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Home Prices Soaring Higher

Home sale prices continue climbing inexorably toward the $200,000 mark, warming the hearts of the housing industry and home sellers. The average cost of both new and existing homes sold in 31 cities surveyed by the Federal Housing Finance Board, was $186,000 as of September 30. Does that mean you can still buy a house for less than $186,000? Of course you can, that figure is an average drawn from metropolitan areas, many of which represent the higher end of the housing markets.

But the overall cost trend is undeniable. What's driving prices up? Buyers hungry for more features, more space and more amenities; rising construction costs; and, sellers anxious to maximize their profits on existing homes. Since 1993, the average home cost has gone up $36,000 in the annual surveys.

Of the 31 total housing markets surveyed, only 5 showed a decline. Salt Lake City had the biggest jump of those areas that posted increases: 18.6 percent from $152,300 to $180,600.

Are you going to San Francisco? The cost of purchasing a home may be too rich for your blood in the Bay area. At $329,300, the average home price is still the highest in the nation. California posted large increases in the southern part of the state, too. San Diego was up 12.5 percent, from $232,300 to $261,400. The price is comparable in Los Angeles where the average jumped from $231,500 to $253,300, an increase of 9.4 percent.

Honolulu, Hawaii is one of the priciest places to buy a home, second only to San Francisco. The average price of a home on the main island went down only slightly to $286,000, a 0.2 decrease from $286,500 last year.

Moving to the northeast, the survey found that average home prices are well above $200,000 in major metropolitan areas. New York is number 5 nationally, with an average price of $239,000, up 5 percent from $228,700 a year ago. Washington, DC was sixth at $224,800, a 6.2 percent increase from $211,600. Boston came in at $208,200.

A sampling of the highest priced regions shows levels rising dramatically--sometimes above $200,000. Seattle is No. 7 at $217,700. Denver placed 9th in the national averages at $205,900, a 10.2 percent increase from $186,800. Chicago was up 10.2 percent as well, from $178,700 to $196,900. Atlanta is up a whopping 11.3 percent from $167,800 to $186,800.

In Indianapolis, the average home is $157,600. Pittsburgh came in at $132,300, Tampa-St. Petersburg at $132,400. The only big decline was in Louisville where the price was $127,000, down 13.8 percent from $147,200.