Report inflates price of Wichita's homes

Wichita remains one of the most affordable areas in the country to buy a home, despite a new national study that badly undervalues the area.

Coldwell Banker's 2010 home listing report ranks Wichita 49th in its 296 markets with a $177,436 average listing price, sandwiched between Columbus, Ohio, at $177,188 and Columbus, Ga., at $179,101.

Two nearby markets made the top 10 in the Coldwell Banker study: Kansas City at seventh at $112,449 and Topeka at 10th at $116,343.

The study is based on the average list price for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home on, since multiple listing services don't share sales information with the firm, local brokers said.

As a result, those brokers and analysts say the survey misses badly on the true affordability of Wichita homes.

John McKenzie, president of Wichita's Coldwell Banker franchise, Plaza Real Estate, said the Wichita figure is skewed by his company's focus on higher-priced housing sales.

Tessa Hultz, CEO of the Wichita Area Association of Realtors, agreed. She said the Coldwell Banker numbers are far higher than average listing prices accumulated since February by the Wichita MLS.

Those MLS stats would put Wichita at the cusp of the top 10, Hultz said, showing 424 four-bed, two-bath listings averaging $116,542.

For south-central Kansas, the MLS shows 623 four-bed, two-bath homes averaging $113,814. Both numbers take into account the large number of homes sold to first-time homebuyers under a federal tax credit program.

In September, Hultz said, the average sale price for existing homes in the Wichita area was $119,036.

"I wouldn't dispute that at all," McKenzie said. "We've just always had that kind of capture of the upper-end market in Wichita. Our people have serviced that market for many years. We've kind of grown up with a lot of those folks in the market."

Wichita consistently ranks among the nation's best for housing affordability. In March, Wichita ranked 27th in a housing study by the National Association of Home Builders, Wells Fargo and Forbes magazine.

That study used a different metric, determining that 90.9 percent of new and existing homes in the area are affordable to families earning the median income of $62,900.

The Coldwell Banker study, however, centers the most affordable markets in the Rust Belt, where job losses have been high. Detroit tops that list.

And the most expensive markets are on the coasts, with Newport Beach, Calif., atop the list.