In a year that has been like no other, some things within the real estate industry have remained the same. Atherton’s 94027 zip code is still the most expensive in the US for the fourth year in a row now. California easily retained the top spot with 87 of the top 100 most expensive zip codes in the US, and San Francisco maintains its hold on more than 10% of the country’s most exclusive zips.
But, in a year of unprecedented news after unprecedented news, there were bound to be some notable changes. Learn about the Most Expensive U.S. Zip Codes in 2020 to see how NYC claimed the top median sale price gains and losses, how price growth marched on in California’s already pricey housing market, and what were the defining factors in the priciest U.S. enclaves.
The Ranking Process
While a variety of methodologies could be used to identify the most expensive zip codes in the country, PropertyShark looked at median sale prices based on closed home sales, as opposed to listing or asking prices. That’s because closed home sales provide the most accurate representation of the actual prices that buyers are willing to pay — not just the wishful thinking of sellers.
For this ranking in particular, residential home sales that closed between January 1 and October 16, 2020, were considered. Notably, 121 zip codes made the list due to 18 price ties.
11 States Take It All, but California Leads
As expected, California and New York continued to claim most of the top 100 most expensive zip codes. Together, they comprised 107 of the 121 zip codes with the highest median home prices. To be precise, California contributed 87 (which is just below last year’s record of 91), and New York contributed 20.
As was true of last year, nine additional states were represented on the list. Namely, Massachusetts added four zip codes — despite its infamously expensive Back Bay zip code not being present — while two other states, Connecticut and Nevada, each had two zip codes on the list. The rest of the states that made it in the rankings — Arizona, New Hampshire, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington, and Florida — each had a single zip code on the list.
Aside from the absence of Back Bay, none of this was especially surprising or significantly different than last year. For example, the 33109 zip code in Florida — which ranked 23rd — and the 98039 zip code in Washington, which ranked ninth, have both been on the list for five years in a row.
More Gains Than Losses for Priciest Zips
Overall, many more areas had gains in their median sale price than those that had losses. For instance, in 2020, 78 locations experienced year-over-year gains, whereas just 27 suffered losses. Conversely, in 2019, only 38 zip codes increased year-over-year while prices dropped in 63 others.
Of the 78 zip codes with increases in median home prices, nearly one-third of them had double-digit gains, and nine areas saw increases of more than 20%. Specifically, New York City’s Upper West Side had the most considerable growth. Here, the median price in zip code 10069 went up 42% — from $800,000 to more than $2.7 million, fueled by new luxury developments. Not far behind was 93953 in California’s Pebble Beach, which increased 41%. And, while the Hamptons’ increases were lower, they were still impressive with a 30% year-over-year increase in Bridgehampton’s 11932.
New York’s Drops Were Significant
While there weren’t as many losses as there were gains, the zip codes that did sustain losses generally did so in a significant way. For example, nearly half of the 27 zip codes with price declines saw double-digit drops in median prices. Of those, half were in New York, which was also where the top three most significant reductions occurred: Zip code 10018 in NYC’s Garment District went down 38%, 11765 in Mill Neck in Nassau County dropped 30%, and 10001 in NYC’s Chelsea had the third-largest reduction at 28% year-over-year.
Atherton Leads List for 4th Year in a Row
With a median home price of $7 million, Atherton’s 94027 is on the top most expensive cities in the United States for the fourth year in a row. Located in the Bay Area, it’s home to Hollywood and sport A-listers, as well as a bevy of billionaires and CEOs from Silicon Valley. Atherton was the leader of the 13 zip codes with median prices of more than $3 million in 2020.
Sagaponack is 2nd for 3rd Year in a Row
The 11962 zip code in Sagaponack, N.Y., was the second-most expensive zip code for the third year in a row, with a median price of $3.875 million. Despite a 10% year-over-year drop in its median sale price, which was also the fourth decline in the last five years — this community remained runner-up to Atherton’s sky-high prices. Once claiming the top spot at $8.5 million, Sagaponack was dethroned in 2016 and had not come close to Atherton since.
A California Tie for 3rd Place
Coming in at a median sale price of $3.75 million, 90402 in Santa Monica and 90210 in Beverly Hills tied for the third-priciest zip code. This was Santa Monica’s second year in this position on the list, although its 2019 prices were 10% higher than in 2020. Due to this dip in Santa Monica’s median, Beverly Hills was able to catch up and claim its highest place in the last five years.
Regardless of the specific spot they held, both 90402 and 90210 have consistently placed within the top 10 most expensive zip codes, with their respective medians consistently more than $3 million. Moreover, in 2020, Beverly Hills hit its highest median sale price in five years at $4.08 million.
Bay Area Remains Most Expensive Metro in the U.S.
Fueled mainly by Silicon Valley, the Bay Area has contended with fast-paced price growth for decades now. With about half of the tech billionaires in the world who live and own a home in Atherton for example, it comes as no surprise that the Bay Area is home to 50 of the most expensive zip codes in the country, including six of the top 10. Meanwhile, nearby Orange and Los Angeles counties were home to 30 of the top 100 highest price zip codes, reconfirming California’s leading national position when it comes to home prices.
California Dominates at County Level, Too
Likewise, when looking at the top 100 by county, California, reigns again. Specifically, Los Angeles, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco counties have the highest concentration of zip codes that made the list. By far, Los Angeles County was the overall winner with 23 zip codes on the list, which is two more than last year. The Bay Area added 37 zip codes, with Santa Clara County contributing 15 and San Mateo and San Francisco counties each adding another 11. Santa Clara County also claimed three zip codes in the top 10.
For First Time Ever, No NYC Zip Ranked in Top 10
The New York metro area had plenty of entries on the list — 23 to be exact — 10 of which were in New York City proper. However, for the first time ever, there were no NYC zip codes within the top 10 most expensive zip codes in the U.S. But, it’s not all bad news for NYC real estate moguls. NYC still holds the second-highest concentration of expensive zip codes, with 10007 coming in at #11 and 10013 not far behind at #13.
Few Surprises in an Unprecedented Year
Considering the upheaval that has been 2020, it would not have been shocking if there were significant changes in the most expensive zip codes in the country. However, this year’s list of the most expensive zip codes in the United States was relatively in line with what has been observed in past years, with most areas appearing on a regular basis, solidified in their positions as the most exclusive zip codes in the country for pricey real estate The main takeaways remains the consistent increase in medians observed in most of country’s top 100 most expensive zips, with a question posed now for 2021: will the gains hold?