The Most Expensive U.S. ZIP Codes (2012 Edition)

Most expensive ZIP codes in the U.S.Since late-2011, home values have climbed in many U.S. markets.

The government’s Home Price index puts the increase at +3.7% an annual basis and the National Association of REALTORS® shows home sale prices up 11% since last year.

The price at which a home sells is determined by the economic force of supply-and-demand but location and amenities matter, too; establishing a baseline from which supply-and-demand can work. 

Using data compiled by real estate market data firm Altos Research, Forbes Magazine recently presented America’s 10 most expensive ZIP codes for 2012. California and the New York Metro area dominate the list.

  1. New York, NY (10065) : $6,534,430
  2. Alpine, NJ (07620) : $5,745,038
  3. Atherton, CA (94027) : $4,897,864
  4. Sagaponack, NY (11962) : $4,180,385
  5. Hillsborough, CA (94010) : $4,127,250
  6. New York, NY (10014) : $4,116,506
  7. Los Altos Hills, CA (94022) : $4,016,050
  8. New York, NY (10021) : $3,980,829
  9. Rolling Hills, CA (90274) : $3,972,500
  10. New York, NY (10075) : $3,885,409

As an illustration of how home prices have climbed since Forbes publishes last year’s Most Expensive ZIP code list, this year’s #10 — Upper East Side, New York City, New York — would have ranked third in 2011.

The Forbes list may be interesting but, to home buyers or sellers , it’s far from the final word in home values. Real estate remains a local market which means that — even within a given ZIP code — prices can vary based on street and neighborhood, and home characteristics.

Look past the general data and get to the specifics. Talk to your real estate agent for local market pricing.

Carmel, Indiana Rated Top Mid-Sized U.S. City For 2012

Top Places To Live 2012 EditionCNNMoney has released its Best Places To Live 2012 list.

The annual survey is based on data from Onboard Informatics. Using Quality of Life factors such as education, crime and “town spirit”, and focusing on towns with between 50,000 and 300,000 residents, this year’s survey ranks the country’s best mid-sozed cities.

To be eligible for ranking, towns mus have a median household income greater than 85 percent, and less than 200 percent, of the state median income; must not be a categorized as a “retirement community” or a town with “major job loss”; and must be racially-diverse.

From a list of 744 eligible towns nationwide, Carmel, Indiana ranked first.

The complete Top 10 Best Places to Live as cited by CNNMoney, and average local home listing price as of July 2012 follows :

  1. Carmel, Indiana ($304,340 average listing price)
  2. McKinney, Texas ($245,917 average listing price)
  3. Eden Prairie, Minnesota ($413,566 average listing price)
  4. Newton, Massachusetts ($850,117 average listing price)
  5. Redmond, Washington ($518,982 average listing price)
  6. Irvine, California ($904,753 average listing price)
  7. Reston, Virginia ($467,934 average listing price)
  8. Columbia, Maryland ($406,943 average listing price)
  9. Overland Park, Kansas ($278,204 average listing price)
  10. Chapel Hill, NC ($376,660 average listing price)

In addition to ranking its Top 10 Best Places To Live, CNNMoney also offers a host of data on the top-ranked 100 cities at its website. See whether your hometown ranks, and what the data says about your town.

As you review the rankings, however, remember that while lists like these can be helpful to a home buyer , all “Best Place To Live”-like surveys are subjective. A bottom-ranked town may have no less appeal to you as an individual than a top-ranked one.

Every city has something to offer to its residents.

Therefore, before making a decision to buy a home, make sure to connect with a real estate agent with local market knowledge. That’s the best, most reliable way to make sure you’re getting the data on the market that matters most to you.

Top 10 U.S. Cities For Public Parks

Park rankings by cityFor the first time in more than 100 years, the growth in America’s cities is outpacing the growth in its suburbs. 

According to the 2011 estimates of the U.S. Census Bureau, between July 2010 and July 2011, city centers grew faster than their surrounding suburbs in 53% of the nation’s largest housing markets. 

Compare this to just 9.8% during the 10 years prior.

Cities now compete with suburbs on a number of fronts including job availability, housing costs, and access to amenities, a category which includes proximity to public parks.

Parks are important to a city. Studies prove that parks help to attract home buyers, to retain retired homeowners, and to raise home values. And now, with the creation of ParkScore, it’s easy to compare park systems between U.S. cities.

