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Local home prices were down 22 percent from their year-ago levels in March, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, released this morning.

The index, which tracks the same detached houses as they sell over the years, showed San Diego County home prices are down 42.3 percent from their peak in November 2005.

Despite that drop, prices were still 47 percent higher than they were in January 2000.

Broken into tiers by the price the homes had previously sold for, the lowest priced tier (homes priced under $269,829) fell by 26.5 percent compared to March 2008. That tier was down 51.5 percent from its peak in June 2006.

The middle tier, homes priced between $269,829 and $397,733, fell by 17.4 percent year-over-year and 40.3 percent from the November 2005 peak.

And the high tier, homes priced higher than $397,733, fell 18.8 percent year-over-year and 33.4 percent from the peak.

In the past few months, the severity of the drops has shifted from tier to tier, but in this installment, the monthly declines from February to March were about the same across the three tiers. A seasonally adjusted version of the index showed a 1.79 percent drop for the low tier, a 1.57 percent slide in the middle and a 1.53 percent drop at the top. The index as a whole dropped 1.42 percent from the previous month.

Despite these falling prices, buyers are out in force. We told you about that development last month, and last week reported that sales have continued to rise.

We’ll have more on local housing trends later today.

KELLY BENNETT

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