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Originally published October 30, 2012 at 6:56 AM | Page modified October 31, 2012 at 12:40 PM

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Mixed message in Seattle area’s latest home-price data

Home prices in the Seattle metropolitan area rose 3.4 percent in August over the same month last year, but they were down 0.1 percent from July.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Home prices in the Seattle metropolitan area rose 3.4 percent in August over the same month last year — the fourth straight monthly year-over-year increase and largest since the housing market collapsed five years ago, according to the closely watched Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home-price index.

But the news for Seattle was mixed: It was the only one of 20 cities tracked to see prices slip between July and August. The 0.1 percent decline came after five straight month-over-month gains.

The Seattle metropolitan area includes King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. Indexes for all 20 cities were released Tuesday. The August numbers are the most recent ones available.

“The sustained good news in home prices over the past five months makes us optimistic for continued recovery in the housing market,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indexes. “Even as we end the seasonally strong homebuying period, the statistics are positive.”

The 20-city composite index was up 0.9 percent from July and 2 percent from August 2011. Seattle was among 17 metropolitan areas to see year-over-year gains.

Cities that saw the steepest drops during the housing bust experienced some of the strongest gains.

Year-over-year prices were up 18.8 percent in Phoenix, 7.6 percent in Detroit and 6.7 percent in Miami. Seattle’s increase was the 10th-largest.

Prices dropped in Atlanta, New York and Chicago.

Detroit, Atlanta and Phoenix had the biggest month-over-month gains.

The Seattle area’s Case-Shiller score for August was 141.69, meaning prices were 41.69 percent higher than in January 2000. The score was down from 141.78 in July. The metropolitan area’s high, 192.30, came in July 2007.

The region’s lowest score since the real-estate bubble burst, 128.99, occurred in February. Since then prices have risen nearly 10 percent.

Nationally, the steady increase in prices, along with the lowest mortgage rates in decades, has helped many home markets slowly rebound nearly six years after the housing bubble burst.

Rising home prices encourage more people to put their homes on the market. They may also entice would-be buyers to purchase homes before prices rise further.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes.

Stan Humphries, chief economist at the housing website Zillow, expects the monthly price figures will decline in the fall and winter.

“This doesn’t mean the housing recovery has been derailed,” he said. “This is exactly what bouncing along bottom looks like.”

Other recent reports show that the housing market is improving, albeit from depressed levels.

Homebuilders started construction on new homes and apartments at the fastest pace in more than four years last month. They also requested the most building permits in four years, a sign that many are confident that home sales gains will continue.

Home building is still far below the pace that economists say is consistent with a healthy housing market.

New-home sales jumped last month to the highest annual pace in the past two and a half years.

Sales of previously occupied homes dipped in September but have risen steadily in the past year.

Information from

The Associated Press

is included in this report.

Eric Pryne: epryne@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2231

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