ParkScore is an at-a-glance assessment of a city’s park system. Published by The Trust for Public Land, ParkScore considers “every publicly owned park space” within the nation’s largest cities and assigns an overall score based on total acreage, services provided, and access.

The maximum ParkScore is 100.

According to its publisher, the 10 cities nationwide with the highest ParkScores are :

  1. San Francisco, California (74.0)
  2. Sacramento, California (73.5)
  3. Boston, Massachusetts (72.5)
  4. New York, New York (72.5)
  5. Washington, D.C. (71.5)
  6. Portland, Oregon (69.0)
  7. Virginia Beach, Virginia (68.5)
  8. San Diego, California (67.5)
  9. Seattle, Washington (66.5)
  10. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (66.0)

ParkScore rankings place a high premium on the “percentage of city residents living within a 10-minute walk of a public park”. It’s no surprise, therefore, that some of the top-finishers included San Francisco, Boston and New York City — three cities known for their abundance of public parks.

ParkScore bottom-finishers included Fresno, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Louisville, Kentucky.

The complete ParkScore rankings are available at http://parkscore.tpl.org, along with each city’s score and ranking analysis.

10 Cities Projecting Home Value Increases Through 2013

10 cities poised for growth through 2013Nationwide, the U.S. housing market is showing signs of recovery. Home prices are rising as demand for homes outweighs existing home supply in many metropolitan regions.

As is customary in real estate, though, the degrees to which home values change vary by area.

In some U.S. markets, the housing recovery is outpacing the national average. In other markets, it lags. In an effort to measure the changes, CNNMoney has named the 10 U.S. housing markets in which home prices may rise the fastest.

The list is stuffed with small- to mid-size cities, most of which have experienced huge price drops since the housing market’s peak in 2007. The cities are gems, however, for the right type of home buyer. This may include real estate investors, first-time buyers, move-up buyers, and even parents with children in need of “college housing”.

As listed by CNNMoney, the 10 cities in which home values are rising fastest are :

  1. Madera, CA (Down 53.1% from peak; Forecast 21.5% gain through 2013)
  2. Medford, OR (Down 37.1% from peak; Forecast 20.1% gain through 2013)
  3. Yuma, AZ (Down 37.4% from peak; Forecast 16.7% gain through 2013)
  4. Corvallis, OR (Down 11.4% from peak; Forecast 13.2% gain through 2013)
  5. Eugene, OR (Down 21.2% from peak; Forecast 12.4% gain through 2013)
  6. Olympia, WA (Down 26.3% from peak; Forecast 11.3% gain through 2013)
  7. Boise, ID (Down 36.9% from peak; Forecast 11.0% gain through 2013)
  8. Billings, MT (Down 3.0% from peak; Forecast 10.1% gain through 2013)
  9. Lewiston, ID (Down 7.5% from peak; Forecast 10.0% gain through 2013)
  10. Sante Fe, NM (Down 17.1% from peak; Forecast 10.0% gain through 2013)

These 10 cities are more diverse in their make-up than their geography. All ten can be found in the western half of the United States. However, whereas some cities are expected to excel as a result of proximity of universities — Eugene and Corvallis, for example — others are expected to excel for economic reasons.

This includes cities such as Yuma, which is in a Foreign Trade Zone.

Real estate remains a local market, though, and even within these ten cities, there will exist neighborhoods in which growth exceed national averages, and areas in which growth falls behind.

For accurate, real-time real estate data , be sure to speak with a real estate professional.

America’s 10 Richest Counties

America's Richest CountiesThere are 3,033 counties in the United States. Which 10 are the richest in terms of median household income? Not surprisingly, those near major economic centers rank high.

In a study based on household income estimates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Loudoun County, Virginia captures the number one spot in America’s Richest Counties.

Loudoun County is a Washington, D.C. suburb and is home to Dulles International Airport, as well as a well-educated workforce.

The complete Top 10 list of America’s Richest Counties :

  1. Loudoun County, Virginia ($115,574)
  2. Falls Church City, Virginia ($114,409)
  3. Fairfax County, Virginia ($105,416)
  4. Los Alamos County, New Mexico ($103,643)
  5. Howard County, Maryland ($103,273)
  6. Hunterdon County, New Jersey ($100,980)
  7. Douglas County, Colorado ($99,198)
  8. Fairfax City, Virginia ($97,900)
  9. Somerset County, New Jersey ($97,440)
  10. Morris County, New Jersey ($96,747)

As a region, it’s estimated that 40% of the Washington, D.C. metro area economy can be attributed to federal spending. This helps explain why Falls Church City, Virginia; Fairfax County, Virginia; and Howard County, Maryland all scored high on the list. It’s also why Los Alamos ranked 4 — the largest employer in Los Alamos is the Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the largest science and technology institutes in the world.

