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Originally published November 30, 2010 at 11:06 AM | Page modified November 30, 2010 at 10:09 PM

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Seattle-area home prices decline along with other major cities in September

Widely watched Case-Shiller index shows widespread decline in sale prices of existing homes.

Home prices are falling faster in the nation's largest cities, and a record number of foreclosures is expected to push prices down further through next year.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index released Tuesday fell 0.7 percent in September from August. Eighteen of the cities, including Seattle, recorded monthly price declines.

Analysts say high unemployment, tight lending standards and millions of foreclosures will weigh on home prices.

"Unemployment is still high, people are afraid of losing their homes and credit is hard to get," said Maureen Maitland, vice president of S&P indexes.

Among the 20 cities in the Case-Shiller index, Cleveland recorded the largest decline. Prices there dropped 3 percent from a month earlier. Prices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, which had been showing strength this year, also dropped in September from August.

In the Seattle metropolitan area, which includes King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, prices fell 0.6 percent in September. Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas were the only metro areas to post gains in monthly prices.

The 20-city index has risen 5.9 percent from its April 2009 bottom. But it remains nearly 28.6 percent below its July 2006 peak. Seattle-area home prices peaked in July 2007, a year later than the national apex. Since then, they have dropped 24.6 percent, according to Case-Shiller.

And home prices have fallen in 15 of the 20 cities in the past year. The Seattle area has recorded a 2.6 percent drop since September 2009.

Prices in Tampa, Fla., fell to their lowest point since 2003. Portland, Charlotte, N.C. and Miami are also near their low points since the U.S. housing market collapsed in 2006.

Seattle prices hit bottom in February, then rose through July before heading down again.

Prices were on the upswing in many cities earlier this year, mostly boosted by government tax credits, which have since expired. Job worries and record high foreclosures are dampening buyer demand and weighing on prices.

Seattle Times business reporter Eric Pryne contributed to this report.

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