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Prices of L.A.-area homes drop further

The nation’s home prices continued spiraling downward at a record-setting pace in October, according to a prominent index released Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 metropolitan areas was down 18% in October from the same month last year.

The index has now reported 22 straight months of declines, the last 12 of which were record-setting.

“The only clear statement I can make about the bottom is ‘Not yet and not too soon,’ ” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor’s Corp. “All trends indicate we’re going in the wrong direction. There’s no sign it’s about to bottom out.”

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Existing single-family home prices remain at 2004 levels, and cities that experienced some of the largest housing bubbles during the peak two years ago continue to lead the slide.

Phoenix reported a 32.7% annual drop in prices from October 2007, followed by Las Vegas, 31.7%; San Francisco, 31%; Miami, 29%; Los Angeles, 27.9%; and San Diego, 26.7%.

Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit; Minneapolis; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington recorded their largest monthly declines.

Prices in the L.A. area, which comprises Los Angeles and Orange counties, dropped a fraction of a percentage point more from September to October than from August to September.

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In Los Angeles and Orange counties, lower-priced homes again experienced the steepest declines. The bottom third of homes -- those priced below $351,171 -- dropped 39% compared with October 2007. Midpriced homes ($351,171 to $530,387) fell 28%, and the top third of homes (over $530,387) dropped 21%.

The low-priced homes in the area were down 46% from their peak price in November 2006, and the highest-priced homes were down 24% from their peak in June 2006. Overall, home prices in the area have declined 34% compared with their high in September 2006.

In San Diego, lower-priced homes were down 46% and high-priced homes fell 26% from their peak prices in June 2006. The area saw a 36% decline from its ceiling in November 2005.

Las Vegas fared worse, with prices falling 39% from their highest month, August 2006. Lower-priced homes declined 45% from their peak in August 2006, and higher-priced homes in the gambling capital dropped 37% from their high in May 2006.

The index compares the latest sales of detached houses with prior sales and considers factors such as remodeling that might change a home’s sale price over time.

From those data, an index score is created to show price changes. An index reading of 100 reflects prices in January 2000. The October index reading for the Los Angeles area was 179.82.

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david.pierson@latimes.com

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