The new American dream home: Prices in 11 cities

Atlanta’s expansion has engulfed this one-time stone quarrying town in the hills of Georgia. Residents are now more likely to commute to office jobs in Atlanta (just 20 miles away) than cut granite nearby.

Clobbered by the recession, unemployment — at 9.7% in April — is above the national average and it hasn’t budged over the past year. That has contributed to a spike in foreclosures. Atlanta has the 15th highest foreclosure rate in the nation among metro areas, according to RealtyTrac, the online marketplace of foreclosures.

In fact, this home was foreclosed on, bought by an investor and fixed up for resale. “It’s been almost totally redone and is in move-in condition,” said agent Phyllis Young.

It’s a three-level home and includes a bedroom that could be converted into an in-law suite. Other features include vaulted ceilings and a two-car garage.

More information: Coldwell Banker

Historically, the economy here has relied on manufacturing, thanks to natural gas fields that powered its factories. With most of that cheap power all used up and the automobile industry in decline, nearly all the big plants have vanished. But there are smaller tool-and-die and furnace makers where work has recently picked up. In April, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.6% from 11.2% a year earlier.

Muncie’s biggest employers are currently Ball State University and Ball Memorial Hospital, both named for the Ball Corporation, a one-time fruit-jar manufacturer in the area.

Families here tend to stay in their homes for generations. This home has had only one owner in its 49 years, according to agent Laura Henandez. She should know: She grew up playing with their kids.

More information: Coldwell Banker

A fast-growing town of 35,000 residents on the southern edge of Dallas, Lancaster has plenty of flat and inexpensive land to build on, which has helped keep housing costs low.

However, as the population of Dallas expands, demand for homes in the area has been growing, too. And that has enabled the market to escape the steep price declines experienced by more volatile areas.

This contemporary brick home is on a quarter-acre, corner lot. It has a separate dining room, a master suite and central air for those hot Texas summers.

More information: Coldwell Banker

Idaho’s capital is home to several major companies, including pulp and paper maker Boise Cascade, and chip manufacturer Micron Technologies . The recession has hit the economy hard and unemployment, at 9.5% in April, is the same high rate it was a year earlier.

With hiring slow, real estate prices have been depressed. Boise’s median home price has fallen more than 40% in the bust, according to data from Wells Fargo. The metro area now has the 13th highest foreclosure rate in the nation and all those bank repossessions have added to the inventory of homes for sale.

This home, which has a spacious and modern floor plan and custom touches like French doors and a stone fireplace, is on the market for a reasonable $199,900.

More information: Coldwell Banker

North Dakota — with its paltry unemployment rate of 3.7% in April — is one of few states to successfully stave off the recession, thanks to particularly strong performances from its oil and agricultural industries. North Dakota’s economy is growing faster than any other state.

This home is located in a Fargo neighborhood that has quadrupled in population since 1990, according to Coldwell Banker agent LuAnn White. That has helped keep home prices higher here.

“We’ve always had a very steady market here,” she said. “We never had double-digit gains and we had only a tiny downturn.”

The house backs up on green space, an area set aside to soak up heavy rains but is, for most of the year, a field of grass. It has a bi-level floor plan with arched entryways between dining and living rooms.

More information: Coldwell Banker

The presence of three big universities nearby (and many other schools), as well as the cultural and artistic events they bring to the area, is enough to lure home buyers to the Chapel Hill area, which was number 40 on MONEY magazine’s list of Best Places to Live this year.

However, the area also boasts an abundance of high-paying tech jobs. The Research Triangle, which includes Raleigh and Durham, is known for its concentration of high-tech companies, including outposts for IBM and Cisco Systems.

This contemporary-home has generously-sized rooms and is in a very neighborly community, according to Coldwell Banker Realtor, Gary Saleeby.

At 2,875 square-feet, this home is larger than most of the other homes on Coldwell Bankers’ list. As an added bonus: the property backs up to wooded, Army Corps of Engineers land that will remain undeveloped.

