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The most expensive places to buy a home

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From coast to coast, the housing market has been on a record run as a supply shortage pushes values ever-higher. The median home price nationwide eclipsed $400,000 in May 2022, its first time above that mark, according to the National Association of Realtors.

In some of the nation’s most exclusive housing markets, though, $400,000 would barely qualify as a down payment. Bankrate looked at city-by-city sales data compiled by ATTOM Data Solutions to identify the nation’s priciest municipalities, as of the first quarter of 2022. Not surprisingly, California markets dominate the rankings.

Most Expensive Places to Buy a House: The top five markets are: 1. Atherton, CA 2. Water Mill, NY 3. Portola Valley, CA 4. Boca Grande, FL 5. Los Altos, CA

Top 10 most expensive cities for homebuyers

The list of priciest places is dominated by small cities in California, with waterfront enclaves on the East Coast also making their mark. Here are the top 10 cities overall, with the Q1 median price for each:

  1. Atherton, California: $10.05 million. This Silicon Valley city is the most expensive place in the U.S. to buy a home, by a wide margin. Prices soared nearly 43 percent from the first quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
  2. Water Mill, New York: $6.24 million. Prices in this Hamptons enclave nearly doubled in the past year.
  3. Portola Valley, California: $5 million. Another Silicon Valley municipality, this city saw prices rise 42 percent in a year.
  4. Boca Grande, Florida: $4.4 million. The housing market in this little village on the Gulf Coast is dominated by waterfront homes. The median price in this town near Fort Myers more than doubled.
  5. Los Altos, California: $4.3 million. Also in Silicon Valley, prices here jumped 42 percent in a year.
  6. Rancho Santa Fe, California: $4.29 million. The highest-ranking entrant from Southern California, this pricey San Diego suburb experienced 57 percent appreciation.
  7. Newport Coast, California: $4.1 million. This tony spot in Orange County saw prices soar 49 percent in a year, according to ATTOM.
  8. Sea Island, Georgia: $4.09 million. This little resort town in coastal Georgia experienced a 50 percent jump in prices.
  9. Medina, Washington: $3.8 million. In an anomaly among the top 10, this Seattle suburb was the only place that experienced a price decline from the first quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022.
  10. Bridgehampton, New York: $3.7 million. This Hamptons town offers more affordable homes than neighboring Water Mill, but still squeaks into our top 10.


Most expensive midsize markets

The five priciest places with populations of 50,000 to 500,000, with Q1 median prices:

  1. Palo Alto, California: $2.95 million. Continuing Silicon Valley’s dominance of the list, this tech-heavy city was No. 1, although prices rose just 10 percent in a year.
  2. Newport Beach, California: $2.64 million. Prices in this Southern California community soared 26 percent.
  3. Cupertino, California: $2.38 million. The median sale price in this tech hub, famed as the location of Apple’s corporate headquarters, rose 18 percent in the past year.
  4. Danville, California: $2.08 million. This Northern California city isn’t in Silicon Valley — it’s inland from Oakland.
  5. Redwood City, California: $2.01 million. Yet another Silicon Valley entrant, this city experienced 22 percent growth.

Most expensive large markets

The five priciest places with populations of 500,000 or more, with Q1 median prices:

  1. Manhattan: $1.66 million. No surprise here: New York City, and Manhattan in particular, has always been one of the nation’s priciest housing markets. However, prices were up just 10 percent from a year earlier.
  2. San Francisco: $1.45 million. This is another market with muted growth — prices rose a pedestrian 9 percent.
  3. San Jose: $1.3 million. The fastest gainer among large cities, the capital of Silicon Valley experienced a 21 percent increase in prices.
  4. Los Angeles: $1 million. Prices rose just 4 percent, but LA remains expensive — prohibitively so for Angelenos earning local wages. It’s one of the nation’s least affordable places.
  5. Brooklyn: $900,576. Still cheaper than Manhattan, but this New York City borough’s reputation for affordable housing is fading fast.

