The news from the housing market has been downright gloomy of late -- that is, until the National Association of Realtors reported on Monday that pending home sales increased 3.4% in March over the previous month.

"After a dismal winter, more buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers," said NAR's chief economist Lawrence Yun. "Sales activity is expected to steadily pick up as more inventory reaches the market, and from ongoing job creation in the economy."

While this is a positive development, and particularly given that the spring selling season is essentially upon us, it remains to be seen whether the latest news is a harbinger of things to come. One reason to doubt this are the latest estimates of new and existing home sales, which fell by 14.5% and 0.2%, respectively, in March compared to February.

Motley Fool contributor John Maxfield discusses these trends in the video below.