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Million Dollar Homes Buyer's Guide

Home prices are in the process of registering their first year-on-year decline in two decades. That may be a relative statement given the huge runup in recent years, but is nevertheless worrisome to some market watchers.

The average price of an existing home was $221,900 in 2006, versus $122,600 in 1996 and $80,300 in 1986, according to the National Association of Realtors. Some of that is simple inflation, but a sizable part of it is good, old-fashioned price appreciation. In some markets, real estate has been on a tear for ten years.

But there's nothing like a housing slump to remind people just how local a a business real estate is. Prices are continuing to rise in some markets, which are playing catch up to the broad-based gains across the nation in recent years. Other markets are holding steady.

CNBC decided to take the pulse of half a dozen markets across the nation to see what a million dollars buys you and whether it is more or less than a year ago.

Rockville, Maryland

There are 38 million-dollar homes on the market in the suburb of Washington D.C.. "Prices are holding their own," reports Diana Olick. Properties are moving in three to four months.

Take a look at this 3400 square foot, eight-year old house built by Toll Brothers. Five bedrooms. four and a half baths, an outdoor deck, hardwood floors and a community clubhouse with pool and other amenities will cost you $1.18 million.

Los Angeles, California

You'll find about 10 homes with a million-dollar price tag on the market in the Silver Lake neighborhood, about four miles south of downtown. "A million dollars usually buys you a tract home," reports Jane Wells.

Here's a property that just sold for close to its asking price of $1.14 million. It's a 1936 classic, but still a modest 1700 square foot house. It has two bedrooms, three baths, a den -- to name a few -- but all its rooms are "tiny." The view, however, might be worth some money.

Bozeman, Montana

There are about 20 homes with an asking price of $1 million or more on the market in the southwest Montana city near the mountains. “It has views you can usually see from any of the 4,400-square-foot home’s oversized windows and covered porch,” reports Mary Thompson.

The three-bedroom, three-bath house has custom cabinets in the kitchen, granite counter tops and a gas range. The master bedroom is on the main floor and includes a soaking tub, a steam shower with two heads as well as his and hers sinks. The house was built in 2004 and sits on 1.5 acres. The asking price is $995,000.

Bozeman’s population is about 33,500 and counts Montana State University among its residents.

Charlottesville, Virginia

In this university town, there are about 30 homes priced at $1 million or more, if you're in the market to buy. “The price reflects a market that, unlike many others, is not offering any bargains.” Diana Olick reports. “Every window, and there are a lot of them, is a scenic overlook.”

The house we visited is about 20 minutes from downtown Charlottesville and sits on ten acres. It has four bedrooms and four baths. The kitchen may appear small to some and the basement is unfinished. The asking price is $1.19 million and it’s been on the market for two weeks.

Charlottesville’s population is about 45,000. It’s home to the University of Virginia.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Worried about hurricanes in South Florida? Relax (or try to) because this million dollar house comes with impact-resistant windows and storm shutters.

There are 1,678 homes in the Fort Lauderdale area priced at $1 million or more. “The front yard does have curb appeal, but here in Fort Lauderdale, it’s all about the backyard,” reports Scott Cohn. “Your million dollars buys you a clear shot at the open sea.” The house backs up to a canal that leads to the Atlantic Ocean.

The asking price has been cut $50,000. For $1 million, you get four bedrooms, three baths, family room, den, pool and a two-car garage. But several houses in the neighborhood are valued at $5 million or more. This has led some buyers to tear down the existing house and put up a much larger and fancier house in its place.

Shaker Heights, Ohio

Three years ago, this house would have gone on the market for more money, the real estate agent handling the property tells Sharon Epperson. When it was sold recently the owners took close to the $995,000 asking price. It was "priced competitively" to move quickly in this market.

The house -- in an a well-known suburb of Cleveland -- is 6,000 square feet with six bedrooms, a huge kitchen (36 feet long) and -- among other things -- a billiard room.


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