More information: Coldwell Banker

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Thanks to its concentration of government jobs, the D.C.-metro area has come roaring out of the recession faster than most places around the country. In April, the unemployment rate fell to 5.4% from 6% a year earlier.

Rockville, number 30 on MONEY’s Best Places to Live list of , also sits in the I-270 Technology Corridor, an area that has attracted an array of bio-tech and software companies, like Human Genome Sciences and divisions of Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman — many of which located here to be close to the seat of power and funding.

This brick and stone colonial is on a quiet cul-de-sac, according to real estate agent Cynthia Moler. “It’s not a cookie-cutter-type, newly-developed area,” she said.

More information: Coldwell Banker

Land in Hawaii is in short supply, meaning you’ll pay a premium for a home here. It’s the most expensive metro area housing market in the nation right now.

Even during the recession, prices remained fairly stable and have strengthened lately as an influx of foreign investors from Russia, Canada and the Far East rush to take advantage of a weak dollar.

This contemporary home is a lot more expensive than the other homes on Coldwell Banker’s list, but the price tag includes plenty of amenities, such as a master suite in a separate wing with its own sunken tub and sauna, an observation deck and a wraparound balcony.

The home, which features pitched ceilings and tropical hardwoods, is located on a Honolulu hillside overlooking Maunalua Bay with views of Diamond Head, the iconic, ancient volcano that has become Hawaii’s emblem. The property also sits on a manicured tropical garden.

More information: Coldwell Banker

Even though it’s just an hour-long train ride from New York’s Grand Central Station, this town on the Long Island Sound feels as if it’s a million miles from the city.

“It’s a quiet peaceful community with superb schools,” said agent Darlene Letersky. Town residents have low-cost access to private beaches and to the local country club.

Home prices in the area softened during the recession, falling more than 30% from peak, according to data from Wells Fargo, but prime residential areas like Westport, with its reputable school system and recreational facilities, have fared well, according to Letersky.

The area has been home to many famous residents, like Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (she still lives there) and Martha Stewart, as well as plenty of fictional ones, including Ricky and Lucy Ricardo (who moved to Westport from Manhattan when they bought a house).

This classic colonial sits on two landscaped acres in the north section of town. It has a family room with a cathedral ceiling and a candelabra chandelier, among other high-end amenities.

More information: Coldwell Banker

Newport Beach is one of the most popular recreational boating locations in California. That, and the warm climate, has helped attract one of the most affluent populations in the United States. Median household income is well over $100,000.

Coldwell Banker found the average listing price for a four-bedroom, two-bath home has nearly doubled over the past two years to more than $2.5 million.

This home occupies a tiny plot on Balboa Island, but it’s on the Grand Canal with a private boat dock and access to the harbor and the nearby Pacific Ocean. Both the living room and master bedroom have canal views and there is a roof deck that allows you to watch the sun set over the ocean.

More information: Coldwell Banker

The dream has changed. Chastened by the housing collapse, middle-class Americans want a different kind of home these days. The McMansion, with its eight bedrooms, five baths and 10,000 square-feet, is out. A more sensible housing solution is in.

The average size of new homes shrunk by about 5% from 2007 to 2010 and far fewer mega-homes are being built. The number of homes 4,000 square-feet or larger built in 2010 fell to 35,000 from more than 120,000 in 2007.

Sure, some Americans still fantasize about buying grandiose dwellings — like Jennifer Aniston’s $42 million mansion — but then practicality sets in: Nowadays, the real dream house is a family-friendly, four bedroom, with two-and-a-half bath, 2,200 square-foot home.

But as Coldwell Banker’s 2011 Home Listing Report shows, what you pay for these more down-to-earth dwellings can vary dramatically depending on where you live. The report compared average prices of the homes in 2,300 town and cities across North America. Among the findings: At an average cost of $80,000, buying a four bedroom in Lithonia, Ga. is only a fraction of what you’d pay for a similar-sized dwelling in Newport Beach, California where the homes average $2.5 million.

Here’s a sampling of what the American Dream home costs in cities and towns across the U.S.

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