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The 10 Most Expensive Cities to Buy a Home

5. Palo Alto, Calif.
> Avg. listing price: $1,495,364
> Median household income: $120,670
> Pct. households $200,000+ income: 39.3%

In Palo Alto, 48.7% of adults have a graduate or professional degree — well more than four times the national rate of 10.3%. The city’s proximity to Stanford University, one of the top universities in the nation, may be partly the reason behind the city’s highly educated population. Among the companies headquartered in the city are Hewlett-Packard and Tesla Motors. The city is a large employer of highly skilled employees, as 25.3% of its workers are employed in professional, scientific and management occupations, well above the 10.4% of workers nationwide. Perhaps the most famous resident of Palo Alto is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who bought a $7 million home there last year.

4. Menlo Park, Calif.
> Avg. listing price: $1,506,909
> Median household income: $107,860
> Pct. households $200,000+ income: 34.9%

Menlo Park is one of just four cities where the average listing price for a four-bedroom home exceeds $1.5 million. As of 2010, the median income in the city was slightly below $108,000. However, the recent Facebook IPO has been a windfall to the area. In June, real estate listing service Zillow reported that the “proportion of million-dollar listings” in Menlo Park — where Facebook is headquartered — rose by 87% between the company’s IPO filing and its first day as a public company. Among the houses available in Menlo Park are a five-bedroom home with a gym, theater area and wine cellar, which is listed for $4.6 million, and a six-bedroom 5,200 square feet home that’s listed for slightly under $5 million.

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3. Saratoga, Calif.
> Avg. listing price: $1,582,434
> Median household income: $145,023
> Pct. households $200,000+ income: 43.1%

Though home prices in the nearby San Jose metro area fell by 25.1% peak-to-trough,  Saratoga is yet another example of how the Silicon Valley housing market has recovered. Currently, the median price per square foot for homes in San Jose is $337, according to Trulia, more than all housing markets except San Francisco and Honolulu. Prices for many homes in the area have skyrocketed, according to listings on Zillow. A home currently listed for nearly $10 million last sold for just over $2.1 million in 2000, while a home listed for $14.9 million last sold in 1994 for just over $1 million. As of 2010, 43.1% of Saratoga households earned more than $200,000 per year, while 40.9% of adult residents had a graduate degree, versus 10.3% nationwide.

2. Newport Beach, Calif.
> Avg. listing price: $1,658,000
> Median household income: $107,007
> Pct. households $200,000+ income: 37.6%

Outside of Northern California, Newport Beach is the most expensive city to buy a home. Home prices are so high in the city that in 2009 legendary bond investor Bill Gross bought a nine-bedroom, 11,000 square feet home for $23 million — and then tore it down. In 2011, Gross listed the empty plot of land for $26.5 million. Orange County as a whole has a vacancy rate of just 1.5%, among the ten lowest in the nation. Despite a 32.7% drop in home prices from peak to trough during the recession, Orange County’s median price per square foot is $265. This trails only the Honolulu, New York, San Francisco and San Jose metro areas.

1. Los Altos, Calif.
> Avg. listing price: $1,706,688
> Median household income: $149,964
> Pct. households $200,000+ income: 43.6%

In Los Altos, the average four-bedroom, two-bathroom home lists for nearly $50,000 more than any other city in the nation. According to Coldwell Banker, for that price a buyer could purchase 28 similar homes in Redford, Mich., the nation’s cheapest housing market. In Redford, the average home lists for just $60,490. Currently, asking prices in the San Jose metro area have risen 12.7% year-over-year, according to Trulia. This is more than nearly every other metro area in the country.

-Alexander E. M. Hess and Michael B. Sauter

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