Seattle-area prices in the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index fall far 4.4 percent, far less than national rate of 14.1 percent.
NEW YORK — U.S. home prices dropped at the sharpest rate in two decades during the first quarter, a closely watched index showed today, a somber indication that the housing slump continues to deepen.
Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller said its national home price index fell 14.1 percent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, the lowest since its inception in 1988.
Seattle metropolitan area prices dipped 4.4 percent in the same time frame, the fourth smallest decline among the 20 cities measured.
Prices nationwide are at levels not seen since the third quarter of 2004, according to Maureen Maitland, a vice president at Standard & Poor’s. However, the index is still up 60 percent compared with 2000.
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Two narrower indexes set record declines in March versus the previous year. The 20-city index tumbled 14.4 percent, the lowest since that index was started in 2001. The 10-city index plunged 15.3 percent, a record drop in its 20-year history.
“There are very few silver linings that one can see in the data. Most of the nation appears to remain on a downward path,” said David Blitzer, chairman of S&P’s index committee.
Nineteen of the 20 metro areas reported annual declines, with 15 of them posting record lows. Six metro areas lost more than 20 percent.
Las Vegas had the worst performance in March, falling 25.9 percent from a year earlier, followed by Miami and Phoenix. Prices in San Francisco dropped 20.2 percent; in Los Angeles, 21.7 percent.
Only Charlotte, N.C., stayed above water, gaining less than 1 percent over the previous year.
Last week, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) said home prices fell 3.1 percent in the first quarter, the largest drop in its 17-year history and only the second quarter of price declines recorded.
The OFHEO index is narrower in scope and is calculated using mortgages of $417,000 or less that are bought or backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. That excludes properties bought with some of the riskier types of home loans.
Times residential real-estate reporter Elizabeth Rhodes contributed to this report.