Some interesting items have been popping up in the mailbag that may profoundly affect what you buy, how you buy it, and when you sell. Here’s a look at my mail:

Home Prices Surge In Some Markets. During the last week of September, Coldwell Banker released a list of the ten markets in the U.S. that reflected the biggest increase in the median sales price for the first half of 1997 over the first half of 1996. (Median sales price means half the homes sold for more than the median and half sold for less.)

Here are the ten markets: Burlingame, California (+45.5 percent, from $385,000 to $560,000); Fort Lauderdale, Florida (+35.3 percent, from $85,000 to $115,000); Traverse City, Michigan (+34.6 percent, from 82,500 to $111,000); Wichita, Kansas (+31.4 percent, from $86,000 to $113,000); Venice, Florida (+24 percent, from $82,500 to $102,250); Ann Arbor, Michigan (+23.6 percent, from 95,500 to $118,000); Chicago, Illinois, Lakeview Area (+22.8 percent, from $130,000 to $159,500); San Jose, California (+21.8 percent, from $220,000 to $268,000); and Boca Raton, Florida (+21.7 percent, from $118,000 to $144,000).

While most of the U.S. has been experiencing home price appreciation, some markets are seeing some unusually large jumps. In Westport, Connecticut, median home priced jumped 20 percent, from $386,000 in 1986 to $463,000 in 1997.

In a statement, Alex Perriello, President and CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporation said the average sales price of homes has increased nearly 11 percent across the board, with the Western portion of the country experiencing the highest percentage increase followed by the Northeast, Southeast, and then the Midwest.

“We attribute this trend to a healthy economy, attractive interest rates and a very robust move-up market,” he said.

The rest of the market seems to agree. In addition to showing a drastic increase in price, more homes are being sold than ever before. In their monthly report, the National Association of Realtors said existing homes sales rose 3.3 percent to a record annual rate of 4.32 million last month.

Dial Up A Digital City for Real Estate Information. As if there weren’t already enough places to go to get real estate information, Digital City, Inc. recently announced it has added a real estate area to their network for the fourteen markets they currently cover.

Each of the fourteen cities (including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Hampton Roads (VA), Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego, South Florida, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Washington, DC) will include property listings from (the official web site of the National Association of Realtors), information on new home developments and builders in the local area, apartment listings, mortgage rates from Bank Rate Monitor, a real estate directory of local services, home buying advice, and chat and message boards.

Digital City is available through America Online or through the Digital City WebGuide at

Is This The Future Of Home Inspections? It was only a matter of time before home inspectors went high tech.

InspecTech, a growing home inspection network based in San Ramon, California, recently introduced System 2000, a hand-held clipboard sized, pen-based computer system that guides the inspector through all the major systems of a home. By collecting data on-site and producing an 18 to 23-page report at the conclusion of the inspection, InspecTech president Jack Holton says that the system ensures accuracy because it reminds a home inspector of each item that must be examined.

The software includes more than 8,000 possible conditions, which Holton says surpasses the checklists most inspectors use. Also, based on what the inspector enters into the computer, the consumer receives a written report detailing the condition of the property. “Basically, the buyer and real estate agent end up with a report written in English that is easy to read and understand,” Holton said.

In addition, InspecTech back each of its home inspections with an errors and omissions insurance policy. That’s pretty rare these days, as most home inspectors will limit their liability to the fee you paid them, even if their mistake costs you thousands of dollars in repairs.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that InspecTech only has 160 inspectors in its network today. Currently, they cover most states west of the Rockies, and have just moved into New Jersey. They do plan to enter the Midwest next year, and go national within the next two to three years. A good move, but a little late for those of you buying this fall.

Published: Sep 22, 1997