All things being equal, the purchase price of a short sale will be less than a regular home on the market, and a foreclosure will be lowest of all. Here's the breakdown -- on average -- for the Baltimore region in April:

Bank-owned home: $144,000 average sale price

Short sale: $206,000

Non-distress deal: $307,000

So you can see why a big increase in foreclosures might pull the average price down -- and why now, with the big decrease in foreclosures for sale, the average leapt up 10 percent over the year. Such are the latest figures from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems' stats arm, RealEstate Business Intelligence.

I asked RBI to break it out, and the company's figures showed that the average foreclosure price rose just under 1 percent during that period, short sale prices fell 14 percent and the price of regular sales rose 4 percent.

You could be excused for thinking, "OK, then, so average homeowner types are seeing a gain in prices, just not a 10 percent sort of gain." But wait! There's another factor skewing the average.

More single-family houses sold last month than the year before, while fewer townhouses and condos changed hands. Those differences can also push the average up even as homeowners see no actual gains.

The ever-changing mix of what people are buying always complicates efforts to judge the health of the market by the average or median price.

How many homes are for sale and how many sold are a bit more solid to stand on, stats-wise. Those trends are interesting in their own right -- more on that in the April home sales story.

What are you seeing out there, buyers and sellers?

Got a housing tip to share? (Or just want to tell me something?) Email me at jhopkins@baltsun.com.