Inside the Country’s Most and Least Expensive Housing Markets

From By Meg Handley of U.S. News & World Report 

Although the Golden State was battered when the housing bubble burst, California is still home to six of the 10 most expensive housing markets in the country, according to Coldwell Banker’s most recent “Home Listing Report.”The report aggregated data from more than 2,300 U.S. and Canadian markets, using the average price of four-bedroom, two-bathroom properties listed between September 2010 and this past March.

Newport Beach, Calif., topped Coldwell Banker’s list for the second year in a row. A four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in the seaside city goes for more than $2.5 million, on average. Los Angeles County hot-spot Pacific Palisades, Calif., was a distant second, with an average list price of $1.6 million. Cupertino, Calif., home to tech giant Apple, rounded out the 10 most expensive housing markets, with an average list price of about $1.14 million.

Although not completely insulated from the housing meltdown, areas such as Newport Beach and Pacific Palisades continue to enjoy healthy economies, which help keep home prices high in those cities, says Jim Gillespie, CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate. Regions in Southern California and Sacramento, Calif., are a different story, he says, and continue to grapple with depressed home prices, in part because of the foreclosure epidemic.

Popular tourist destination Niagara Falls, N.Y., topped Coldwell Banker’s list of most affordable housing markets, with an average home listing price of $61,000.

Cities in the metropolitan Atlanta area, a region hit particularly hard by the foreclosure crisis and overbuilding, dominated the list of cheapest markets, with an average list price of less than $80,000.

Detroit, still feeling the impact of the auto industry’s woes, is recovering somewhat but continues to grapple with an ebbing population and depressed home prices.

“Detroit is still on the most-affordable list, but it has leveled out,” Gillespie says. “The thing about the Midwest is you don’t have these big ups and downs. Michigan and Ohio really did get hit, but over the last 12 months, (things) have certainly leveled off, and several times during the year, prices have actually gone up a little bit.”

The average list price nationwide was $293,000, according to the report, and well more than half of the markets surveyed had average list prices of less than $300,000, evidence of the enduring national impact of the housing bubble and the Great Recession.

But while the fallout of the financial crisis continues to work through the system, the report emphasized the current affordability of the housing market, Gillespie says.

“(There are) 24 markets (with average list prices) under $100,000,” he says. “A third of our market is under $200,000 — this is not for a typical, average house in this country; it’s for a four-bedroom, two-bath home. To me, that just rings of affordability.”