The rich are different from you and me: They’re buying real estate.
After four straight years of declines, sales of million-dollar homes and condos rose last year in all 20 major metro areas, according to DataQuick Information Systems. On average, these cities saw an 18.6% jump in high-end home sales.
San Jose, Calif., had the biggest market for million-dollar homes, with a 27.4% spike in sales last year; Phoenix saw the smallest increase at just 0.4%.
Meanwhile, sales outside of this price point actually fell 2.8%.
“It hasn’t been a good six months for all people, but it was a good six months for rich people,” said Glenn Kelman, CEO of Seattle-based real estate brokerage Redfin. “When Wall Street goes up, rich people buy homes.”
“Higher income households are feeling better about their financial security,” said Greg McBride, chief economist for Bankrate.com.
As their confidence soared, the wealthy took advantage of bargains in expensive homes. An average seaside manor on Jupiter Island, Fla., that might have sold for $4 million in 2006 cost less than $3 million last year. The Brentwood bungalow in L.A. was $1.5 million instead of $2 million, and that Scarsdale colonial fell to $1.1 million after gong for $1.5 million four years ago.
Getting a mortgage for these expensive homes was cheaper as well.
In New York, where volume grew nearly 25%, high-priced home sales were driven by bonuses on Wall Street. Even though bonuses were slightly smaller last year, they still topped $120,000. And that’s just the average; many employees brought home significantly more.
The real estate industry may take some solace from the mini boom in high-end sales, but it does not necessarily mean good times are ahead for the rest of the market. In fact, the rest of the market is facing a potential 25% drop in prices and stalling sales.
“There are not a lot of million-dollar home buyers even in the best of times,” said Bishop. “It’s always nice to see any segment come back, but it’s the middle of the market we would like to see set the pace.”