October 3, 2010

The Most Expensive Zip Codes! MOST EXPENSIVE!!!

Forbes Magazine has their annual most expensive zip code collection again, and high-end real estate agents rejoiced.  This feature is the Capitalist Tool’s usual suck-off to NAR, with the lovely pictures there to move some expensive houses.  Anyway, California, despite its budgetary and property value woes, completely cleaned New York’s clock.  Unfortunately, Los Angeles is getting ahead of San Francisco.

Here are the top ten:

    1. 91008, Duarte, Calif.
    2. 94027, Atherton, Calif.
    3. 90274, Rolling Hills, Calif.
    4. 07620, Alpine, N.J.
    5. 10014, New York, N.Y.
    6. 90210, Beverly Hills, Calif.
    7. 10065, New York, N.Y.
    8. 94920, Belvedere, Calif.
    9. 10012, New York, N.Y.
    10. 93108, Santa Barbara, Calif.

If ever a list defined what flyover land was, this is it.  All ten are California or New York City suburbs.  How did Greenwich, Connecticut get knocked off this list?  More importantly, how did a town full of ginormous houses next to Monrovia get on it?  91008 is mostly big, expensive homes in Bradbury, but the post office calls the zip Duarte. High-priced enclave surrounded by working-class city, good thing we don’t have anything like that in the Real Bay Area (RBA)!

And we sure don’t have anything like this:

High-End Slump Slows
The median price of America’s high-end homes continues to slide, but not as fast as it did last year. Our index of 500 high-end ZIP codes saw the average home price fall 5%, to $1.2 million, from the same time last year. In 2009 the markets on our list saw a 7% price drop.

About 35% of the ZIP codes in our index saw median prices increase or stay flat, but that’s likely because more high-priced homes are coming on the market, while more affordable housing continues to falter. “The year-over-year price changes we’re seeing here aren’t necessarily the change in price for your house, if you have a house in this area,” says Simonsen. “It’s a change in the mix of homes on the active market.”

Anyway, on to the high-priced zips in the Bay Area.  Photos, stats, and smarmy real estate copy is from Forbes.  You’ll recognize what isn’t, and I’ve hunted down all the real estate so you don’t have to.

#2 – 94027: Atherton

Median Home Price: $4,010,200
Median Price Change: 4%
Average Days On Market: 109
Inventory: 57 properties
Median Household Income: $200,001


This remodeled mid-century four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 4,010-square-foot ranch with a cathedral ceiling, fireplace, media room, two-car garage and gardens sells for $4,488,000. It is listed with Alain Pinel.

And it’s up 4%.  RBA Win!  This house on Fredrick Ave is still for sale, listed 63 days.  Buy now with Redfin and save $56,100!

#8 – 94920: Belvedere

Median Home Price: $3,283,269
Median Price Change: 51%
Average Days On Market: 149
Inventory: 39 properties
Median Household Income: $106,492


This three-bedroom, four-bathroom 4347-square-foot Spanish-style stucco home in the section of 94920 that’s in neighboring Tiburon offers views and a fireplace and sells for $3,195,000. William J. Smith has the listing.

What’s this?  The zip is shared with Tiburon?  Outrage!  If Belvedere had its own zip, it would kick Bradbury’s butt!  But wait!  This house isn’t in Belvedere but in Tiburon?  That’s bait and switch!  Just for that I won’t buy the house on Buckwheat Court.  In Tiburon.


#15 – 94022: Los Altos Hills

Median Home Price: $3,048,846
Median Price Change: 34%
Average Days On Market: 176
Inventory: 58 properties
Median Household Income: NA


This 4,000 square-foot, five-bedroom, six-bathroom Mediterranean-style home has a stucco exterior, vaulted ceilings, a fireplace and study and is selling for $3,195,000. Alain Pinel has the listing.

Up 34%!  New York is our beeyotch.  And so is Forbes, because this house is on Jay St, in Los Altos, No Hills.  It’s also new construction.  Three lots down from busy El Monte.  You’re welcome.


