> Median list price: $2.82 million
> City/town: Bel Air, Calif.
> Year-over-year change: 16.4%
In Bel Air, nestled in the hills above Sunset Boulevard, great views command a hefty price tag. Media rooms are a must-have because many locals work in what’s known as “The Industry,” meaning Hollywood. One current listing is a $29.9 million property that boasts 20,000-square feet in a “glorious, gated and private compound.” In ritzy Bel Air, it’s not enough to own a pool, you also need to have a cabana. Between August and September, median list price in the 90077 zip code shot up more than 16%, while prices across the U.S. rose by less than 1%.
> Median list price: $2.90 million
> City/town: Greenwich, Conn.
> Year-over-year change: 16.1%
Greenwich has catered to many affluent homeowners dating back to its inception in 1640. And while a handful of current listings top $20 million, there are also a number of entry-level family homes available for under $1 million, something unseen in other communities on this list. No doubt, size is a leveling factor: Greenwich has a population of 61,171 according to the 2010 census. Still the majority of the Greenwich region is extremely wealthy. In 2010, 43.9% of households in the Greenwich School District earned $200,000 or more, compared to 4.2% of households nationwide.
> Median list price: $3.19 million
> City/town: Santa Barbara, Calif.
> Year-over-year change: 2.9%
That Montecito is a 90-minute drive from Hollywood isn’t lost on the dozens of celebrities that claim this 9-square mile suburb of Santa Barbara as home. Like a trendy restaurant with a line around the block, Montecito could probably fill a waiting list of wealthy people who want to move to its ocean-cooled climate (possibly to live near Oprah). The area is also a retirement destination — more than one in four residents were over the age of 65 in 2010. A slight decrease in homes for sale compared to 2011 isn’t helping to satisfy potential buyers.
> Median list price: $3.29 million
> City/town: Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
> Year-over-year change: 13.5%
This unincorporated part of San Diego County boasts some of the highest earning families in the country, but it has a relatively small population of just 3,117, according to the 2010 census. That type of exclusivity has drawn its share of wealthy and famous residents, including singer Janet Jackson and actress Geena Davis, among many others. One $40 million home currently for sale in “The Ranch,” as it is known, epitomizes the appeal: eight bedrooms, nine bathrooms, 16,000 square feet and various ponds and waterfalls home to koi fish, according to Realtor.com.
> Median list price: $3.75 million
> City/town: Beverly Hills, Calif.
> Year-over-year change: 17.2%
In a town named Beverly Hills, it may be surprising to learn that most of its denizens actually live in the “flats.” Not surprisingly, the most expensive homes are ones with great views. Beverly Hills has been glamorized or satirized in TV shows such as “90210” and “Beverly Hillbillies,” and movies such as “Pretty Woman” and “Beverly Hills Cop.” But these days it may be best known for extremely high-end shopping and restaurants on Rodeo Drive. Inventory remains an issue for buyers looking at this market.