"I think we're in a phase where we're getting past the bottoming out, and we're starting to see some fundamental improvement (in the economy)," said Robert Dye, chief economist at Comerica Bank.
Home values inched up 1.13 percent in Macomb County and 0.65 percent in Oakland County. In Wayne County, values were off 1.4 percent, compared with 6 percent in 2011.
Rising values mean more buyers in the market and more construction of new homes, Dye said. That also translates into homeowners spending more as they build equity.
"There's a whole broad basket of positives that come from housing markets firming up," he said.
Metro Detroit Realtors say they're seeing signs of a healthier market.
"The inventory is drying up," said Ed Weglarz of Cranbrook Associates in Birmingham. "There are fewer and fewer short sale properties available. It's definitely an improving market."
Weglarz said most of the nicer homes being listed in southeastern Oakland County are selling within 30 days, a dramatic change from previous years.
He said prices are up about 15 percent in Macomb and Oakland, even if assessed values aren't rebounding quite that fast.
For some homeowners, the changes in the market have driven them to buy now, while prices are still low.
Sylvan Lake homeowners Bob and Paige Grosvenor are getting ready to list their home, hoping to find another house in their neighborhood closer to the water. The couple said they are ready to take advantage of better home prices and possibly make a profit based on work they've put into the house, purchased in 2000.
"Property values are going up, homes in our neighborhood have been selling and as far as the market was, say, between now and two or three years ago, it's night and day," said Bob Grosvenor. "We rode it out through the downturn, and we're seeing it coming back around and could see some profitability in it, too."
Woodhaven showed the greatest increase, 8.2 percent.
"Property values look to be moving in a better direction than they have in previous years," said Wayne County spokeswoman June West. "A number of communities are increasing in their values. While there are still some that are dropping, we hope that the regrowth starts catching on across the county and the region."
In Macomb County, Washington Township had the largest gain in residential property values, 7.9 percent.