As far as time of the year, that would depend on what part of the country. You may not be able to determine the true curb appeal of a home that is covered with 2 feet of snow, but that shouldn't be a problem in the Bay Area. Again, each area is so different than others.
I'd advise you get in touch with a professional Realtor in your local area. Best of luck to you!
Both interest rates and home prices have gone up. That hasn't stopped buyers from attempting to buy a home primarily because the home prices are still lower than where they were at the peak in most places, but that is changing fast, too.
Rather than gambling on timing the market, look at your situation. Are you ready to buy? Are you already preapproved for a loan? Have you seen homes that fit your requirements and budget range?
Look at the COST to buy --- what you will need in terms of down payment and closing costs, and what your monthly payments will be --- instead of sales price alone.
Here's a blog that may illustrate this best
Sit down and discuss the market with your Realtor and what will be expected in your price range. If you don't have a Realtor/Broker - you should meet with and interview several agents.