The housing market has snapped back faster than most economists expected, with home builders stepping up production of new homes and prices continuing to rise, reports The L.A. Times.

Demand for housing has surged as interest rates have plummeted and home prices in many markets appear to have bottomed, particularly in states such as California where inventories of foreclosures and other lower-priced homes have sunk.

Residential construction starts jumped 15% nationwide in September over August to their highest annual rate in more than four years. According to the Commerce Department, construction of houses and apartment buildings rose in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 872,000. This is the third straight month of improvement. Building permits for private housing construction also rose in September, up 11.6% from August and 45.1% from a year earlier.

Along with new home construction, the housing market recovery and low interest rates are fueling home improvement activity. According to  to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) released yesterday by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, a “very robust remodeling recovery” is underway, with annual homeowner improvement spending expected to reach double-digit growth in the first half of 2013.

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