A monthly home-price index recorded unprecedented year-over-year drops in the price of resale single-family homes in February 2009 compared to the same month a year earlier, with 15 markets showing double-digit percentage declines.

The composite index for the 20 metro areas, down 18.6 percent year-over-year in February, did not set a new record — breaking a string of 16 record-setting months.

A monthly home-price index recorded unprecedented year-over-year drops in the price of resale single-family homes in February 2009 compared to the same month a year earlier in 10 of 20 market areas, with 15 markets showing double-digit percentage declines.

The composite index for the 20 metro areas, down 18.6 percent year-over-year in February, did not set a new record — breaking a string of 16 record-setting months.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-metro area price index, which compares repeat sales over time for thousands of U.S. homes, found a 35.2 percent year-over-year decline in the Phoenix, Ariz., market in February — the steepest index drop among the 20 tracked areas.

Next on the list was Las Vegas (-31.7 percent), San Francisco (-31 percent), and Miami, (-29.5 percent).

The slightest year-over-year index declines were in Dallas (-4.5 percent), Denver (-5.7 percent), and Boston (-7.2 percent).

The largest price drop from January 2009 to February 2009 was in Cleveland (-5 percent), and the slightest drop was in Dallas (-0.3 percent).

The Case-Shiller price index has come under fire from critics — some within and some outside the real estate industry — who question whether the selected metro areas and the index data paint a clear picture of price changes across the U.S.

And where home-price charts are concerned there is often disagreement over their accuracy and questions about their methodology — the Wall Street Journal last week reported on a challenge by economist Thomas Lawler over Yale University economist Robert Shiller’s use of a chart showing U.S. home price trends since 1890.

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