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, family room or equivalent and two-car garage.
In Newport Beach, such a sum would make a good down payment on a similar home. In Beverly Hills, it might help pay for the servant's quarters.
Those were among some of the conclusions to be drawn from Coldwell Banker Residential Group's annual home price comparison study. 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 State, 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 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 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 that 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 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 house in the survey was in Corpus Christi, Tex., at $82,338.
The survey does not take into account the cost of living in each area or intangible factors such as desirability, factors certain to be major determinants in a business executive's ability to purchase a house in specific areas. 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 eager 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 leading to the end of the California Dream.
"There has been so much trashing," said Sanford Goodkin, a consultant for KPMG Peat Marwick/Goodkin in San Diego, "that they (the critics) mistook gossip for fact."
The fact remains, analysts say, that demand for housing has continued to boost California land prices far past the average for other places in the nation.
NATION'S HOME PRICES Survey of average prices for a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath home of approximately 2,200 square feet in 1990:
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
Chicago--Lincoln Park: 491,667
Omaha, Neb.: 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, Okla.: 85,200
Corpus Christi, Tex.: 82,338
Source: Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate