The Greater Des Moines residential real estate market is approaching pre-recession levels and is among the 10 healthiest markets in the country, according to a report.


Gains in house prices, employment and building permits are driving the improvements in Des Moines and other markets where housing activity is approaching normal levels, according to the National Association of Home Builders.


Hubbell Realty Co. President and CEO Rick Tolllakson said he was little surprised by the findings in the report and had thought the local housing market had returned to normal some time ago.


"We're on a pretty good track right now," he said.


For prices and permits, the NAHB report uses 2000 to 2003 as a base period. For employment, it uses 2007.


In the Des Moines metro area, overall activity has reached 99 percent of its normal level, with permits at 89 percent and employment at 95 percent. House prices are 14 percent above normal, the NAHB said.


The report is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau and Freddie Mac.


"This is another great sign of the strong economy, jobs and housing market we are proud of," said Creighton Cox, executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines. "The residential housing industry statistically is back to normal, but with Des Moines' continued growth, the industry needs to exceed normal to maintain adequate housing options for current and future metro residents."


On Wednesday, real estate website, which is operated by the National Association of Realtors, predicted that the Greater Des Moines residential real estate market could be among the fastest growing in the country during the third quarter, based on increases in median house prices and declines in total listings of homes for sale and the number of older homes on the market.


Tollakson said the main thing holding back the housing market, aside from recent heavy rains, was a shortage of construction workers, primarily plumbers and electricians, due in part to the fact that skilled construction workers and subcontractors fled the market during the slowdown in housing.


"The construction market is a little bit weak because of the recession," he said. "It doesn't take too many projects to throw it out of kilter."