There’s no doubt housing prices have come roaring back this year. New numbers released this morning showed San Diego County home prices rose again in March — marking the 11th straight month they’ve been headed up.

Local prices rose 10.8 percent between March last year and this March — when buyers scrambled into the market to take advantage of an expiring federal tax credit. That was the second largest increase in any of the 20 cities measured in the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index, a closely watched indicator for the housing market.

On a month-to-month basis, March’s prices showed an increase of 1.5 percent from February.

The index breaks down that performance into three tiers, and the top two price tiers rose between February and March. The high tier (homes priced over $465,686) showed a hefty 2.9 percent increase over February.

While the lowest tier, homes priced under $311,200, showed the most dramatic increase compared to the same month last year (11.3 percent increase between March ’09 and March ’10), it fell a slight 0.3 percent between February and March.

Even the 10.8 percent year-over-year return for the overall index doesn’t erase the losses logged in the downturn. Prices in March were still down 36 percent from the peak they reached in November 2005.

But, compared to a decade ago, prices in March were at a level 60 percent higher than the level they registered in January 2000.

The national market showed a drop in the first quarter of 3.2 percent compared to the last quarter of 2009. David Blitzer, a Standard & Poor’s analyst, sounded a cautionary note for the national picture in a statement this morning:

The housing market may be in better shape than this time last year; but, when you look at recent trends there are signs of some renewed weakening in home prices. In the past several months we have seen some relatively weak reports across many of the markets we cover.

San Diego has not been one of those weak spots. Along with L.A., Minneapolis and San Francisco, the local market was among the largest increases recorded in the index.

We’ll have more on these numbers later today.


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