Rather than wait for home-sales prices (which are delayed by months), Trulia has a new system: the Trulia Price Monitor, which tracks the asking prices of homes and is available days after the end of a month.

The idea, the company says, is to get a quicker read on pricing trends by following the asking prices of homes, which are obviously available immediately, rather than wait six to 12 weeks for sales prices to be reported.

“By focusing on asking prices and releasing each month’s Monitors just days after each month ends, we can detect price movements at least three months before the major sales-price indexes do,” said Jed Kolko, the company’s chief economist.

He acknowledges that asking prices are sales prices are different beasts, and that there are weaknesses: “Asking prices… are NOT a perfect predictor of sales prices: the final sales price for a home can be above or below asking, and some listed homes might not sell.”

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[They] each have their advantages for understanding the housing market: asking prices have the advantage of showing current market conditions and trends, but sales prices are the best guide to historical and long-term trends in the housing market.

Trulia isn’t just taking all the asking prices and coming up with a median. Instead, it compares similar homes in similar neighborhoods to get a more accurate read. It also accounts for seasonal fluctuations in the markets.

The result is that, starting in September 2011, most months have seen an increase in prices over the month before. In contrast, from November 2010 to August 2011, prices were down month to month every time but one.

In other words, prices are — and have been — rising steadily in most of the nation. Slowly, true. But steadily.

In Virginia, there’s a mixed bag. Northern Virginia (green in the image below) is seeing rising prices, while the central part of the state (orange) is seeing them fall, as is the Hampton Roads area (yellow), although not as much.

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Click here to read the details of Trulia’s system.