More than 50,000 home starts were reported for the last 12 months in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to statistics released this week by Metrostudy Inc. The period ending March 31 set a record for home starts and sales. Builders closed on almost 46,000 homes during that time.

In first quarter 2006, starts rose 13 percent to more than 12,000 homes and sales jumped 12 percent to 11,000.

The biggest increase in home sales during the first quarter was for homes in the $200,000 price range, said David Brown, director of Metrostudy’s Dallas-Fort Worth region. The North Texas area is second in the country for job growth, with 92,300 jobs added in the last 12 months. Many people transferring to the area are selling homes in quickly appreciating areas of the country, enabling them to buy bigger houses for relatively less money in North Texas, Brown said.

Nationwide, new-home sales dropped 10.5 percent in February and starts declined 8 percent according to the report.

Despite strong sales in Dallas-Fort Worth, inventory outweighed demand. The number of unsold new homes on the market climbed about 20 percent in the first quarter, leaving more than a seven-month supply of new houses on the market.

The strong job market also helped local apartment leasing to surge. Net leasing reached more than 5,600 units for the first quarter, a 66 percent increase in demand from the same period of 2005, according to M/PF YieldStar Inc. Occupancy rates reached 93 percent at the end of March, and rents were up less than 1 percent to an average of $697 a month. About 1,500 units joined the market in the first quarter, and more than 10,000 were under construction.