Amid mixed housing news nationwide, San Diego shone in February as the only market nationwide to rise from the month before.

The increase, measured in the latest Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index released this morning, was the 10th straight month-to-month increase for local home prices.

Prices had plunged 42.3 percent between the peak in November 2005 to a trough last April. These new numbers show San Diego prices have regained 9.3 percent from that trough.

Comparing February to the same month a year ago, local prices rose 7.6 percent.

Broken into thirds, the San Diego prices increased over January except in the middle tier. Prices have now fallen back to the pre-downturn levels they reached in 2002 and 2003:

Low tier (homes priced under $307,993)

  • Year-over-year: 9.4 percent increase
  • January to February: 1 percent increase
  • Price change from peak: 45.7 percent decline from June 2006
  • Pre-downturn price level: summer 2002

Middle tier (between $307,993 and $461,489)

  • Year-over-year: 4.9 percent increase
  • January to February: 0.17 percent decline
  • Price change from peak: 36.3 percent decline from November 2005
  • Pre-downturn price level: spring 2003

High tier (over $461,489)

  • Year-over-year: 3.4 percent increase
  • January to February: 0.9 percent increase
  • Price change from peak: 30.4 percent decline from June 2006
  • Pre-downturn price level: summer 2003

Overall index:

  • Year-over-year: 7.6 percent increase
  • January to February: 0.6 percent increase
  • Price change from peak: 36.9 percent decline from November 2005
  • Pre-downturn price level: spring 2003

S&P analyst David Blitzer said it’s too early to say the national housing market is recovering.

Existing and new home sales, inventories and housing starts all show tremendous improvement in their March statistics. The homebuyer tax credit, available until the end of April, is the likely cause for these encouraging numbers and this may also flow through to some of our home price data in the next few months. Amidst all the news, however, we should also pay heed to foreclosure activity, which have reached their (sic) highest level in at least the last five years. As these homes are put up for sales, we may see some further dampening in home prices.

(Note: S&P said last week its seasonally adjusted numbers, the ones we usually use to show month-to-month changes, could be dramatically distorted by irregular factors like distressed sales and government incentives. I’ve used the non-adjusted numbers here in light of that warning.)

— KELLY BENNETT

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