Ever wonder where the rich and famous live in the United States? If you said New York City or Los Angeles, you wouldn't be far from the truth. But considering those cities alone, which sections are the most posh? A look at ZIP codes, a la "90210," gives insight into both the longtime standard bearers of wealth and the up-and-coming bedroom communities for the country's elite. There are hundreds of possibilities. Here we'll narrow it down to the top 10 based on median home price.
How many other cities have had soap operas named after them? Consistently near the top of the rankings with a median home price slightly more than $3 million, Santa Barbara is nicknamed "America's Riviera" [source: Forbes].
Located on a rare stretch of south-facing land along California's coastline, it's nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, part of the 1.9-million-acre Los Padres National Forest [source: Santa Barbara]. Known for its Mediterranean-like climate, the city is surrounded by a number of wineries and ranches. Another big draw is the Santa Barbara Yacht Club, a favorite of Southern California elite.
Three of the 10 most expensive ZIP codes fall in the heart of New York City: Manhattan. The 10012 ZIP code is home to two of the trendiest neighborhoods in the world -- Greenwich Village and SoHo -- and boasts a median home price of $3.2 million [source: Forbes].
Covering part of Greenwich Village, 10012 is home to New York University. SoHo, or "South of Houston Street" is a once-industrial neighborhood made famous for its arts scene. In the 1960s and '70s, artists began taking up shop in the area's large, abandoned manufacturing buildings [source: Barr]. Known for its historical cast-iron architecture, SoHo has become a popular, upscale shopping destination in recent decades. Like Greenwich Village, gentrification and the idea of a vibrant arts scene have sent home values skyrocketing. Who doesn't want to live in one of the coolest parts of The Capital of the World?
Just north of San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge lies the little city of Belvedere, Calif. Less than a square mile in size, the peninsular town is home to roughly 2,000 people [source: City of Belvedere]. A limited amount of space has no doubt increased the demand for life in Belvedere (also with a median home price of $3.2 million), which includes scenic views of San Francisco Bay, Angel Island and the larger city itself [source: Forbes].
Development in Belvedere is limited to residential property; you'll find no shopping district here. For that, residents travel to nearby Tiburon, off the peninsula [source: City of Belvedere]. And like fellow list-maker Santa Barbara, Belvedere is a sailing hot spot. The oldest of its kind along the Pacific Coast, the San Francisco Yacht Club in located in Belvedere and has been in operation since 1869 [source: San Francisco Yacht Club].
Part of Manhattan's Upper East Side, 10065 wasn't a ZIP code until the U.S. Postal Service created it in 2007, along with 10075. Both were carved out of the posh 10021 ZIP, long considered the most elite locale in New York [source: Roberts]. At the time, some residents feared losing the status of 10021 with the shift [source: Shapiro]. Maybe that's seen in a different light as 10065 is even higher in the rankings than the older ZIP.
This southernmost part of the Upper East Side stretches from Fifth Avenue at Central Park to the west, where the most expensive homes are, to the East River and Lenox Hill, "The Other East Side" [source: Cohen]. Lenox Hill is home to Rockefeller University, one of the world's most prestigious universities and home to 23 Nobel Prize-winning faculty members since 1912 [source: Rockefeller University]. You'll need $3.6 million to purchase a median-priced home here [source: Forbes].
Rodeo Drive. Sunset Boulevard -- the most famous ZIP code in the world isn't a passing fad. It consistently ranks among the most expensive places to live in the United States. Bordered by Mulholland Drive to the north and Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards to the south, 90210 has had a tight grip on pop culture ever since producer Aaron Spelling's teen show, "Beverly Hills, 90210," reigned over television in the '90s.
Name recognition alone keeps this ZIP near the top of the list with a median home price of $3.6 million [source: Forbes]. And why not? Three city blocks worth of boutiques along Rodeo Drive are visited by the fashion elite from around the world [source: Rodeo Drive]. Close to Hollywood, Beverly Hills continues to be a place that actors, film producers and executives call home. As long as movies are a multimillion-dollar industry, Beverly Hills will be Southern California's home of the stars.
So far we've covered two of the most expensive ZIP codes in Manhattan. But one tops the city: 10014. This upscale ZIP code is home to the Far West Village, the part of Greenwich Village that runs along the Hudson River [source: NYC.gov]. A median price home here will cost you $3.7 million [source: Forbes].
The Village drew notoriety in the 1950s as home to the Beat movement and later countercultural musicians in the '60s. Like the renewal that happened in SoHo, Greenwich Village found defenders of its original architecture against the threat of destruction, like activist Jane Jacobs [source: The Far West Village]. Today, the historically maritime area is a true residential spot in a bustling city, albeit an expensive one.
About 15 miles (24 kilometers) northwest of Midtown Manhattan lays the enclave of Alpine, N.J. With a median home price of $3.8 million, the borough continues to draw the wealthy, looking for a wooded respite from the hustle and bustle of New York City [source: Forbes]. Its population hovers just above 2,000 and has a mayor and six council members running the government, but not much else. Like small, rural communities across the U.S., the fire department is volunteer-based [source: City of Alpine]. There's not even a downtown.
None of this has stopped the rich and famous from making Alpine the most expensive NYC bedroom community. Of late, it has drawn a number of popular musicians, including Sean Combs, Britney Spears, the Jonas Brothers, Jay-Z and more. If that seems funny, just wait -- comedians Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo have called Alpine home since the '80s.
Another posh bedroom community, Rolling Hills, Calif., is the only city on the list that is a private, gated community in and of itself. The small city with a median home price of nearly $3.9 million sits atop the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a short drive southwest of downtown Los Angeles [source: Forbes].
The equestrian-themed community has about 50 miles (80 kilometers) of named horse trails, though the city itself is only about 3 square miles (nearly 8 square kilometers) in size. With a full-time staff of only four, Rolling Hills also has no public infrastructure [source: Rolling Hills]. The rich who live here have two things in common: big homes and horses. Like many other ZIP codes on this list, Rolling Hills is strictly residential; there's no industry or manufacturing, and homeowners do all their shopping outside the gated city.
One of the few most expensive ZIP codes not located near New York or Los Angeles., 94027 doesn't need a big city to bolster its appeal to the wealthy. Atherton, Calif., is at the heart of Silicon Valley.
Though no large tech company is headquartered there, Atherton is home to several industry notables. It's most prominent? That's probably Eric Schmidt, executive chairman and former CEO of Google. Add to the list former eBay CEO and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and financial big wig Charles R. Schwab.
Despite its list of high-profile residents and a median home price of $4 million, Atherton prides itself on being a simple, heavily wooded community (its original name was Fair Oaks) [source: Forbes, City of Atherton]. The town even formed a tree committee in 1989 to help protect its original namesake resource.
Our final stop is the most expensive place to live in the United States. Right outside Los Angeles in the incorporated town of Bradbury, Calif., is ZIP code 91008. But don't tell the postman.
According to the United States Postal Service, 91008 is officially listed as Duarte. But the homes selling for $4.2 million and more are primarily in Bradbury [source: Forbes]. In fact, the 91010 ZIP code covers the majority of Duarte. Tiny Bradbury, encompassing 1.9 square miles (5 square kilometers), sits in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, bordering the sprawling Angeles National Forest. Home to about 1,000, almost all of Bradbury is zoned agricultural, and many of the most expensive houses are within two gated communities [source: City of Bradbury].
So if you suddenly find yourself a multi-millionaire overnight, head east and a little north out of downtown L.A. You should be home in about 20 minutes.
Most homeowners insurance won't cover your home if you're renting it via sites like Airbnb. HowStuffWorks looks at insurance policies that will.
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