Here’s the full set of America’s top 25 most expensive housing markets from ATTOM:

Rank City State Population Median price Q1 2022 One-year change
1 Atherton California 7,415 $10,050,000 42.7%
2 Water Mill New York 1,679 $6,241,666 95.1%
3 Portola Valley California 7,125 $5,000,000 42.5%
4 Boca Grande Florida 813 $4,400,000 118.9%
5 Los Altos California 43,081 $4,300,000 25.2%
6 Rancho Santa Fe California 9,037 $4,288,500 57.4%
7 Newport Coast California 9,802 $4,100,000 49.3%
8 Sea Island Georgia 47 $4,094,556 49.9%
9 Medina Washington 3,267 $3,812,500 -0.9%
10 Bridgehampton New York 1,120 $3,717,913 50.6%
11 Burlingame California 42,760 $3,550,000 29.0%
12 Beverly Hills California 40,647 $3,505,000 16.8%
13 Saratoga California 31,196 $3,500,000 19.3%
14 Pacific Palisades California 21,629 $3,391,750 6.7%
15 Corona Del Mar California 12,394 $3,275,000 18.6%
16 Pebble Beach California 4,028 $3,250,000 18.3%
17 Del Mar California 13,568 $3,225,000 108.1%
18 Belvedere Tiburon California 12,740 $3,157,500 20.4%
19 Avalon New Jersey 1,527 $3,102,820 60.8%
20 Malibu California 19,792 $3,000,000 26.7%
21 Palo Alto California 96,113 $2,950,000 10.2%
22 Manhattan Beach California 35,500 $2,930,000 4.0%
23 Laguna Beach California 24,800 $2,912,500 30.7%
24 Menlo Park California 43,392 $2,900,000 17.6%
25 Alamo California 15,105 $2,722,500 23.8%

Affordability tips for homebuyers

If you fear you’ll never be able to afford a home, don’t despair. There are strategies that can help homebuyers cope with this record-breaking market:

Shop around for a mortgage

Rates are volatile right now, and fees vary significantly from one lender to the next. Comparing at least three offers from competing lenders can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the mortgage.

Look for a low-down-payment loan

For borrowers struggling to afford a home, the monthly payment is just one hurdle. Another is coming up with a down payment. With the typical U.S. home selling for about $400,000, coming up with a standard 20 percent down payment means writing a check for $80,000. There is a potential workaround, though, in the form of mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Both FHA loans and VA loans impose less onerous restrictions than conventional loans, if you qualify. FHA loans have a minimum of 3.5 percent down, and VA loans require nothing down.

Consider a fixer-upper

Older homes can be a good compromise for buyers frustrated by the lack of inventory and rocketing prices. In Bankrate’s survey earlier this year, 21 percent of respondents said they would try this tactic. Of course, buying a fixer-upper means you’re taking on a project, and that brings uncertainty. No matter how careful you are about estimating your renovation budget, you can count on surprises — especially in a time when materials costs are through the roof and construction labor is in short supply. Renovation experts say you should anticipate cost overruns in the range of 15 percent to 20 percent of your construction budget.

Think about a more affordable area

Many buyers are facing the harsh reality that they can’t afford the area they really want. Some buyers are deciding to move away from the most challenging markets — like the ones listed above. However, a number of major metro areas boast home prices that are still affordable. They include Buffalo (with a median sale price of $202,300 in the first quarter), Philadelphia ($297,900), Louisville ($235,400), St. Louis ($216,700), Kansas City ($287,400) and Milwaukee ($298,800).

Written by
Jeff Ostrowski
Senior mortgage reporter
Jeff Ostrowski covers mortgages and the housing market. Before joining Bankrate in 2020, he wrote about real estate and the economy for the Palm Beach Post and the South Florida Business Journal.
Edited by
Senior real estate editor