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U.S. home prices continue free fall

L.A. and Orange counties see a 21.7% first-quarter drop.

May 28, 2008|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

U.S. home prices continued to fall at a record pace through March, according to a major indicator released Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller U.S. national home price index fell 14.1% in the first three months of 2008 compared with the same period a year earlier. The decline was the largest in 20 years for the index, which covers all U.S. Census divisions.

In addition to the quarterly national index, Case-Shiller released data showing record monthly declines in major U.S. metropolitan areas.

Its monthly index of 20 cities posted a record price decline in March of 14.4% from March 2007.

The index showed an even sharper drop in Los Angeles and Orange counties, where March prices fell 21.7% from a year earlier.

Las Vegas showed the biggest year-over-year drop in March (25.9%), followed by Miami (24.6%) and Phoenix (23%).

Charlotte, N.C., was the only city among the 20 to record a March price increase (0.8%).

The Case-Shiller index compares the latest sales of detached houses to previous sales, and accounts for factors such as remodeling that might affect a house's sale price over time. It excludes foreclosures. From those data, an index score is created to show price changes.

More bleak housing news came Tuesday from the U.S. Commerce Department, which reported that April home sales were down 42% from the same month a year earlier.

The traditional March-to-April bounce in home sales was also much smaller than in previous years. April sales were up 3.3% from March this year. In 2007, sales rose 10% from March to April.

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peter.hong@latimes.com

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