It’s never easy to de-crypt the housing market, but these wintry days make it tougher than ever. Weather that’s keeping lookers and buyers away—even Fed Chair Janet Yellen said this month she can’t quite calculate its effect—has made forecasting home sales harder than ever.

Here’s what we know, from the national market to “hyper-local’ as they say on TV weather forecasts. And it’s upbeat.

Nationally, sales are relatively strong, after a long, sputtering recovery. New home sales rose a surprising 9.6 percent in January, despite the snow and cold that annoyed most of the country. Some experts question the number—too surprising for them—but no matter the percentage, a sign of better times, and a continuation, through difficult weather, of the 9-percent-plus increase in sales for all of 2013. Connecticut single-family sales were up 12 percent last year.

This is good news. But it indicates a market still characterized by a dearth of available new construction and suffering from an extended sluggish market that discouraged investment. Evidence of that mixed picture: 1-in-5 of existing home sales in January (about 17.6 percent) were short sales and other distressed properties, according to RealtyTrac. This was the highest percentage in a year.

Another sign of market strength:  In high-end suburbs around Chicago, and elsewhere, developers are building luxury homes on spec. These properties are moving so fast that some “aren’t even completed before the ink dries on the buyers’ contracts,” according to Inman News, a real estate report.  In Austin, annual totals show more than 550 homes of a $1 million or more sold in 2013, up almost half from the year before. In Atlanta’s Buckhead area, one family bought for $375,000 in 2011 and put it on the market this year for twice that, according to Bloomberg News. Connecticut had 510 sales of $2 million or more in 2013, up almost 14 percent, according to one report.

Certainly the Fed thinks things are looking up. Mortgage rates on both 15-year and 30-year mortgages were up for the second straight week in mid-February.

One final sign of the times–Forty-four percent of January sales were all-cash deals, another hangover from tighter bank policies and credit rates. That number has been over 35 percent for more than half a year.

So what does this mean for Fairfield County and Wilton moving into the spring market? We think that….

  1. The market will be healthy but not crazy. It will be, according to one economist, a less frantic market because there will be more inventory—last year’s was an all-time low—and not a notable increase in buyers.
  2. Early 2014 sales trends are mixed. The median home sales price in Fairfield County increased 16.3 percent over a year ago. Sales were up 15per cent in Wilton in January. They were also up in Weston and Norwalk, but down in Westport and Darien.
  3. Pricing remains varied. Average sales prices versus a year ago—up 18.6 percent in Wilton in January, also up in Weston and Darien, flat in Westport, down in Norwalk. For all of February, Fairfield County single-family home sales pricing was down slightly.

Is it a good time to consider listing your home? Yes. Have you missed the spring market? Not quite. Has the market returned to levels we enjoyed prior to the recession? Not even close, but be prepared for a fast-moving market in the spring.

In short, it’s not a bad time to get your house ready if your considering a move. It’s still a seller’s market, according to many real estate consultants, because inventory remains low. For buyers that means be flexible–and move fast. If you find what you want, pounce.