#18 – 94024: Los Altos Hills

Median Home Price: $2,974,058 <
Median Price Change: -9%
Average Days On Market: 179
Inventory: 15 properties
Median Household Income: NA


This 4,673 square-foot six-bedroom, four-bathroom home has hardwood floors, a fireplace, vaulted ceilings and a swimming pool. It is listed for $2,899,000 with Campi Properties.

Sloppy work again, Forbes.  This house is also in Los Altos, not Los Altos Hills.  And it’s only 4,367 feet, so you’re off by almost 300 sf.  It’s on Young Ct, off Summerhill, off Magdelena, off 280.  Talk about any easy commute, provided you don’t work anywhere near 101.


#20 – 94010: Hillsborough

Median Home Price: $2,948,423
Median Price Change: 11%
Average Days On Market: 109
Inventory: 101 properties
Median Household Income: $82,188


This 4,190-square-foot, six-bedroom, five-bathroom home has a double-height foyer, two-car garage, fireplace and swimming pool, and is offered at $3,095,000 by Alain Pinel Realty.

What the – 101 properties listed in Hillsborough?  Are there even 101 properties in Hillsborough?  Trick question!  The zip is shared with Burlingame!  And this listing on Eucalyptus was a trick, too.  Everything in the description lined up, and here I thought they were going to put it in the wrong city.

But who the heck buys a 6 bedroom house with only a 2 car garage?  Where will the servants park?

There’s plenty more zip code madness to come, in another installment.  Although if you’re buying things on installment, you’re priced out of these zips.  Forever.

Comments (39) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

39 Responses to “The Most Expensive Zip Codes! MOST EXPENSIVE!!!”

  1. maryjane Says:

    I’m just looking through the listings and wonder if anyone can explain to me how the median income can afford the median price. I know a lot of people who make $200,000/yr. but not a lot of them can afford a $4 million house. Some of them may LIVE in a $4 million house but they could never afford to buy it at that price. Even assuming 2 people per household earning $200,000, can a family earning $400,000 really afford a $4 million home?

    Maybe we all need to live where median income in NA.

  2. SEA Says:

    maryjane- My question is how could they not afford it:

    “Median Home Price: $4,010,200
    Median Price Change: 4%
    Average Days On Market: 109
    Inventory: 57 properties
    Median Household Income: $200,001”

    Sure the median home price is about 20 times median household income, but did you notice the median price change? Yes, that’s right 4% in the favorable direction.

    This is where it gets good. I’m sure the housing price appreciation is not included in household income, so we must add it in and compute it’s percentage of the Real(tm) median household income:

    4/(5+4) = 44%

    Yes, that’s right 44% of the Real(tm) medain household income is from housing price appreciation.

    Sure it’s all negative cash flow today, so we’re talking PB&J, complaining about the extra $2 when the price of gas goes up five to ten cents per gallon, and so on, but how could these owners afford to give up the income?

  3. Alex Says:

    Holy moly! Mother of all TeaL DeeRs!

    How I long for the day of sarcasm imbued in a few words.

  4. madhaus Says:

    #3: It’s Sunday, chill.

    You should have seen this piece before I broke it into sections. Heh.

    #1: I don’t think the people moving into these zips are purchasing their first homes. So there should be some home equity in the equation. And the median income rarely includes stock option gains.
    Or meth lab profits.

  5. SEA Says:

    madhaus- “So there should be some home equity in the equation.”

    Given the favorable median housing price appreciation, how could there not be “home equity.” And we know it’s impossible to pay too much–that just implies extra housing price appreciation.

  6. SV Shopper Says:

    Even assuming 2 people per household earning $200,000, can a family earning $400,000 really afford a $4 million home?

    Easy. When the person sells his Hillsborough home, he’ll be able to buy a $4 million dollar home. It works the same way as in lower priced neighborhoods.

  7. maryjane Says:

    If I had $4 million hanging around I’d park it in Atherton too.

