Orono joins elite U.S. list for home prices

  • Article by: JIM BUCHTA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 7, 2013 - 6:28 AM

Survey ranks suburb No. 8 nationwide in listing prices.

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An Orono property on Lake Minnetonka

Photo: Jennifer Simonson, Star Tribune

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Believe it: Orono and Malibu have at least one thing in common.

Both communities are among the nation’s 10 most expensive real estate markets, according to a survey by Coldwell Banker. Malibu was the costliest, with an average list price of $2.1 million, while Orono came in No. 8 with an average list price of $1.2 million.

“That’s no surprise,” said Adam Fonda, who has lived in the Lake Minnetonka area and now sells high-end homes for Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty, which recently opened an office in Wayzata.

He said Orono, about 20 miles west of the Twin Cities, tends to be more expensive than many communities because the lots are large and the houses are big. The suburb also appeals to buyers who have an appreciation for living in a certain ZIP code.

“It’s all about the address,” Fonda said.

Indeed, the city is home to what is now the most expensive listing on the Regional Multiple Listing Service, a stunning, restored 32,000-square-foot Tudor on nearly 14 acres on a stretch of the Lake Minnetonka shoreline known as “The Golden Crescent.” It’s listed for $24 million — a bargain compared with the original list price of more than $50 million.

Meredith Howell, the Coldwell Banker Burnet agent who has that listing, said that aside from the city’s physical virtues, prices in Orono tend to be relatively high because the city has a two-acre lot minimum, there are very few small houses and there’s no commercial development to speak of.

However, the Coldwell Banker survey doesn’t tell the whole story.

For instance, the Coldwell list only tracks the list price of four-bedroom houses, but not actual sale prices. By that measure, the most expensive market was Greenwood, an ultra-exclusive community on Lake Minnetonka. The Twin Cities suburb had a median sale price of $1.6 million, compared with $492,000 in Orono, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.

“Statistics can be deceiving, and this shows it,” Howell said.

However, Budge Huskey, president and chief executive of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, said the survey provides more evidence that the housing recovery is working its way to the upper-bracket market.

“As the country moves on from the recession, this year’s report identified 20 markets where a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home costs more than $1 million, whereas in eight markets, a similar home lists for less than $100,000,” he said.

He said nationwide, the average list price for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house was about $300,000, with Cleveland ranking as the most affordable real estate market so far this year. The average four-bedroom, two-bathroom home there was listed at $63,729.

Overall, Minnesota was the sixth most expensive state in the country, with an average list price of $398,117. Owatonna, a bustling farm town about an hour south of Minneapolis, was the state’s most affordable community, with an average home price of $145,646.

“I’m not terribly surprised,” said Brian Trebelhorn, an agent with Re/Max Advantage Plus who lives in Northfield. The farther south you drive from the Twin Cities, the more affordable the properties, he said. “We’d always say if you want more bang for your buck, go south to Faribault, but if you want even more bang for your buck, go to Owatonna.”

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376

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