As the old saying goes, there are 3 important factors to consider when creating an accurate valuation of real estate; location, location and location. The price of real estate is highly dependent on the location and neighbourhood that the plot of land, house, or condominium is situated in. One only has to look at inflated real estate markets like Vancouver – where modest looking bungalows sell for over $1 million – to understand that the price of a home is not always tied up into the building itself and the size of the land. Property doesn’t exist in a vacuum; the surrounding properties influence the price of any given piece of real estate just as much as the property in question influences the prices of those surrounding it.
When you consider this, it makes perfect sense why some neighbourhoods are considered ‘wealthy’ and others ‘poor’. People of similar socioeconomic backgrounds will flock together by buying into neighbourhoods that reflect their income and lifestyle. Naturally, luxury real estate is almost exclusively owned by the fabulously wealthy. The most beautiful and exclusive properties in the United States can often be found grouped together in key areas of the country that are considered abnormally beautiful. More often than not, the most luxurious areas aren’t even neighbourhoods for full-time habitation; a lot of these neighbourhoods act as communes of summer homes for families with money to blow.
Whether it’s a longstanding family summer home in the Hamptons or Cape Cod, a luxury condominium in Manhattan that only finds itself occupied for a few months in the summer, or an exclusive island destination only accessible by plane, the ultra-wealthy among us certainly know how to live. These are the communities where high-end real estate thrives, the 10 most popular cities for luxury real estates in the United States.
#10 Beverly Hills, California
The traditional home of celebrities and California’s entertainment industry elite, Beverly Hills has its name engraved into the public consciousness as a luxurious town for the rich and famous. Even the zip code, 90210, is synonymous with the lifestyles of the wealthy. Beverly Hills boasts numerous luxury real estate properties of all kinds – classic houses built many decades ago contrasted with contemporary and modern design just around the corner. The Californian weather certainly doesn’t hurt the valuation of the properties within the city limits either.
#9 Manhattan, New York
To no one’s surprise, Manhattan is regarded as one of the hotspots for the USA’s ultra wealthy – and why wouldn’t it be? New York City is North America’s urban hub, its financial center and arguably its cultural center as well. The billionaires of the 20th century, such as the Rockefeller family, all called New York City home. One particular building in Manhattan, 740 Park Avenue, is renowned as the building that holds the highest concentration of billionaires in the United States. The rest of Manhattan isn’t too shabby either; finding a moderately nice unit under $1 million is effectively impossible, and for true luxury you can expect to break the $10 million barrier.
#8 Bel Air, California
When the city of Bel Air banned the construction of multi-family residences within its district, it knew exactly what it was doing. By heavily regulating what kinds of residences could be constructed, it ensured that the influx of residents into its city limits would always be high-net-worth individuals. Most of the real estate in Bel Air are large mansions or ranches, although the properties get a little smaller as you go up the mountain since land becomes more sparse. The truly luxurious properties in Bel Air can be found at the base of the mountain, and they’re certainly something to behold.
#7 San Francisco, California
California continues its unabashed dominance of the luxury real estate market with the entry of San Francisco. Significantly larger and older than Bel Air and Beverly Hills, San Francisco is also home to a much more socioeconomically diverse populace. That being said, while San Francisco isn’t strictly a luxury city, its higher-end areas are really, really wealthy. Average housing costs in San Francisco are 3x the national average, and wealthy neighbourhoods like Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights and Sea Cliff all offer high-end neighbourhoods for those with the cash to splash.
#6 Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach has a reputation for being a place where wealthy Americans go to retire, and as far as reputations go its pretty well-deserved. 52.7% of the city is over the age of 65, and only 9.4% are under the age of 18. For better or for worse, Palm Beach’s median age (67) is among the highest in the nation. It’s not all naps and bingo though, all those wealthy retirees fled down south with their stacked bank accounts, giving Palm Beach one of the highest concentrations of wealth in the nation.
#5 East Hampton, New York
The Hamptons. Anyone who’s watched a cheesy serialized drama set in New York City’s upper class has heard the term tossed around. East Hampton is one of the two hamptons, the other being Southampton. You can’t walk a mile in East Hampton without passing all kinds of elegant, vintage mansions that were constructed at the turn of the century. The area has been the traditional summer getaway for New York City’s high society for well over a century, and because of that reputation it has a steady stream of wealthy investors putting money into its real estate year after year.
#4 Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Like the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard is a popular summer destination for the affluent members of the USA’s northeast. Many consider Martha’s Vineyard to be an elite version of the Hamptons, with more to offer in terms of scenery and seclusion. The island is only accessible by plane or by boat, making it truly secluded in every sense of the word. The cost of living in Martha’s Vineyard is 60% higher than the national average thanks to the difficulty in reaching it, and property prices are 96% higher than the national average. It’s a luxury real-estate destination in every sense of the word.
#3 Stamford, Connecticut
The northeast strikes again with the inclusion of Stamford, Connecticut on our list. Stamford may not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of luxury real estate, but its important to keep in mind its proximity to New York City. Many wealthier residents of Stamford will commute to New York to work and play, then return home to their estates to live. 8.5% of all Stamford residents are millionaires, and many of the others are just below that line. Because of this Stamford has one of the highest concentrations of wealth in the country, which has led to its reputation as a haven for wealthy ‘blue blood’ families.
#2 Miami, Florida
Miami has developed a reputation as the so-called “capital of Latin America,” despite being situated in a non-Latin country. Its increasingly international reputation has led to a massive influx of wealthy foreigners from South America and elsewhere, which has driven up real estate prices around the city. The recent construction boom has created many million-dollar high-rise condos across the city, which overlooks the beach in a beautiful tropical climate. The influx of international cash into the Miami real estate market looks like it can only grow in the foreseeable future.
#1 Malibu, California
The name Malibu is almost synonymous with sunny Californian weather, waterfront property and luxury. Although the median income in Malibu may not match up to some of the other cities in southern California, such as Bel Air ($141,163 vs. $289,999) it’s the sheer concentration of billionaires that make Malibu – at least parts of it – more luxurious. Malibu is home to Carbon Beach, a mile and a half stretch of land along the beach with 70 lots. Property values in Carbon Beach are roughly $200,000 per square foot of beachfront land, making it completely unattainable for even most multi-millionaires. Carbon Beach is home to Oracle founder Larry Ellison – one of the world’s 5 richest people – among other billionaire Hollywood and tech executives. In the United States, it simply does not get more luxurious than Malibu.