It's been said that home is where the heart is, but if your heart is in the right or wrong ZIP code it can certainly affect your home's value. In fact, some people put more stock into what ZIP code they live in than almost anything else associated with the property.
For most of us, there are some simple quality of life issues to consider: Are the local schools and public services up to par? Is there crime in the community? How long will it take me to get to work from here? The answers to those questions will directly affect your home's value. Think also about the state of the roads and whether they're sufficiently plowed during the winter or repaired as they age. In addition, zoning matters need to be weighed: Is a strip mall planned around the corner or is street widening on tap for your little-traveled avenue [source: realtor.com]?
Beyond those considerations there's the possibility you may be moving to -- or are currently living in -- the next big hot spot and you just don't know it yet. When you weigh what your home could be worth, think about the notable case of Google and a neighboring city.
Atherton, Calif., is a small town that's a short drive from Google's headquarters in Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley.
In 2004, a peculiar thing happened to Atherton: Google employees began gobbling up real estate. It began in September when the first set of employees, freed from a lockup period set by the Securities and Exchange Commission, could begin legally selling off stock in the company. [source: Tam and Mangalidan]. Software developers who had scraped up a living in college were now millionaires. Overnight.
Atherton was already well-to-do, but the influx of "new money" led to bidding wars on real estate. In 2011, the median home price was just over $4 million, which makes Atherton's 94027 ZIP code the second most expensive one in the United States, behind only Duarte, Calif. in Los Angeles County (91008) [source: Forbes].
You could just say the employees were following their leader: Eric Schmidt, executive chairman and former CEO, calls Atherton home. But that's not the only example of an unexpected change in an established neighborhood.
The Upper East Side of New York City experienced a split that had some surprising results. That's next.