Given the importance of the housing market to the nation's balance sheet, it's no surprise that many observers are looking for any evidence that prices on family homes have finally bottomed out. For those watchers, Nov. 2 had a bit of good news: The National Association of Realtors reported that its index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes rose 10.4 % in October. But that positive statistic must be placed in a longer-term context of declining prices, bulging inventories of unsold homes and ongoing legal improprieties in the nation's foreclosure machinery. And against that background, the NAR's news doesn't feel all that impressive.