Overseas housing too pricey for most Americans

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Krakow, Poland may be a real estate steal, but it's arrevederci Roma and ciao to Milan and Florence, too, for anyone expecting to roll U.S. home sales profits into a European domicile -- except for those already living in such high-cost enclaves as Beverly Hills and Greenwich, Conn. A recent home price comparison index by Coldwell Banker Real Estate found those Italian cities out of reach for most anyone not already living in stateside luxury.

Milan and Florence weighed in at over $1.6 million for a home, on average; Rome just under $1.3 million. And that's dollars, not lira (which, of course, don't even exist anymore).

Also out of reach for many Americans these days are the pink sands of Hamilton, Bermuda, Bucaresti, Romania and Shanghai, all averaging above $1.3 million, not to mention Vancouver and Dublin at $1.1 million -- and Dubai trailing not far behind.

The most expensive market is not in Italy, however. It's in Singapore, where homes average nearly $1.9 million. Coldwell Banker points out that is "10% lower than La Jolla" but fails to mention it is also 10 times the average home value in everyday places like Phoenix, Mobile, Ala, Lexington, KY, and Syracuse, NY.No one is more concerned about the high cost of housing outside this country than the U. S. State Department, which annually sends thousands of people overseas on the taxpayer's dime. The state department's Office of Allowances offsets housing and other costs for its employees based on a comparison with Washington, D.C. -- hardly a bastion of affordability.

A state department employee living in Milan, for instance, can receive up to $89,000 a year in housing allowance, an amount eclipsed only by rates in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Even in a tough overseas housing market, wanderlust can still be accommodated for the adventurous, especially those willing to venture outside capital cities. Average prices for the 29 countries reviewed by Coldwell Banker came in under $488,000, with the high-priced destinations balanced out by deals in destinations such as Hanoi ($166,000); Maracaibo, Venezuela ($118,000); Gaziantep, Turkey ($173,000); and Tangerang, Indonesia ($146,000).

By far the best overseas deal going? Salinas, Ecuador at $69,375. The area, a former salt mine, boasts a 9.5-mile beach and is the starting point for the "Route of the Sun," Ecuador's own Riviera. Prices there have been rising after completion of another oil pipeline to sate the world's fossil fuel thirst. But the online newsletter International Living, which details the "best places in the world to live, retire, travel and invest," continues to give Salinas high ratings.
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