After significant gains early in the year, the pace of improvement in the national real estate market slowed this summer, according to a survey of 316 examiners and liquidators at the four banking and thrift agencies.

The quarterly survey, conducted by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., revealed a major rebound in both the West and Northeast. In previous quarters, overall results had consistently been buoyed by conditions in the South and Midwest.

The most recent survey, covering May through July, found the West on top with a composite score of 78, up eight points from the previous survey.

Scores above 50 denote improvement; those below 50, a declining market. The further from 50 a score is, the more agreement there was among the regulators about the market's direction. The FDIC compiles an overall score, as well as separate ones for residential and commercial real estate.

The West's composite 78 was a full 10 points above the national composite, which had risen one point from the preceding quarter.

The South scored 70, down one point. The Midwest placed third among the regions, at 65, down three points.

While the Northeast was last, at 63, that was a seven-point improvement.

The West's resurgence was driven by residential markets, which jumped 10 points, to 81 - the highest recorded in the survey. The West consists of 13 states, including California, Colorado, and Montana.

Commercial real estate was the impetus in the Northeast. Gaining nine points, commercial property markets in the nine-state region scored a 63. That's still the lowest commercial real estate score in the country, but other regions were flat - 70 in the South, 67 in the Midwest, and 72 in the West.

The FDIC said 28% of the examiners and liquidators reported increased demand for commercial office space in their regions - the highest percentage since the survey was begun in 1991.

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