State's Home Buyers Pay Dearly for Sun and Fun

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For $94,000 in San Antonio, you can buy a typical executive home of about 2,200 square feet, with four bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, a family room and two-car garage.

In Newport Beach, such a sum would make only a good down payment for a similar home. In Beverly Hills, it might help pay for the servant's quarters.

Those were among some of the more stark conclusions to be drawn from Coldwell Banker Residential Group's annual home price comparison study released Wednesday. The survey compares the average sales price of at least three similar houses sold during the last quarter of 1990 in each of 219 markets in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Clearly, where you live makes a lot of difference in what you pay for housing, the Mission Viejo-based company found. The nation's heartland is the cheapest; the East and West coasts, particularly in California, are the dearest.

"The survey shows that you get the most for your money in the central United States," said Chandler Barton, chairman and chief executive officer of Coldwell's residential unit.

The report also shows that in California you get the least for your money. Seven California cities--five in the Southland--were among the 10 areas with the most expensive executive-style, four-bedroom homes.

Beverly Hills was the most expensive area in the nation, with an average price of $1,491,667. Other California communities on the list included La Jolla ($686,625), Newport Beach ($606,667), the Palos Verdes Peninsula ($533,333), San Marino ($639,000) San Francisco ($615,000) and San Mateo ($567,500).

But the survey also shows there are still pockets of affordability among the sampling of communities in California. Among them are the fast-growing Inland Empire cities of Riverside and Temecula, where the price of a four-bedroom home was $203,750 and $194,667 respectively.

Outside of California, the highest priced areas included Greenwich, Conn., Honolulu and the Lincoln Park section of Chicago.

The lowest-priced areas of the nation were generally in the Midwest and South. The cheapest city was Corpus Christi, Tex., where a four-bedroom house sold for $82,338.

The median price of all homes surveyed was $199,036. The survey also indicated that some areas of the country are experiencing a soft market, with lower housing prices than in previous studies.

The survey does not take into account the cost of living in each area or intangible factors, such as desirability. So the low prices in Ft. Smith, Ark., and Jackson, Mich., may not have the allure of Southern California with its beaches, good weather and higher standard of living.

"It's because the sun shines and a lot of people want to live here and there aren't enough houses," said Ken Agid, an Irvine-based real estate consultant.

Though hit by recession, California has a dynamic, diverse economy and lots of families anxious to buy houses as soon as they can afford one, he said.

Other analysts point to the survey as a spear that can be stuck into the heart of doomsayers who have pointed to smog, traffic, gangs and crime as endangering the California dream.

"There has been so much trashing," said Sanford Goodkin, an consultant for KPMG Peat Marwick/Goodkin in San Diego, "that they (the critics) mistook gossip for fact."

The fact remains, they say, that demand for housing has continued to bolster California land prices far past the average in other parts of the nation.

Land, as a percentage of the price of a house, can range anywhere from 50% to 75% in Southern California, said Chris Leinberger, a managing partner for Robert Charles Lesser & Co. who lives in Santa Fe, N.M. In most other cities nationwide--and in California until about 20 years ago--land represents less than 25% of the price of a house.

Many California homeowners might long to sell and move to less expensive areas, he said, but employment remains the biggest factor in limiting where people will move. For now, he said, the jobs are still in California.

The Coldwell Banker survey also found that all the California houses it surveyed sold within 180 days. The exception, among the 23 communities it surveyed, was in Beverly Hills.

Michael Meyer, a managing partner for Kenneth Leventhal & Co. in Newport Beach, said that while some houses are selling slower, the pace of sales is starting to pick up. He said one established home builder recently reported its strongest 30 days of sales in its history.

"The housing market has gotten a bum rap in California," Meyer said.

Alfred Gobar, who has a real estate consulting business in Brea, said the tremendous surge of newcomers to Southern California has kept the market strong. And while the economy has weakened, he said it is stronger than many other places in the country.

The buyers of a four-bedroom home, he said, are typically a two-wage-earning family that is moving up from another, smaller house.

HOUSING MARKET HIGHS AND LOWS

Survey of average prices for a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath home of about 2,200 square feet in 1990:

Location Price 10 HIGHEST Beverly Hills $1,491,667 La Jolla 686,625 San Marino 639,000 San Francisco 615,000 Newport Beach 606,667 Greenwich, Conn 585,000 San Mateo 567,500 Palos Verdes Peninsula 533,333 Honolulu 506,250 Chicago--Lincoln Park 491,667 10 LOWEST Omaha $99,846 Memphis, Tenn. 97,283 Ft. Smith, Ark. 95,775 San Antonio 94,000 Kansas City, Kan. 93,363 Tulsa, Okla. 92,443 Jackson, Mich. 92,253 Evansville, Ind. 89,933 Oklahoma City 85,200 Corpus Christi, Tex. 82,338

Source: Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate SOUTHLAND PRICES

Beverly Hills: $1,491,667

La Jolla: 686,625

San Marino: 639,000

Newport Beach: 606,667

Palos Verdes Peninsula: 533,333

Long Beach: 436,250

Encinitas: 300,250

Mission Viejo: 291,833

San Diego: 242,750

Riverside: 203,750

Temecula: 194,667

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