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February was another bad month for the Case-Shiller index, the best measure of aggregate home prices. The overall San Diego index dropped a hefty 3.6 percent from January, for a total decline of 24.0 percent since the November 2005 peak.

As has become the custom, lower-priced homes were hit a lot worse than higher-priced homes. But as has become a more recent custom, high-priced homes have started to feel some substantial pain as well.

According to the Case-Shiller tiered price indexes, low-priced San Diego homes fell 4.1 percent for the month, mid-priced homes fell 3.9 percent, and high-priced homes fell 2.7 percent. The declines since the three tiers’ respective peaks can be seen in the accompanying graph.

The Case-Shiller index, while comparatively accurate, lags a lot. Each month’s index figure is based on sales activity from the prior three months. The February index, for example, is based on sales from December, January, and February. So assuming a somewhat constant price trend, the index is more representative of January prices than anything else.

Next week, we will have a look at the size-adjusted median price for homes sold in April. This less accurate but more timely indicator will at least give us an idea as to what’s been happening since the early months of 2008.

— RICH TOSCANO

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