In the latest sign of a burgeoning recovery in U.S. housing markets, the number of metropolitan areas on the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) rose for a fifth consecutive month – to 242 in January for a net gain of 41 more than the number of improving markets one month earlier.

Florida’s improving markets in January include Naples, Ft. Myers/Cape Coral, Deltona, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Miami, North Port, Ocala, Orlando, Palm Bay, Panama City, Pensacola, Punta Gorda and Tallahassee.

Overall, five markets dropped off the list in January because at least one month showed at least a slight decline in market improvement. In Florida, Sebastian and Crestview lost their improving status.

“We created the improving markets list in September of 2011 to spotlight individual metros where – contrary to the national headlines – housing markets were on the mend,” says NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. “Today, 242 out of 361 metros nationwide (67 percent) appear on that list, including representatives from almost every state in the country. The story is no longer about exceptions to the rule, but about the growing breadth of the housing recovery even as overly strict mortgage requirements hold back the pace of improvement.”

“Potential homebuyers should be encouraged by the positive momentum in home prices, permitting and employment increasingly evident in not just isolated housing markets, but a broadening swath of the country,” says Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Company.