The Country's Most (and Least) Expensive Housing Markets

Despite a wicked recession, California still has six of the 10 priciest U.S. housing markets.

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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 Home Listing Report released Wednesday.

Newport Beach, Calif., topped the 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, almost $1 million less than the average list price in Newport Beach. Cupertino, Calif., home to tech giant Apple Inc., rounded out the top 10 most expensive housing markets, with an average list price of about $1.14 million.

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While not completely insulated from the housing meltdown, areas like 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 are a different story, he says, and continue to grapple with depressed home prices in part because of the foreclosure epidemic.

The report aggregates data from more than 2,300 U.S. and Canadian markets, using the average list price of four-bedroom, two-bathroom properties listed between September 2010 and March 2011. Here are the top 10 most expensive housing markets in the U.S.:

City Avgerage listing price
(September 2010 through March 2011)
Newport Beach, Calif. $2,537,126
Pacific Palisades, Calif. $1,606,992
Stone Harbor, N.J. $1,344,908
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. $1,312,538
Saratoga, Calif. $1,281,889
Los Gatos, Calif. $1,261,176
Weston, Mass. $1,228,100
Greenwich, Conn. $1,154,293
Mercer Island, Wash. $1,143,521
Cupertino, Calif. $1,140,656

On the other end of the spectrum, 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.

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Cities in the metropolitan Atlanta, Ga., area—a region particularly hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis and overbuilding—dominated the list of most affordable markets, with an average listing 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."

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Here are the top 10 most affordable housing markets in the U.S.:

City Avgerage listing price
(September 2010 through March 2011)
Niagara Falls, N.Y.. $60,820
Riverdale, Ga. $61,618
Coolidge, Ariz. $69,083
College Park, Ga. $72,477
Detroit, Mich. $73,363
Hastings, Fla. $74,910
Cleveland, Ohio $76,042
Lithonia, Ga. $77,385
Trotwood, Ohio $77,445
Sioux City, Iowa $80,152

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According to the report, the average of the surveyed listings hovers around $293,000, and well over half of the markets surveyed have 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 its way through the system, the report's findings emphasize the current affordability of the housing market, Gillespie says. "[There are] 24 markets [with average listing prices] under $100,000. 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," he says. "To me that just rings of affordability."

Twitter: @mmhandley