The New Jersey counties are popular commuter areas for homeowners who work in New York City.

As a home buyer , the wealth of particular area may matter to you, but it won’t be the sole reason you purchase. You may have interest in a quality school district, or a vibrant nightlife, or a a high walkability factor, for example.

For more detailed statistics about the 10 counties at top or other local markets, be sure to ask your real estate agent. 

America’s 20 Best Small Towns

America's Best Small TownsAmerica is stuffed with world-class “big cities”; New York, San Francisco and Chicago make for three great examples. But beyond the biggest cities, there are some wonderful small towns, too.

Smithsonian.com highlights 20 of them on its website.

Focusing on cities with 25,000 residents or fewer, the publication ranked areas high in “culture”; towns with high concentrations of museums, public gardens, art galleries and other cultural assets including resident orchestras. 

The author states “big cities and grand institutions per se don’t produce creative works; individuals do. And being reminded of that is fun”.

The Top 10 Small Towns in America, as judged by Smithsonian.com :

  1. Great Barrington, Massachusetts
  2. Taos, New Mexico
  3. Red Bank, New Jersey
  4. Mill Valley, California
  5. Gig Harbor, Washington
  6. Durango, Colorado
  7. Butler, Pennsylvania
  8. Marfa, Texas
  9. Naples, Florida
  10. Staunton, Virginia

Other notable cities on the list include Princeton, New Jersey; Beckley City, West Virginia; and Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

The Smithsonian.com website provides an in-depth review of each of its twenty listed cities, including historical notes and quotes from key community members. It makes for good reading by local residents and visitors, alike.

Review the complete rankings online.

The Top 10 Cities In Which To Raise A Family

Great places to raise a familyLooking for a great place to raise a family? Forbes Magazine has a list that may help you.

Titled “The Best Cities For Raising A Family“, Forbes has compiled and analyzed data from America’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, accounting for seven lifestyle factors including cost of living, commuting ease, school quality, crime density, and home affordability.

Given these selection criteria, it’s no surprise that Grand Rapids, Michigan took top honors. The area’s low median income is offset by an extremely low cost of living and a school system that’s among the best in the nation. Nearly 90% of the homes in Grand Rapids are affordable families earning the median income — the seventh-highest affordability ranking in the country — and commutes are quick.

Since the housing peak, home prices are down just 12% in Grand Rapids — a figure below the national average.

The complete Top 10 list for the Forbes “The Best Cities For Raising A Family” piece were:

  1. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  2. Boise, Idaho
  3. Provo, Utah
  4. Youngstown, Ohio
  5. Raleigh, North Carolina
  6. Poughkeepsie, New York
  7. Omaha, Nebraska
  8. Ogden, Utah
  9. Cincinnati, Ohio
  10. Worcester, Massachusetts

Now, before you make a home-buying decision based on the Forbes report, remember that real estate is a local market and even city-wide statistics can be too broad to be helpful to everyday home buyers. Even within Grand Rapids, there are some neighborhoods that outperform in terms of home valuations and school quality, for example; and some areas from which a daily work commute may be more cumbersome. 

For accurate, real-time housing data for any of the above markets , be sure to ask a real estate professional.

Top 10 Sunniest Cities In the United States

Sunniest US CitiesAs compared to gloomy days, do “sunny days” put you in a good mood? If you’re like many people , the answer is “yes”.

In a study of more than 1,200 people, researchers found that daily weather factors such as temperature, precipitation and length of day can alter a person’s emotional state. Of all the weather factors, however, “sunshine” can have the most profound effect.

The most likely reason is because sunshine affects people in a physiological manner.

When the human brain detects sunlight, our bodies produce serotonin, a chemical which promotes happiness and well-being. By contrast, when the brain detect darkness, our bodies produce melatonin, a chemical which promotes sleep cycles.

Sunlight — quite literally — leads to happiness.

Understanding the effect of sunlight on human mood, therefore, we must consider the nation’s “sunniest cities” as more than just a novelty list. It may be a link to personal well-being, too.

