Spring ushers in a period of optimism in the real estate industry. Generally, that's when buyers and sellers get down to business after six months of market hibernation. It's when agents bust out with that old cliche: There's never been a better time to buy. It's when sellers exhale, sensing that people are placing their faith in real estate.

Judging from February home sales data just out from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, Seattle's real estate market is improving. Rising prices, an increase in pending sales, and shrinking inventory make up the troika that economists watch for when they're looking for signs of improvement.

Well, check out the stats: The median price for a residence (factoring in both houses and condos) in the city rose 3.35 percent to $371,500 from $359,475 this time last year; the median condo price is now $290,500, up 6 percent over last February and the median single-family home is $399,000, up 1.4 percent from this time last year. Across Seattle, pending sales are up  58% year over year. And "active" listings are falling, down 7.26 percent

Matthew Gardner, a local economist, told us he finds the results "encouraging." (Stay tuned: Tomorrow, he'll share his regional forecast with us.)

While Seattle looks improved, the suburbs don't paint the same picture. While pending sales throughout King County rose 62.7% year over year, and active listings fell 9.76% between this February and last, price isn't picking up. Indeed, the median price of a home in King County fell 1.29% to $343,500. A 1.29% decline isn't so bad, though, coming off double-digit price reductions that hit the city and county hard this time last year.

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