Newport real estate is second highest in U.S.

Forget the cliffside mansions of Carmel-by-the-Sea or San Francisco townhomes with Golden Gate views. If it's pricey real estate you want, look no further than Newport Beach.

With an average home listing price of $1.658 million, Newport ranked second among the most expensive real estate markets in the country, according to Coldwell Banker's annual Home Listing Report released this week.

That's down a spot from last year, when Newport was at the top of the national list.

Bay Area suburb Los Altos ranked No. 1.

Of course, that Newport has ranked high in expensive housing is hardly a surprise, said Rick Jenkins, regional vice president of Coldwell for Orange County and desert regions.

"Newport is constantly well up there," he said. "Certainly close to, if not at the top."

And that's a good thing, said Tricia Moore, executive vice president of the Newport Beach Assn. of Realtors.

"Overall I think it's a positive for the city. It's the same as a school getting a Blue Ribbon Award," she said. "We're a desirable community."

Costa Mesa, at 19th most expensive in California, was the second highest ranked city in Orange County with an average asking price of $851,799. Irvine, with an average listing of $721,035, ranked 28th most expensive in the state.

Newport held down the sole Southern California spot in the list's top six most expensive markets nationwide. The other five are Silicon Valley suburbs. The top average asking price? About $1.7 million.

According to the report, there's about a $1.6-million drop down to the average price in the most affordable market surveyed: Redford, Mich. at $60,490.

Despite the fact that 12 of the list's most expensive markets are in California, the state overall was less expensive on average than Hawaii and Massachusetts, which were most and second most expensive, respectively.

The report is based on the average listing prices of four-bedroom, two-bathroom homes in 2,500 U.S. markets from January to June.

Jenkins said the report is meant more as a "snapshot" of a particular type of home in certain areas than as a broad portrait of the housing market.

In general, he said, that picture is getting rosier.

"Broadly and generally, our Newport market is extremely good," he said. Inventory counts have gone down throughout Orange County, which means demand is higher. And the percentage of sales categorized as distressed — as in the case of a foreclosure or short sale — is down from more than 50% in 2010 to about 13% now.

Those indicators, especially in combination, Jenkins said, point to a strong housing market.

"All in all we are just pleased with the real estate market as it's going and we look forward to it continuing," he said. "Frankly, it's a good time to sell."

Moore said she's a little less optimistic, as the country hurtles toward that looming "fiscal cliff."

"[In Newport] we saw the market starting to improve, I would say in July and August of this year." Whether that continues, she said, "I guess it'll depend on what transpires in the next 45 or 60 days."

Twitter: @jillcowan

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