The town of Greenwich was ranked as the fifth most expensive U.S. metropolitan area for homebuyers in a recent study released by Coldwell Banker. This Colonial-style home at 312 Old Church Road, built in 1846, is currently being offered for sale at $2.45 million.

The city of Minot, N.D., has a catchy motto: “Why not Minot?” Yes, it rhymes.

But they also have a point. After all, in Minot – a city of about 35,000 near the Canadian border – residents pay $130,300 for a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom, single-family home in a nice neighborhood.

That’s about $1 million less than a homebuyer would pay for a similar house in Greenwich.

A Coldwell Banker home price comparison study released late last month rated Minot the cheapest metropolitan area to buy such a home in the United States. The study – a snapshot study of 322 U.S. markets – also rated Greenwich the fifth most expensive market, after four California cities. In Greenwich, a four-bedroom house similar to the one in Minot costs about $1.19 million, according to Coldwell Banker’s study.

But such statistics and publicity can sometimes be misleading, several Greenwich Realtors said. There are a variety of real estate options in the town.

“It’s actually a very diverse community,” said Russell Pruner, a partner at Shore & Country Properties in Greenwich.

The town of about 60,000 has a lot of racial, religious and ethnic diversity, Pruner said, and is known all over the world.

“It really allows people from any area of the world to come here,” he said.

And despite its reputation for being elitist, the town appeals to a broad spectrum of people, he said.

“There’s a lot more in the town than what the media writes about,” he said.

A ‘Tremendous Lifestyle’

The town also has a great variety of residences, said Nancy MacDonald, regional vice president for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in southern Connecticut.

“[The ‘elitist’ tag] is a reputation that is really undeserved,” she said.

Greenwich might be known for its multimillion-dollar estates, but it also has a variety of rentals, investment properties and starter homes in some neighborhoods, MacDonald said.

The median price for single-family homes in Greenwich last year was $965,000, according to statistics from The Warren Group, parent company of The Commercial Record. The median price changed little from the year before, when it was $956,000.

Even though housing in Greenwich is substantially more expensive than housing in places like Minot, residents get what they pay for, MacDonald said.

“The prices are what the prices are because that’s what people are willing to pay,” she said.

Aside from its proximity to New York City, to which many of the town’s residents commute, Greenwich offers a high quality of life, MacDonald said. It has waterfront properties, backcountry estates, four train stations, sports and clubs, the busiest library in the state and a good hospital, she said. MacDonald added that the town also has great public schools and plenty of restaurants and shopping.

“When they rank communities, Greenwich hits it all,” she said. “It all distills down to the quality of life. Also, the property taxes are relatively low.”

The culture of Greenwich also appeals to a variety of people, she said. It is possible for residents to be very involved in the community’s many clubs or sports, but residents also respect each other’s privacy, MacDonald said.

Buyers often feel it’s worth the high price of housing.

“They understand they are buying more than just a [property],” MacDonald said.

Greenwich offers a “tremendous lifestyle” for those who can afford it, Pruner said.

“It’s a very unique community,” he noted.

The market in Greenwich likely won’t soon change, Pruner and MacDonald said. Aside from the typical Wall Street clientele, Realtors there continue to see business from a variety of people, including those seeking a second or third home, she said.

“It’s a very active marketplace,” MacDonald said. “The word gets out.”

The inventory in Greenwich has hit 40-year lows and that, combined with low interest rates, means homeownership is up, according to Pruner. Buyers aren’t seeing the kind of choices they had six to eight years ago, he said.

“As long as interest rates and inventories stay low … I think the market is going to continue to be a brisk one,” Pruner said.

Until interest rates change, the market all over Fairfield County is going to stay aggressive, he said.

MacDonald agreed.

“I think we’ll be doing just fine [later this quarter and next year],” she said.

The market may even out, but that will result in price increases that are slower than in recent years.

“But that’s OK,” MacDonald said.

There has been more inventory on the market, but that is natural, she said.

The study by Coldwell Banker looked at subject homes in the 322 markets. The criteria for a subject home was a single-family, 2,200-square-foot, four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home with a family room and a two-car garage. All the homes were in neighborhoods “within a market that is typical for corporate middle-management transferees,” according to a release from Coldwell Banker. The study used data submitted by companies within the Coldwell Banker system on the average sales price of sold listings through July 2004 and averages of prior listings that were priced at current market levels.

The study is not historical, said Coldwell Banker spokesman David Siroty, because the study did not look at the same homes in the same neighborhoods, so the company does not release data from past years.

The study is intended to help people considering a move to a new city, according to the release from Coldwell Banker.