> Median list price: $4.30 million
> City/town: Atherton, Calif.
> Year-over-year change: -4.5%
Atherton has the feel of an exclusive club where membership costs continue to soar as prospective members wait to pounce on the next mansion that comes up for sale. Silicon Valley initial public offerings have helped fuel sales and the town has made a strong post-recession recovery. Unlike some affluent neighborhoods on this list, Atherton boasts exceptional public schools that help offset the San Francisco Bay Area’s notoriously high cost of living. Median income in the greater bay area in 2010 was $71,975, more than $20,000 higher than the national average.
> Median list price: $4.93 million
> City/town: Woody Creek, Colo.
> Year-over-year change: 26.4%
Visitors may find it difficult to believe that this once-rustic part of Northwest Colorado, located near the posh community of Aspen, is centered around an eponymously named tavern where Hunter S. Thompson held court. In recent decades, the presence of other iconoclastic artists, including rock stars, has further strengthened property values. Inventory has held steady since last year, and home prices continue their steep ascent, rising by 26.44% between September 2011 and September 2012.
> Median list price: $5.10 million
> City/town: New York, N.Y.
> Year-over-year change: Unavailable
New York City neighborhoods in this zip code, which include Greenwich Village and Tribeca, are home to some of the nation’s best jazz clubs and feature many stately homes built more than 100 years ago and condos priced at the top of the market. Demand is so high for this once-Bohemian neighborhood that some one-bedroom apartments command $1 million or more. Some buildings in the area were damaged following Sandy, which could mean that inventory may get even tighter.
> Median list price: $5.30 million
> City/town: Ross, Calif.
> Year-over-year change: 73.6%
Ross residents cherish the comforts of living in one of the nation’s wealthiest enclaves, but one service they don’t have is mail delivery directly to their homes — they must pick up letters at the local post office. Still, it’s not a long walk — and an easy drive in a Range Rover — as the town is only 1.6 square miles and the downtown, known as Ross Commons, is within easy reach. Like other towns and neighborhoods on this list, limited housing inventory is pushing up prices,which rose 73.61% between September 2011 and September 2012.
> Median list price: $6.70 million
> City/town: Alpine, N.J.
> Year-over-year change: 41.1%
Alpine residents may feel secure behind their iron-gated entrances, but they did not escape Sandy’s wrath, which knocked out power through much of the town and across Northern New Jersey. Mayor Paul Tomasko reported that the storm damaged many homes, but residents of this ultra-upscale enclave are likely to begin restoration efforts immediately. It’s not surprising that a town with so many celebrities, including Stevie Wonder, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock, enjoys a very low crime rate. It’s easy to understand the appeal of Alpine, which is located just 15 miles from midtown Manhattan. Median household income in the area’s Tenafly Borough School District, was more than $125,000 in 2010, more than double the U.S. average.