to the beginning of the cycle, versus an accelerating trend in prior rebounds,” said Zelman, who lowered 2014 expectations for newly built home sales down to 505,000 from a prior estimate of 605,000. Much of that is due to affordability, or lack thereof, due to rising mortgage rates and rising home prices.

“In hindsight, we under-appreciated the lack of new construction capacity via labor, financing and land supply to handle accelerating demand, which resulted in builders pursuing price over pace, either intentionally or due to a lack of alternatives, contrary to their historical volume-driven approach,” added Zelman.

While one can deem a certain housing market “healthy” today, due to rising home prices, if those prices rise to far too fast, that health could be in jeopardy. It is therefore important to keep an eye on markets where investors are now setting their sights, such as Atlanta and Charlotte. With investors able to sway markets so quickly, the usual rules of supply and demand don’t apply.

(Read more: Million-dollar homes: Down on Main Street)

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