Home sales in major markets around the country have shown dramatic gains in the past month. In the Chicago metro area, sales were up 38 percent in Cook County, 65 percent in Lake County and 51 percent in Kendall County.

The Chicago Tribune interviewed Mark Zipperer, an agent for ReMax Edge in the city, and he said: "I am so thankful. It's like after a drought, it's (suddenly) raining." Shoppers are suddenly out looking at houses again -- and they're making offers!

In Florida, statewide sales jumped by 30 percent in March over year-earlier levels, and were up 33 percent over the previous month. Even condo sales were up by 25 percent.

Similar gains were reported in California markets hardest hit by price declines during the past two years. Statewide sales rose 64 percent in March compared with March of 2008. Unsold inventory is now just five months -- that's down from 12 months the previous March.

And here's a possible indicator of things to come: Median house prices may be bottoming out. The California Association of Realtors reports the median price of homes sold was up by 2.2 percent for the past month. Prices are still down by 40 percent or more from the boom year peak in many areas, so even the slightest increase is a surprise event.

Meanwhile consumers across the country say they're feeling better about their economic futures, which is always an important factor for future home purchases. The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index hit its highest point for the year this month, with the "expectations index" component up by 65 percent over February.

What's it all add up to? We call it a turnaround getting underway.