Home prices in the Seattle metropolitan area fell at a monthly rate of 0.7 percent in January, smaller than December's 1.3 percent decline, the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller index shows.

Home prices in the Seattle metropolitan area fell in January for the sixth straight month, according to the closely watched Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index, hitting yet another post-boom low.

The only silver lining for homeowners: The monthly rate of decline, 0.7 percent, was smaller than December’s 1.3 percent.

Eleven of the 19 other cities Case-Shiller tracks had steeper month-over-month price drops.

The Seattle metropolitan area includes King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. January data, the most recent available, were released Tuesday.

Home prices in the region were down 4 percent from January 2011, compared with 3.8 percent for the composite 20-city index.

Seven metropolitan areas, including all the others on the West Coast, saw more precipitous year-over-year declines.

The Case-Shiller indexes measure prices compared with those in January 2000, with home prices then given a value of 100.

The Seattle area’s index score for this January was 130.03, meaning prices here still are 30 percent higher than at the start of the century.

But they are down nearly one-third from the July 2007 peak of 192.30.

The last time prices were lower: April 2004.

Just three cities — Miami, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. — saw prices rise between December and January, according to Case-Shiller.

And just three — Detroit, Denver and Phoenix — had year-over-year increases.

The 20-city composite index also hit a new post-bubble low, as did seven other cities besides Seattle: Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland and Tampa, Fla.

Many experts attribute the price declines to a surge in sales of bank-owned homes and short sales.

That won’t last forever, one said.

“Falling prices are not so much a reflection of market health, but rather the result of banks disposing of distressed assets by offering low prices to cash buyers,” said Gary Painter, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate.

“As these distressed properties are taken off the market, that trend will end. When employment and rents increase at the local level, more buyers will see the value of entering the single-family market. If the economy continues moving in this direction, it is likely we have seen the bottom and are moving toward recovery.”

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com