If you were looking for a steal during the first two months of the year, housing wasn't it. A $4,000 jump in the average price of existing homes last year was greeted with a corresponding uptick in rates that Freddie Mac says were at 4.77% for a 30-year fixed mortgage in January and rose to 5.05% by the end of February. Then March blew in like a lion and all the scary housing market forces retreated like lambs. Rates fell to 4.88% last week, while existing home prices plummeted by an average of $10,000, to $158,800, well below 2009's new homebuyer-fueled $172,500 and 3.2% lower than during the same period last year. Since each has shown signs of creeping back up, March may be the best opportunity to buy for folks with the means and will to do so. "The decision if and when to buy a home is a very personal one and depends on many factors, however," says Stephanie Singer, spokeswoman for the National Association of Realtors. "For buyers who qualify and are ready to assume the responsibilities that come with owning a home, conditions are favorable."