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Real estate agent Izzy Buholzer (R) from Miami Real Estate Team, Inc. shows a home to Dorothea Tittel in Miami, Fla. Home sales are increasing in some parts of the country, but the housing market is still below normal. - 

Jeremy Hobson: So there's good news and bad news on the housing front this morning. New home construction fell last month. But building permits -- which indicate future construction -- were at the highest level in four years.

That mixed bag is why recovery is still probably too strong a word for the housing market as Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports.

Jeff Tyler: A recent survey of homebuilders found them slightly more optimistic about the housing market.

David Crowe is chief economist with the National Association of Home Builders.

David Crowe: We expect to see continued improvement. It won’t be fast. It won’t be furious. But it will be steady.

Still, Crowe says one obstacle homebuilders face is...

Crowe: Stiff competition from foreclosed homes. And some of them at very distressed prices.

On the positive side for consumers, house prices have fallen, and mortgage rates are low. But housing market consultant Tom Lawler says prospective borrowers still have a hard time getting a mortgage.

Tom Lawler: Conditions are a lot tighter than several years ago. They’re not as much tighter as, say, the early 90s. But they are still tighter.

Even with tighter loan requirements, there are pockets of growth -- especially in the middle of the country. But economist Crowe says traditionally strong housing markets -- like Atlanta, Phoenix and Southern California -- have yet to bounce back.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

Follow Jeff Tyler at @JeffMarketplace