The most expensive home listed for sale in Manhattan’s 10065 ZIP code hasn’t even been built yet. On a vacant lot at 34 East 62nd Street, developer Janna Bullock is planning to build a six-level Modernist limestone townhouse designed by architect Preston Phillips. It will have a subterranean indoor pool, a glass-enclosed elevator and a waterfall-bedecked private courtyard — a townhouse with “no comparables,” according to the $40 million listing. Except there are, and lots at that.
The pricey blueprint joins about two-dozen eight-figure single-family mansions that dot the tree-lined streets of this Upper East Side ZIP code, including an over-the-top man cave created by billionaire Alexander Rovt that’s on the market for $21 million. The area, which runs east from Central Park past ritzy Park Avenue apartment houses to the East River, and north from 60th Street to 69th, is home to such plutocrats as David Rockefeller, Rupert Murdoch, Ronald Perelman, Robert Bass and Sumner Redstone. Add more than 50 condo units with price tags running to seven figures or higher, and the median asking price for homes in 10065 is $6.5 million. All those “comparables” land the Upper East Side enclave in the top spot on Forbes’ annual list of the Most Expensive ZIP Codes.
This is the first time that a Big Apple neighborhood has topped our list. It pushed 2011’s priciest ZIP code, Alpine, N.J., 07620, to No. 2, followed in third place by another usual suspect: Atherton, Calif., 94027.
Alpine is a discreet New York City suburb where the median home price is $5.75 million, street addresses are regularly scrambled on GPS and residents include celebrities like Stevie Wonder and Sean “Diddy” Combs. Atherton, a tony town in Silicon Valley, boasts a roster of billionaires including Eric Schmidt, Charles Schwab and Meg Whitman, who help sustain a median home price of $4.9 million.
We compiled our list with the help of Altos Research, a Mountainv View, Calif.-based company that tracks housing data. It pulled pricing information for more than 22,000 ZIP codes across the U.S. for June 28 to Sept. 28, drilling down to the 500 most expensive. Altos calculated the median asking price for single-family homes and condominiums, weighting the price based on the mix of local property types. We did not include co-ops (which may have pushed some of the fancier ZIP codes near Central Park in Manhattan lower on our list).
Altos limited the search to ZIP codes where 10 or more residences were listed for sale, including short sales and bank-owned foreclosures on the market. Homes bundled into REO bulk sales were excluded. To smooth out any wrinkles caused by a week’s unusual activity (like, say, an expensive home coming to market in an area where luxury properties are rare), Altos used a rolling average for the 90-day period.
Since our list is based on asking prices rather than tax assessments, it may not be completely representative of the communities featured — for example, neighborhoods that have become swanky in the past few decades could contain pockets of longtime residents in more modest homes. Rather, our list is a snapshot of each market’s current activity. “If you enter these markets as a buyer today, this is what you would experience,” says Michael Simonsen, chief executive of Altos Research, “and if you are going to sell, this is your competition.”
In some cases a ZIP may appear more than once on our list if it’s shared by two or more towns. For example, Los Altos Hills (No. 7) and Los Altos (No. 63) share 94022.
The main factor driving listing prices in America’s most expensive ZIP codes this year is a lack of inventory. “In general, across the board inventory is down by a third,” says Simonsen. In Northern California markets, levels are down even more dramatically.
In Manhattan, lower inventory levels helped four ZIP codes crack the top 10, while 19 in total made the list. Hip downtown ‘hoods — where the market is limited in large part to premium loft space and townhouses — clocked exceptionally high prices for the second year in a row. The celebrity-studded West Village 10014 ZIP code ranked sixth, TriBeCa 10013 was 14th, and SoHo, 24th. Uptown around Central Park, a flurry of record-breaking sales, including an $88 million apartment at 15 Central Park West and $90 million-plus pending sales at up-and-coming skyscraper One57, have brought a flood of would-be trophy properties to market (including four apartments listed at $95 million-plus). Eight park-hugging ZIP codes made our list.
“Manhattan’s market is frothy right now,” says Dolly Lenz, vice chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Since the last week of September, she has personally closed more than $120 million in sales around the borough. Interestingly, only one of those buyers was an American.
Wealthy foreign buyers looking to make safe-haven investments have helped to elevate prices in many of America’s most expensive ZIP codes; a booming U.S. technology sector and renewed interest in vacation homes have been strong contributing factors as well.
“Many of the world’s new wealthy are looking for places to park their money and despite the economic uncertainty, the pattern is to buy and hold property in the U.S.,” says Jonathan Miller, chief executive of Miller Samuel, a New York-based appraisal firm. Foreign buyers have been active in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Seattle and Los Angeles – all well-represented on our list. Foreigners have been a particularly notable force in rebounding Florida, where 26 ZIP codes crack our list.
In South Florida, buyers from Europe, South America and Russia looking for pied-a-terres have fueled a robust resurgence in condo prices. The trend also pushed Florida’s Coral Gables’ 33156 into the 15th spot on our list, up 108 spots from last year. The median asking price in Gables Estates, the posh waterfront community bordering Miami that comprises 33156, is $3.48 million. Nearby Coral Gables 33143 ranks 34th, and Fisher Island 33109 ranks 39th.
“The Miami market is the hottest we have ever seen it — hotter than 2005,” says Jill Eber of The Jills team at Coldwell Banker Previews International. Her broker team has closed more than $320 million in sales since the start of 2012; in 2005, the peak of the Miami housing bubble, the team closed $280 million for the entire year.
Meanwhile, a booming tech sector has enriched financiers and entrepreneurs. Silicon Valley accounts for four of the top 10 ZIP codes, including Atherton, Hillsborough 94010 (No. 5), Los Altos Hills 94022 (No. 7), and Rolling Hills 90274 (No. 9). Inventory is drastically down in all four and listing prices have jumped.
“The Bay Area has had some of the fastest job growth in the country, but there are also a lot of strong limitations on new housing,” says Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia.com, a San Francisco, Calif.-based home listing site. “When you have that combination, it pushes up prices. The vacancy rate is lower than anywhere else in the country.”
Across the U.S. in the capital area, a blossoming tech industry, coupled with strong government spending and a growing international buying pool, helped place four Washington, D.C. ZIPs on our list along with 30 in the surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. In D.C.’s most expensive, 20008 (No. 48), the median listing price jumped 116%. “It’s a very stable population and there is a tremendous international contingent,” says Miller.
The market for vacation homes has rebounded in the most sought-after areas. In Colorado, 81611 (No. 13), where billionaire John Paulson spent $49 million on the Hala Ranch, heads a collection of pricey Aspen-area enclaves. In Hawaii, the growing wealth of tech titans is trickling into vacation home-heavy ZIP codes in Kauai and Maui. On the East Coast, Long Island’s Hamptons is heating up, even as the weather begins to cool. Sagaponack, the Southampton village where billionaire Ira Rennert, Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankein and musician Billy Joel own homes, ranks fourth on our list, cracking the top five for the second year in a row.