It’s the great national good news/bad news joke. The good: Americans are richer today than at any time in this country’s history. The bad: Most of their combined net worth (just over $100 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve) is held by very few. And yet, our nation of haves and have-nots is obsessed with those haves, the lucky folks buying up private jets, six-figure sports cars, eight-figure pieces of art, and one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan LPs. We track their movements with a combination of lust and envy.
And there’s one way the ultrarich are just like the rest of us: Their largest spending category tends to be in real estate. After all, nothing says success like a megamansion in an exclusive area—or several! So where are the 0.2% buying homes these days? The data team at realtor.com® set out to find today’s most expensive ZIP codes.
Along the way, we found a few surprises. When it comes to luxury neighborhoods, the top dogs are getting challenged by newcomer neighborhoods with even bigger homes or posher condos.
“The ultra-ultrahigh net worth buyer can afford anything. When you can buy anything, it is difficult [making a decision] because that means everything is available,” says Dolly Lenz, a real estate agent who sells high-end properties around the county and founder of Dolly Lenz Real Estate in New York. “In terms of neighborhoods, these people are either going for aspirational places or looking for that next hottest place.”
To find these sought-after bellwether markets, the data team pulled median listing prices for the past 12 months, June 2017 to May 2018, to find the ZIP codes with the highest home prices. We included only ZIP codes with an average of at least 12 listings per month, to make sure the results weren’t skewed by a few big-ticket sales. And to give the ranking geographic diversity, we limited it to just two ZIP codes per state, and no more than one ZIP per metropolitan area.
Got it? Check the trust fund, and let’s do some window shopping.
Most expensive neighborhoods
1. Atherton, CA
ZIP code: 94027 Median home list price: $10,194,000 Metropolitan area: San Francisco, CA
Home for sale in Atherton, CA
Atherton isn’t the first place you’d expect to find the most expensive neighborhood in the country. But this Silicon Valley community lined with mansions—a quick Lyft ride from Facebook headquarters and west of Menlo Park—has seen affluent techies drive home prices into the eight figures.
“It’s mostly venture capitalists and very successful high-tech people who are buying here,” says Alireza Faghiri, a real estate agent at Alain Pinel Realtors based in Menlo Park. “It’s not gated communities, but there are some very high-profile people living there.”
Homeowners include former Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
In Atherton, buyers come for the size. Plenty of single-family homes here stretch beyond 8,000 square feet. (Check out this 11,000-square-foot mansion for $17.8 million.)
It’s a predominantly residential community, though, so homeowners typically drive to nearby Palo Alto when they get a hankering for some brown rice sushi or fusion cocktails.
ZIP code: 94022 Median home list price: $6,326,000 Metropolitan area: San Jose, CA
A home in the 94022
John Edward Linden/ArcaidImages
You didn’t think we were done with Silicon Valley already, did you? Roughly a 25-minute drive south of Atherton, Los Altos has more of a real town, with some cool eateries. There’s less old money and fewer enormous estates here, but plenty of (relatively) understated wealth.
What was once a quiet town with summer cottages has been replaced by modern, tech-friendly mansions. Homes such as this art moderne–style, 7,600-square-foot place are what this neighborhoods looks like these days. Built in 2018, this home costs $10.9 million.
The ZIP code, close to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, is home to co-founder Sergey Brin. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2012 that Brin was bankrolling real estate investment in the Los Altos area, in what the Journal called a “bid to beautify and transform its sleepy downtown.” It seems to be working.
And while just about all of Atherton’s older homes have been replaced with newer mansions, there are still spots in Los Altos where new development hasn’t taken over. For example, there’s this 1,600-square-foot home built in 1953—listed at $2.6 million. That’s tiny compared to most of the homes on the market here; the biggest one tops 20,000 square feet and is priced at $55 million.
ZIP code: 10013 Median home list price: $5,137,000 Metropolitan area: New York, NY
New building or old, it’s all expensive in Tribeca!
Welcome to the hottest part of Manhattan. This ZIP is dominated by Tribeca (aka Triangle Below Canal Street), the formerly drab warehouse district that has become the ultratrendy home to the Tribeca Film Festival and scores of artists, actors, and all-around rich folk. Actress Jessica Biel and hubby Justin Timberlake spent $20 million on a penthouse with floor-to-ceiling windows here in 2017. This area includes parts of SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown.
“Singles, professionals, international, families, investors” are all buying in the area, says Tamir Shemesh, a real estate broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York. They love the cutting-edge art galleries, groovy restaurants, and cobblestone streets.
The housing is a blend of ultraluxe new condos and converted lofts in gorgeous, turn-of-the-century, formerly industrial buildings.
“You can’t build stuff like this anymore,” Shemesh says. “It’s not cost-effective.”
The highest end of this market can stretch well into the eight figures. This 8,000-square-foot, four-bed, six-bath loft in SoHo is priced at $65 million. (Wow.)
For new construction, the 10-story building at 325 W. Broadway was built in 2016 and boasts radiant floor heating throughout its apartments, and views of both the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center.
4. Medina, WA
ZIP code: 98039 Median home list price: $4,894,000 Metropolitan area: Seattle, WA
Bill Gates’ home in Medina, WA
Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos surpassed Microsoft’s Bill Gates last year to become the planet’s richest person. But unfathomable wealth isn’t all they have in common: They both live in the waterfront city of Medina, which has become the go-to home for Seattle’s elite.
Located on the opposite side of Lake Washington from Seattle, this community is covered in dark evergreen trees and packed with huge, gated mansions. Many of the homes here have docks on the lake and private beaches. So of course you’ll also spot some jaw-dropping trophy boats here. The community has homes dating to the ’60s as well as homes built this year.