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Originally published Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 8:24 AM

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1Q home prices fall by 19.1 pct to 2002 levels

Home prices fell in the first quarter but the pace of decline eased a bit from the record drop seen in the final three months of 2008, a government housing agency said Wednesday.

AP Economics Writer

Seattle home prices drop 2% in March

Home prices in Seattle dropped another 2 percent in March, bringing the 12-month drop to 16.4 percent. Both the monthly and yearly declines were a bit better than the average of the 20 cities in the Case-Shiller index.

Seattle's year-over-year decline was the ninth-smallest among the 20 cities in the index. Phoenix had the biggest 12-month drop, 36 percent; Denver, with a 5.5 percent decline, had the smallest.

Since metro-area home prices peaked in July 2007, according to the Case-Shiller data, prices have fallen 22.5 percent. That compares to a 32.2 percent decline in the 20-city composite index since its peak in July 2006.

Seattle Times business reporter Drew DeSilver

WASHINGTON —

Home prices fell in the first quarter but the pace of decline eased a bit from the record drop seen in the final three months of 2008, a government housing agency said Wednesday.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency said home prices fell 7.1 percent in the January-March period, compared with a year ago. That marked a slowdown from the 8.3 percent drop in the fourth quarter, the largest on records dating to 1991.

James B. Lockhart, director of the agency which oversees government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said the smaller price decline points to some stability in the housing market.

"Our latest data are consistent with growing evidence that housing market conditions may be stabilizing in some part of the country," Lockhart said in a statement.

Prices fell 0.55 percent from the fourth quarter of last year. That also was down from the 3.29 percent drop registered in the fourth quarter. It marked the seventh consecutive quarterly drop, but was the smallest since the third quarter of 2007.

The FHFA purchase only price index tracks average house price changes in repeat sales of properties by analyzing mortgage records from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

A separate home price gauge, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller National Home Price index, on Tuesday found home prices in major metropolitan areas tumbled 19.1 percent in the first quarter, the largest year-over-year price decline in the 21-year history of the index.

Home prices have fallen 32.2 percent since peaking in the second quarter of 2006, according to the Case-Shiller index.

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