Which United States markets will be the "hottest" for home building and development in 2017?

It depends, of course, on what you mean by "hot." Hot sales, hot pricing, hot opportunity for land acquisition and investment. It's all potentially different based on what your business model is, and what you're trying to get done in 2017.

Trulia chief economist Ralph McLaughlin counts five metrics as key indicators characteristic of anticipated extra growth in 2017: strong job growth year to year vs. 2015, low vacancy rates, high affordability, more inbound than outbound home searches on Trulia's mega search engines, and, perhaps a bit oddly, a larger share of Republicans. Check out his column here to see how he came up with this list of "markets to watch in 2017."

So, it would appear that Mr. McLaughlin considers transactional pace as the key growth factor, and that "hot" denotes more volume.

Interestingly, in research and analysis work that looked at another set of fundamental drivers, the Urban Land Institute identified ten entirely different "Top" markets and a list of "five markets to watch" with absolutely no overlap with Ralph McLaughlin's line-up.

Driving the ULI list seem to be a subtler base of criteria for qualifying, as described by the lead analyst of ULI's research here.

“Viewed as a fluke when it hit the study’s top-ten list five years ago, Austin’s rise to the top of the list signals the durability of the city’s long-term appeal to investors,” says Mitch Roschelle, PwC partner and real estate research leader. “Austin, along with many of this year’s top-ten cities, boasts attractive, niche neighborhoods and a vibrant, diverse economy.”

Multi-dimensional economies, we'd guess, will be most metro areas best safe-guard for ongoing economic resilience, as it appears capital and resources investment are going to do some moving around in the next four years, perhaps to favor heartland, Rust Belt metros that have been on the decline, and to the detriment of some of the coastal areas that have been hogging all the attention as growth Meccas for the same amount of time.

Of course, there are more Top 10 Markets for 2017 than you can shake a stick at. You can find a passel of them here, including Realtor.com's very pretty infographic here.

The variable in all of the projections is, we think, pretty straightforward. It's what's happens and what's going to happen to jobs, the kinds of jobs, and household income. Here, one of the smarter demographic analysts in the field, Jed Kolko, looks at the geography of job growth in his role as chief economist for job search engine Indeed.com. He's got a top 10 list that jives more closely with Trulia's Ralph McLaughlin's.

Kolko's got a lot of great insight on jobs and geography, including the way averages and broad-stroke national blends of data profoundly obscure a great deal of what's really going on on the ground in localities. Here's one of Kolko's observations that clarify what I'm getting at here.

The national job numbers hide huge differences across sectors, local markets, and demographic groups. The decades-long shift from manufacturing to services continues: over the past year, professional and business services and education and health services were the fastest growing sectors, while manufacturing shrank. While some of the big swings in 2016—like the jump in construction and huge drop in mining—are corrections to short-run booms and busts, most reflect longer-term trends. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects health care to be the fastest-growing industry over the next decade while manufacturing will lose jobs, according to its latest ten-year employment projections.

The challenge, for both single-market small builders and developers and multiregional big public enterprises is wending and navigating through the thicket of national means and averages, of broad benchmarks, and ham-handed observations on trends that come of that noisy, often misleading data. Our Metrostudy team can help with some of that, as the lens of their research is at the job site and submarket level of detail.

We're starting to look at this notion of Simpson's Paradox or the Simpson-Yule effect and its role in some of the chronic missteps and miscalculations that come out of making an "average"-based assumption a guardrail of opportunity or challenge. Often an average is exactly inverse as an indicator of where the opportunity or challenge may be.

At the very least, it can have an important impact on what's a "hot" market for you in 2017, and what's not.