    I suppose there’s always a new crop of plastic surgeons, law firm partners, investment bankers and IPO millionaires to fill the void. But all the people I know who live in a house that expensive paid less than $1.5 million and have used a lot of that appreciation for college tuitions, renovations and the mandatory second home. The one person I know who paid $4 million in 2008 is currently trying to sell their house and, if they can get their current price, is underwater by about $500,000.

  8. Petsmart Groomer Says:

    Nothing says “well-thought out floor plan” better than a 4,347 sq ft house with a bunk bed.

  9. SEA Says:

    Does Buckwheat get his choice of bunk?

  10. maryjane Says:


    16,000 square feet:


    But they did build a basketball court for the boys.

  11. Petsmart Groomer Says:

    I can understand bunk beds in a guest room. 2701 Broadway has 7 bedrooms and I’d assume the bunk beds are for the grandkids when the family gets together (Thanksgiving, etc). But Buckwheat? They built a 4,347 sq ft house with only 3 bedrooms, that’s the ridiculous part (the bunk bed is for staging only I guess). It has a 3-car garage though (but no basketball court).

  12. maryjane Says:

    Petsmart –

    I can understand the bunk beds. If you make the room small they collect less junk and the computers have to be in the family room when you can watch the little darlings more closely. If you give them a big bedroom they’ll just hide in there all day and get into god knows what trouble. And when they’re little they’re like puppies – they like to sleep in a big pile so bunk beds is the way to go.

  13. nomadic Says:

    And don’t forget, the house on Buckwheat only has three bedrooms, so you’ve got to pile the kids in.

    maryjane, you hit the real answer in #7 – the trick to a $4M house on “only” $200k of income is to have bought the place a couple of decades ago when you were working. Now the owner is a retiree collecting a pension and living off investments. How the buyer’s can afford it is their own problem. There’s always another IPO coming down the pipeline though, right?

  14. nomadic Says:

    madhaus, there was a funny comment listed in the Duarte/Bradbury article you linked. It reminds me of RBA problems:

    “Nothing about 91008 has much to do with Duarte, which the LA Times more accurately described as a ‘gritty working-class suburb.’ Duarte’s main ZIP Code is 91010, not 91008. Bradbury may have pretty much exclusively million dollar homes, but Duarte certainly does not. And unlike some other high-housing-value areas that have their own high-performing school districts, Bradbury is stuck with Duarte’s mediocre public schools,” wrote JohnS43 in the comments section.

    Do you suppose he’s bragging or complaining?

  15. SEA Says:

    I’m having a difficult time deciding: Is it better to be an owner or renter?

    We know that the median household income is probably greatly reduced by renters, transient guests, and so on. But now the question is if those renters all have little income, how much is the rent?

    (Maybe the median income does not include all the illegal rent that Real Estater has suggested as a good strategy? Thus the real median household income of every owner is so much higher, and it’s even better when it’s so easy to evade the IRS.)

  16. maryjane Says:

    Redfin has Buckwheat Ct. as being listed in June ’09. Anyone know what the price was?

  17. SEA Says:



    “07/21/2009 Listed for sale * $3,400,000 673% $782 Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty”

  18. Petsmart Groomer Says:

    MLS# 20915622

  19. maryjane Says:

    So if it sells for $3.2 it’ll be touted as ‘over asking’ and we’ll just forget that it’s been on the market for over a year and discounted by $200,000. That should help the neighborhood stats.

    But the big question of the day is why haven’t I ever heard of Bradbury before? I try to pay attention to where the rich folk like to hide out. I guess it’s a So. Cal. type of thing.

  20. Real Estater Says:


    All you need is a higher earning husband, like this guy. $4M is spare change in this league.

  21. anon Says:

    Lol look at Hillsborough – Median Home Price: $2,948,423
    Median Household Income: $82,188

    Is my calculator broken? Is that really 35.8x income?

  22. nomadic Says:

    It’s a fine example of why you can’t expect median home prices to correlate to median incomes.

