Update: In case it’s not clear, the numbers below are for San Diego County.

The economists for the Case-Shiller Home Price Index announced today a twist on their typical data — a division of the market into low, middle and high tiers.

Analysts have worried about measures that lump together all of the homes in a metropolitan area. The concern is that the general measures might mask the severity of a decline in some parts of the market, while making other parts seem worse than they are. For those reasons, we’ve stopped using the all-home median price as the ultimate indicator.

But this gives us even more to work with — an idea of the growth and declines in each category (divided into thirds of market activity by price).

  • Low tier: The market peak was June 2006 for the low tier, defined as less than $482,114, the new data showed. That month, prices for homes in that category were 196.9 percent higher than they were in January 2000, or nearly triple.

Comparing August 2007’s prices to that peak in June 2006 shows a 13.3 percent decline in prices for the low tier. August-to-August, it logged a 12.8 percent drop.

  • Middle tier: The market peak for the middle tier — defined as $482,114 to $678,768 — was in November 2005, when prices were 154.6 percent higher than in January 2000.

August 2007’s prices for the tier were 11.3 percent lower than that peak, and 9.3 percent lower than August 2006.

  • High tier: The market peak for the high tier — defined as higher than $678,768 — was in June 2006, when prices were 124 percent higher than in January 2000.

August 2007’s prices for that tier were 5.7 percent lower than the peak, and 4.9 percent lower than August 2006.

  • Aggregate: Here’s the story we ran last week including the general market data from this index. Prices in general declined by 8.3 percent compared to last August, the index showed.

Some highlights: Prices in the low tier swung highest in the real estate boom, nearly tripling between January 2000 and the peak. And that tier has seen the biggest declines since then.

Year-over-year, the low and middle tiers have declined more sharply than the aggregate index, but the high tier has not.

Keep in mind, the Case-Shiller index looks at single-family standalone homes on the resale market. A house has to have sold at least once before to qualify, and the change in prices is taken from sales of the exact same homes over time. Those same standards apply to the new data.

I know this is hard to read. We’re working on getting you a graph. But in the meantime, what are your thoughts? Does this jive with what you’re seeing? What are some other ways you’re hoping to see data divided? Click my name below to send me an e-mail.

KELLY BENNETT

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