The Sun Belt continues to be the site of the nation's leading markets for new houses, according to a recent study.

Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas, and Florida dominate the list of 20 most active home markets compiled by TRW Redi Property Data, Anaheim, Calif. The data is based on actual closed sales of new homes.

Maricopa County, Ariz., which includes Phoenix, tops the list for the third year in a row.

People continue to stream into the area from surrounding states, said Nancy Mercer, vice president of the Phoenix branch of Sunbelt National Mortgage, a division of FT Mortgage Companies, Dallas.

"The Arizona market has gotten an incredible amount of national exposure over the last 18 months," Ms. Mercer said. Phoenix hosted both the national college football championship and the Super Bowl last year.

Bedroom communities outside of Phoenix also continue to grow at a fast clip, she said. Many of those moving in are established families who are familiar with the mortgage process and who are upgrading their lifestyles.

Competition among home builders, who have flooded Phoenix in the past few years, has kept home prices down.

The state of Texas made a strong showing on the list, housing a quarter of the top 20 markets.

"The petroleum industry is still growing here," said Linda Hanratty, a Department of Housing and Urban Development economist based in Fort Worth.

Single-family housing in Texas is more affordable than in other areas of the country, she said, in part because of the availability of cheap land.

Towns like Austin and Fort Worth are "finally over the defense cutbacks," Ms. Hanratty said. The Alliance Airport development in Fort Worth, Texas, has been a major factor in revitalizing the local economy, she added.

No single lender dominates the top 20 markets, although CTX Mortgage Co., headquartered in Dallas, made more loans than any other single lender in these hot spots in 1995, TRW Redi reports.

CTX is followed by Norwest, Weyerhauser Mortgage Co., North American Mortgage Co., and Directors Mortgage Loan Corp.

"Lenders in these markets are getting most of their business at the point of sale, either through brokers or through home builders," said Nima Nattagh, market research analyst with TRW Redi.

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