Median price of a home in Motown: $7,500


A native of Southern California, homeownership for me has always come with a caveat of "some day..." As in, some day, when Oprah plugs one of my books. Or some day, when I learn I'm really heir to the Pilsner beer fortune, or, some day, when I buy that winning lottery ticket, marry a surgeon, sell a screenplay, find a pot of gold under the rainbow...

In other words, even though home prices have "plummeted" from nausteating highs during the boom, I'm still in no position to buy on my income. Homes in a six-county region of Southern California last month reached a median of around $250,000, down, albeit, 40% from $415,000 in the year ago period, according to DataQuick. Still realistically out of the reach of all but the most affluent, especially since they're not giving away free money anymore.

But things are different in Detroit. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that the median cost of a home in the Motor City in December was $7,500. That's right. No third zero there. Seventy-five-hundred-dollars. Even I could swing a cash transaction.

Question is, why would I want to? As bad as things seem in California, with our state government teetering on bankruptcy and unemployment at 10%, they are vastly worse in Detroit. This once booming manufacturing town, which spawned its own musical genre, is now an impoverished, abandoned, crime-ridden third-world municipality. Its mayor just got out of jail, city finances are in such shambles people openly talk about the likelihood of its bankruptcy. More than 50% of resident children live in poverty, and large swatches of the place are completely abandoned. This site, featuring beautiful photos of grand public buildings now empty, provides hours of voyeristic viewing, if you're into such things. The crumbling American auto industry isn't helping the city's situation, either.

So moving to Detroit, affordability notwithstanding, is not really an option. If this is an example of how closely real estate is tied to location, location, location, I suppose it makes sense to stay on in crowded, smoggy, expensive L.A., where they'd never let anything go fallow. Any strip of land, no matter how small, is big enough for a strip-mall. Or so the thinking goes here.