    What’s the median age in Hillsborough? 60?

  23. Real Estater Says:


    Aren’t you missing the obvious? The home is the income.

  24. SEA Says:

    anon- Yes, your calculator is broken. You need a special issue RBA calculator. Plugging those numbers in, I see 70x income, but the special RBA calculator knows the future.

  25. nomadic Says:

    Aw, it’s 46.

  26. Petsmart Groomer Says:

    2000 Census (from Wikipedia):

    In [Santa Clara] the population was spread out with 19.9% under the age of 18, 11.3% from 18 to 24, 39.1% from 25 to 44, 19.1% from 45 to 64, and 10.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years.

    In [Hillsborough] the population was spread out with 25.1% under the age of 18, 4.4% from 18 to 24, 19.7% from 25 to 44, 32.2% from 45 to 64, and 18.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years.

    Let’s just say nomadic would not make many friends in Hillsborough…

  27. SEA Says:

    nomadic- Is it allowed to impute income from total assets? If there is that much established wealth, then there is an income problem.

    Put differently, if you have way over $3M in assets (we know $3M is the median home, and then we need to add the other assets as you suggest), under $100k is way too little income.

    Or do we have a bunch of Social Security recipients living in those $3M homes?

  28. madhaus Says:

    Meth labs. You need a 4,347 sf house so you can run a meth lab and not smell it in the part you live in.


    1. Buy house in expensive zip code
    2. Set up meth lab
    3. Profit!

  29. Real Estater Says:

    I know several people who live in Hillsborough. One of them is retired after having made a fortune. The others only stay there a few times out of the year, since they reside overseas. If these people are representative of the Hillsborough profile, that would explain why the median income appears low.

  30. nomadic Says:

    Let’s just say nomadic would not make many friends in Hillsborough…

    What makes you think I have any friends? 😛

    SEA wrote:
    Put differently, if you have way over $3M in assets (we know $3M is the median home, and then we need to add the other assets as you suggest), under $100k is way too little income.

    Or do we have a bunch of Social Security recipients living in those $3M homes?

    Don’t forget, the old folks up there probably paid around $500k for their homes, which is not a lot of money. Furthermore, they are paying taxes on a correspondingly low valuation. They don’t need nearly as much income as a newcomer to maintain their position. Old people like to live where they’re comfortable and, in many cases, where they raised their family. They’ll stay put until they die or can’t live independently. Of course, that assumes many originally bought into the area with (gasp) jobs (!) to pay the bills instead of investment wealth.

  31. madhaus Says:

    This reminds me of something Joanne Jacobs once said about Palo Alto, only she said it in the late 80s (during that other bubble). I am paraphrasing, and any misrecollection is entirely my own error.

    If you bought here 40 years ago, you were a teacher.
    If you bought here 30 years ago, you were an engineer.
    If you bought here 20 years ago, you were a doctor or lawyer.
    If you bought here 10 years ago, you were an executive.
    If you’re buying here now, you’re a venture capitalist.

    This was before Netscape, and the possibility of worker bee engineers getting to share in the stock option frenzy.

    On the other hand, places like Atherton and Hillsborough were always a bit more out of reach.

  32. Pralay Says:

    Duarte #1?
    Once I visited the cancer treatment center City of Hope there. Duarte looked like a dump with very bad air quality. It’s right at foothill area of San Gabriel mountain range. The pollution of whole LA country moves north-east with wind, hits the mountain and just stays at foothill area. What a location!

  33. bob Says:

    … and yet another reason California and the “other coast” is losing so many people. Here’s a fun little interactive map put out by the IRS featured in Forbes recently. Check out the movement from coastal areas like NY and CA to TX and frankly just about anywhere else in the Southeast: Its like a vacuum cleaner.

    have fun:


  34. SEA Says:

    nomadic- #30- So you pushed their expenses down to zero.

    The basic housing expenses are: Drano and light bulbs.

  35. nomadic Says:

    Yeah, Drano, light bulbs and $25/month for property tax! 😉

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