While home building production hit high water marks across most of the nation this year, the rising tide did not spread evenly among America's Top 20 biggest home building markets. And the forecast for 2004 permit activity suggests comparable disparities lie ahead. That's according to the latest 2003 and 2004 projections of new home permit activity assembled by the Meyers Group, of Costa Mesa, Calif., (www.meyersgroup.com).

BIG BUILDER zeroed in on the 20 biggest markets out of the 75 the Meyers Group regularly tracks, based on 2003 projected permits; then ranked those markets for 2004, based on which will grow the most. Some markets, such as Riverside, Las Vegas, Tampa, and Los Angeles, which hit double-digit permit growth rates in 2003, will stall or contract in 2004, while down markets such as Denver and Miami are expected to stabilize. Big Builder provides a snapshot of all 20 top markets, plus a look at how the remainder of the Top 50 for 2003 will rank, based on 2004 projections.

Notes:

*All data and upside/downside commentary courtesy the Meyer's Group

*Demand/Supply Ratio (1.0 plus -- Job-growth-driven-demand exceeds permit supply; 0 to .99 -- Supply exceeds demand; less than 0 -- Negative job growth)

*Illustrations by John Mattos

Upside
Low unemployment ... strong demand and low supply ... increased home equity supports move-up market ... high levels of personal wealth ... strong resale market ... highly educated and skilled workforce ... strong permit activity.

Downside
Increasing anti-growth sentiment ... land prices pushing up new home prices ... decreasing affordability ... Virginia and Maryland state budget deficits will constrain economic growth.

Upside
Strong international immigration ... good transportation and distribution system ... increased demand due to influx of Latin American buyers ... weaker dollar to benefit trade and travel ... tourism recovering.

Downside
Slow job growth ... low housing affordability ... limited land availability ... troubled educational system ... growing income disparity ... demand/supply ratios will remain low ... slow appreciation.

Upside
Robust per-capita incomes ... large pool of skilled laborers ... strong contingent of corporate headquarters ... steady population growth ... increase in vacation-home buyers ... surge in multifamily permits.

Downside
High business and living costs ... builders/developers face difficulties buying and entitling single-family land ... growing congestion ... dip in single-family permits ... manufacturing sector continues to contract.

Upside
Region provides about 50 percent of Southern California's affordable housing ... positive job growth ... diverse employment base in Inland Empire ... projected increase in trade-up and vacation housing.

Downside
Fast development pace creates risk for overbuilding ... infrastructure not keeping pace with growth ... new home design criteria could drive up development costs ... first-time buyer demographic is decreasing.

Upside
Diverse workforce ... attractive affordable housing market ... strong population growth ... tourism seeing a rebound ... high concentration of high-tech manufacturing ... starting salaries above national average.

Markets 6 through 10

Markets 11 through 15

Markets 16 through 20

Next 30 Biggest Markets

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.