According the the NAR there's one sign that your market is improving that you can't miss, and that's when your phone rings with new customers ready to buy or sell. But there are other indicators - not including the familiar days-on-market, new listings per month, and new contract activity - you'll want to monitor to see if a sales turnaround is imminent.
Here are a few signs that NAR suggest that the housing market may be picking up in your area:
Fewer Builder Concessions
Look for new-home builders in your area, as a sign of new confidence, to curtail their offerings of free mortgage payments, new toasters, designer landscaping, and other concessions they rolled out at the start of the downturn.
New Jobs vs. New Housing
Historically, one new home owner is created for every two new jobs, so if job creation continues in your area and builders are scaling back on production, it's just a matter of time before the supply and demand equation moves toward equilibrium.
The country had about a 10-month supply of housing at the end of last year, but the figure you're interested in is the months' supply for your market. The historical norm is closer to six months.
Visitors per Listing
Look at the visitor trends tracked by your local MLS using today's computerized lockboxes. You can see not only how many visitors view a house but how long they stay; more visitors staying longer suggests buyers are getting serious.
Rising Apartment Rents
Healthy rental rate increases show strong demand for rentals, but if such increases go on for too long or rates rise too steeply, renters will start inquiring about buying.