From the National Climactic Data Center, these are the Top 10 Sunniest Cities in the United States :

  1. Yuma, AZ : Sunny on 90% of all days
  2. Redding, CA : Sunny on 88% of all days
  3. Las Vegas, NV : Sunny on 85% of all days
  4. Phoenix, AZ : Sunny on 85% of all days
  5. Tucson, AZ : Sunny on 85% of all days
  6. El Paso, TX : Sunny on 84% of all days
  7. Fresno, CA : Sunny on 79% of all days
  8. Reno, NV : Sunny on 79% of all days
  9. Flagstaff, AZ : Sunny on 78% of all days
  10. Sacramento, CA : Sunny on 78% of all days

The sunshine rankings of other noteworthy cities include Key West, FL (#12 with 76% sunshine); Denver, CO (#30 with 68% sunshine); and Seattle, WA (#165 with 43% sunshine). 

At the bottom of the list is Juneau. Just 30 percent of the Alaskan capital city’s days are sunny.

The complete Sunshine Rankings as listed by Metropolitan Area is available on the NCDC website.

America’s Best Places To Raise A Family, Listed By State

Great Places To Raise A FamilyBusinessWeek recently released its 2011 America’s Best Place to Raise a Family rankings. College-town Blacksburg, Virginia took top honors, breaking a 2-year win streak for the Chicago, Illinois region.

In 2009, suburban Mount Prospect, Illinois placed first. Last year, it was Tinley Park, Illinois.

The BusinessWeek report employs data from real estate information firm Onboard Informatics to make its rankings, compiling data across categories such as education, crime, and jobs plus access to parks and affordable homes. All selections are limited by population; all selections are home to 50,000 residents or fewer. Median incomes are within 20 percent — plus or minus — of the state’s median income levels.

BusinessWeek names one winner in each state. The winners in the 10 most populous states and their nearest “big city” are listed below

  1. California : East San Gabriel (Los Angeles)
  2. Texas : Wells Branch (Austin)
  3. New York : Hampton Manor (Albany)
  4. Florida : Niceville (Fort Walton Beach)
  5. Illinois : Morton Grove (Chicago)
  6. Pennsylvania : Cecil-Bishop (Pittsburgh)
  7. Ohio : St. Henry (Dayton)
  8. Michigan : Spring Arbor (Jackson)
  9. Georgia : Hoschton (Atlanta)
  10. North Carolina : Tryon (Spartanburg, SC)

The winners in all 50 states can be found on the BusinessWeek website.

Rankings like the BusinessWeek America’s Best Place to Raise a Family can be useful for home buyers , but like everything in real estate, statistics do not apply to every home equally. Even within the “best towns”, there are areas in which school systems are better, crime figures are lower, and amenities are more plentiful.

Therefore, before you make the decision to buy a home, talk with a real estate agent who has local market knowledge. It’s the most effective means to get data that matters to you.

Ranking The Best Places To Live In The U.S. (2011 Edition)

Top Places To Live 2011CNNMoney recently released its Best Places To Live 2011 list.

The annual survey is based on data from Onboard Informatics. Using Quality of Life factors such as education, crime and “town spirit”, and focusing on towns with between 8,500 and 50,000 residents, the CNNMoney survey ranks the country’s best “small towns”.

To be eligible, towns must be have a median household income greater than 85 percent, and less than 200 percent of the state median income; must not be a categorized as a “retirement community”; and must be racially-diverse.

From a list of 3,570 eligible towns nationwide, Louisville, Colorado was ranked #1.

The complete Top 10 Best Places to Live as cited by CNNMoney, and their respective average home listing prices :

  1. Louisville, Colorado ($383,569)
  2. Milton, Massachusetts ($577,008)
  3. Solon, Ohio ($291,162)
  4. Leesburg, Virginia ($486,018)
  5. Papillion, Nebraska ($218,520)
  6. Hanover, New Hampshire ($643,500)
  7. Liberty, Missouri ($177,678)
  8. Middleton, Wisconsin ($347,770)
  9. Mukilteo, Washington ($345,487)
  10. Chanhassen, Minnesota ($418,607)

Rankings like these can be helpful to home buyers nationwide, but it’s important to remember that the Best Place To Live survey is subjective. You may find none of the above towns to be to your liking.

You may also find the lowest-ranked city to be your favorite.

In other words, before making a decision to buy, connect with a real estate agent who has local market knowledge. That’s the best, most reliable way to make sure you get the housing data that matters to you.