Have I got a deal for you: a nice 2,200-square-foot rambler with 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, a family room and a 2-car garage. It's yours for $916,666. See to apprec. in Beverly Hills, Calif.
What's that? You want to shop around a little longer? No problem. How about a lovely split-level of virtually identical dimensions to the Beverly Hills digs for $81,666 in Corpus Christi, Texas?You say you can't take the heat and humidity of the southern Panhandle even for a bargain? Not to worry. For $125,000 I can slide you into a charming brick bungalow - same size as the two listed above - in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Like Dorothy told Toto, there's no place like home.
But don't get ready to move in just yet. The three houses used for this comparison - along with 204 others like them in various cities across the country - don't exist as such. They're a composite of a typical "middle management executive home" created by Coldwell Banker's residential real estate division to compile the 1989 Home Price Comparison Index.
Among other things, the index confirms what property experts have been telling us since the first Neanderthal pounded a "For Sale By Owner" sign into the ground outside his cave: The three most important factors in the price of real estate are location, location and location.
Are there really middle managers living among the stars and starlets in Beverly Hills and, if so, can they afford nearly $1 million for a house? (And a pretty small one at that.) Who are they middle managing for, Columbian cocaine runners?
But that's how it is with indexes; there's a low end (Corpus Christi) and a high end (Beverly Hills) and lots of in-betweeners like Salt Lake.
The Coldwell Banker index breaks the housing market into four pricing categories: Group I "economical"; Group II "reasonable"; Group III "moderate"; and Group IV "expensive."
At $125,000 for the composite "middle management executive" house, Salt Lake came in at the low end of the "reasonable" category. Springfield, Mass., at $178,000, was at the high end of "reasonable." California and Hawaii dominate the high end - the average sales price in the 21 California markets was a breathtaking $445,080 - with the nine-state Northeast sector averaging $239,832.
The maximum appreciation was found in San Jose, Calif., where the overall housing market soared 32 percent in value during 1989. The biggest drop in value for the year, 13.8 percent, was suffered by homeowners in Anchorage, Alaska. Salt Lake housing, according to the CB index, increased 7 percent in price during the year.
The best housing bargains were in the South and Midwest where our subject "middle manager" house could be bought for under Salt Lake's $125,000.
Incidentally, Jazz fans, Phoenix may have beaten Utah in the NBA playoffs with a lucky shot at the buzzer last Sunday, but Phoenix residential real estate only appreciated 4 percent last year. Better luck next time, Phoenix.