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Originally published April 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 29, 2009 at 12:02 PM

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Seattle home-price slide less steep than U.S. drop

In another sign the housing crisis could be reaching the bottom, U.S. home prices dropped sharply in February but for the first time in 25 months the decline was not a record.

In another sign the housing crisis could be reaching the bottom, U.S. home prices dropped sharply in February but for the first time in 25 months the decline was not a record.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index released Tuesday showed home prices in 20 major cities tumbled 18.6 percent from February 2008. That was slightly better than January's 19 percent drop and the first time since January 2007 the index didn't set a record.

But the good news was mixed. All 20 cities showed monthly and annual price declines, but half recorded annual records — including the Seattle area.

Seattle-area home prices dropped an annual 15.4 percent in February from February 2008, compared with a 15 percent annual decline in January.

Seattle's February annual price drop was the ninth-smallest decline among the 20 metro areas in the Case-Shiller index.

Seattle prices fell 1.5 percent in February from January, the fourth-smallest monthly decline among the 20 metro areas. The average monthly decline among the 20 cities was 2.2 percent.

The worst declines continued to be in the Sun Belt, where the real-estate bubble inflated the most, and the economically struggling industrial heartland.

The biggest one-month decline, nearly 5 percent, was in Cleveland. Phoenix fell the most over the past 12 months, 35.2 percent.

According to the Case-Shiller data, home prices in Seattle peaked in July 2007; since then, they've fallen 20.9 percent.

The 20-city composite index, which peaked a year earlier, is down 30.7 percent since then.

Information from Seattle Times business reporter Drew DeSilver and The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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