McMansion Expansion

Americans with means are on the move. Coldwell Banker's just-released luxury homes report shows a 23% increase from 2002 in $1 million-plus home sales last year -- an all-time high for the real estate company. The average sales price of a luxury home sold by Coldwell associates was $1.69 million. The average number of bathrooms was not disclosed.

All told, the company moved $23.3 billion in property last year -- nearly 14,000 McMansions changing hands. The biggest movers were homes in the $1 million to $5 million price range. Alex Perriello, Coldwell's president and CEO, said he expects demand for luxe digs to remain high. "We expect activity to remain strong in the luxury category with a rebounding economy, continued low interest rates, and strong demographic trends that will keep demand high."

Really, what the rest of us want to know is where these gilded palaces are located. Not surprisingly, California dominates the luxury-home category with six times more sales ($12.6 billion) than any other state. Florida ranks second with more than $2 billion in big-home sales.

The rep who sold the $22.6 million home in Malibu must be smiling. That was the top price paid for a Coldwell listing. A Montecito, Ca., mansion sold for $21.6 million, and a home in Greenwich, Ct., went for $15.5 million.

Should you put your money where your house is?
If you're in the market for a manse, check out the litany of extras on the price tag. For those in the million-dollar-plus market, fees could add significantly to your new home's cost.

For those staying put, schedule a home checkup. Look at 15 important areas -- from filters in your heating system to your fridge and faucets. Spending a little on a nip and tuck now can save you a bundle on an overhaul later.

If you haven't already jumped on the re-fi wagon, check out interest rates in our Rate Center and see if you can shave hundreds off your mortgage payment. And don't pay extra to pre-pay your mortgage. If you want to pay off your home faster, you can do it yourself.

Finally, when it comes to insuring your castle, you could save 10% on your insurance bill by moving the deductible to $500, and another 10% to 15% by raising it to $1,000. Robert Brokamp offers tips on keeping the lid on home insurance costs.

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