It takes a bit of a “glass half full” viewpoint, but signs are emerging that the metro Charleston home market is mounting a comeback.

While no one is predicting boom times, various analysts and agents are encouraged by recent housing sales and price figures. And they are hearing anecdotes that things are brightening.

Still, there’s a ways to go to a full recovery.

Take figures supplied for October to December for the Charleston area by Rocky Mount, N.C.-based Market Opportunity Research Enterprises.

According to the findings which came out in early February, the number of homes sold in the quarter dropped about 5 percent to 2,256 from 2,364 a year ago. Average home prices were $285,698, off close to 3 percent from $293,027 a year ago, while the $159,000 median price plunged nearly 26 percent last year from $200,000. New home sales, meanwhile, rose slightly to 602 in the quarter compared with 587 a year ago.

At the same time, figures for all of last year compared with 2010 show sales were up close to 2 percent to 9,461 from 9,301. The average sales price last year of $276,770 dipped 6 percent from $294,565, while the median price fell just 1 percent to $194,990 from $197,000 a year earlier.

The report comes as an economist delivered moderately optimistic news about the local and national housing markets.

“Expect mild improvements in sales and stabilizing prices,” says Joseph Von Nessen, of the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business. The economist addressed the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors last week in its yearly residential market update.

Von Nessen cautioned that agents shouldn’t get hung up comparing today’s figures with the top of the market in 2006. They would be wiser to focus on sales and price changes since the beginning of 2009, which is more reflective of today’s market, he says.

Housing and related fields such as construction are important components of the overall economy, accounting for 15 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, he says.

That’s not to mean that people should ignore the “huge dropoff” in home sales and prices in 2007-08, just be more philosophical. “It’s there, but we are not going back,” he says.

Meanwhile, local Realtors and agencies foresee a sunnier housing future.

“The number of active listings (supply) is down 21 percent, when compared to the same period last year, and the number of pending contracts (demand) is up almost 40 percent,” says Michael C. Scarafile, chief executive of Carolina One Real Estate.

From Jan 16-31, 588 contracts were ratified in the local Multiple Listing Service. The number of closings identified as either a short sale or as bank owned were down 16.3 percent compared with January of last year, he says.