When will the housing slump finally end? Even the experts' crystal balls are hazy.

The Wall Street Journal, which Thursday reported its latest quarterly survey of housing data, says it depends on which city or part of the country you're talking about.

Home sales were up compared to last year in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia, Orlando, Minneapolis, Southern California, and the San Francisco Bay area, according to findings from research firm MDA DataQuick as well as reports from local real estate practitioner organizations.

Sales declined in New York City and nearby Long Island, Chicago, and Charlotte, N.C., and the outlook was particularly bleak in Miami-Fort Lauderdale and much of Florida, Detroit, and Las Vegas.

But Jody Kahn, an analyst at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, a research organization, points out that there are variations even in the hardest-hit metro areas with the most attractive neighborhoods continuing to thrive.

Employment is the most telling factor, says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com. If people don't have jobs or fear losing their jobs, then buying homes is out of the question, he says.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, James R. Hagerty (07/23/2009)