Million-Dollar Housing Boom: Cities Where Seven-Figure Listings Have Skyrocketed
According to Realtor..com June 2017
Time was, a million dollars seemed to evoke so much to everyday Americans. Swanky vacations in the French Riviera. Bespoke suits and garages filled with Bentleys and Mercedes-Benz roadsters. Corporate titans sipping champagne (mixed with the tears of oppressed workers). And perhaps one thing most of all: big, beautiful, luxury homes.
But let's get back to present-day reality. A million bucks, however impressive a sum, is no longer synonymous with mansions, or even particularly high-end housing, in much of the country. In fact, there's now a huge discrepancy in what you can get for a tidy seven-figure price tag across the United States. In Atlanta, it could indeed net you a gigantic mansion in the exclusive suburbs. But in San Francisco, a seven-figure check barely gets you a compact condo with one bathroom. One thing's for sure: With a housing shortage steadily pushing prices higher, the share of homes listed for $1 million and over is steadily on the rise. It increased from 3.2% to 4.3% from the first quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2017.
In large swaths of the country, a cool million has mostly come to represent the new standard for good, upper-middle-class housing. "In more markets than ever before, the million-dollar mark is the new benchmark for that green lawn and white picket fence," says Javier Vivas, manager of the realtor.com® economic research team.
So where are the markets for million-dollar homes growing the fastest?
To find out, our data team ranked more than 900 metropolitan areas. For each metro, we compared the percentage of homes that cost upward of $1 million in the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2014, to see how they'd changed over the past three years.
Our emphasis was on growth, not just luxury. So to rule out metros that were already uber-wealthy—resort towns like Aspen, CO, or go-go urban meccas like San Francisco—we filtered out markets that already had more than 10% of million-dollar listings in 2014. For geographical diversity, we also limited our list to two metros in every state.
Million-dollar questions. Million-dollar babies. Million. Dollar. Listings. So where can you find the most new members of housing's million-dollar club? Grab your checkbook, and let's take a look.
1. Denver, CO
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2017: 9.4%
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2014: 3.3%
Million-dollar growth: 6.1%
The blazing-hot housing market in Denver is pushing middle-class homes into a price category not long ago reserved for luxury estates. Nearly 1 in 10 homes in metro Denver was listed for more than $1 million in the first quarter of 2017.
What's making it happen? "The secret is out that Denver is a wonderful place to live," says Jeff Plous, a local real estate agent from One Realty. A booming tech scene, gorgeous scenery with plenty of outdoor recreation possibilities, and yep, even legalized recreational marijuana have conspired to make Denver the new place to be.
"Lots of Californians are moving here," Pious says. "They sold their homes for multi-million dollars, bought another one here for $1 million, and still have plenty of cash left in the bank."
Neighborhoods south and east of downtown are packed with big-ticket single-family homes, ranging from $1 million to $10 million. Until recently, neighborhoods in the northwest of the city, where humble bungalows house working-class families, remained surprisingly affordable. But as ever-rising tides of young professionals flood in, flyers offering to buy homes for cash have proliferated, and million-dollar custom homes with high-end finishes are selling faster than discounted Rocky Mountain oysters.
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2017: 14.1%
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2014: 8.1%
Million-dollar growth: 6%
As housing refugees from San Francisco flood the market of Santa Rosa, one hour to the north, the local home prices are skyrocketing. The rise in million-dollar listings in this wine country hamlet has been slowly building for the past five years, but the steady drip has become a torrent now, due to the booming tech biz.
"We have a lot of people who work remotely, or they go to the office twice a week," says real estate agent Kimberly Sethavanish from Kimberly James Real Estate. "They'd rather live here and have a little bit more land than [buy] a 800-square-foot house in the city" of San Francisco.
Gorgeous country estates at the foot of the Sonoma Mountains abound in metro Santa Rosa. High-end buyers value large homes and lots, stunning vistas, and loads of privacy, all within a short drive of downtown.
Wealthy retirees from across the San Francisco Bay Area often relocate to Santa Rosa for an active lifestyle. Sitting in a bucolic region ideal for biking and hiking, Santa Rosa is also a short drive away from the wineries of Sonoma and Napa counties, and from 17 miles of gorgeous coastline.
3. Boulder, CO
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2017: 14.7%
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2014: 9%
Million-dollar growth: 5.7%
Known for its pristine natural surroundings—Flatiron Mountains, lush forest, and crystal-clear creeks—Boulder is a small mountain town with big price tags. Wealthy buyers who enjoy an outdoor lifestyle plunk down millions for fine residences, including posh country homes, contemporary ranches, and mountain-view retreats. Urbanites settle down in remodeled mansions near downtown, with quick access to craft breweries and farm-to-table restaurants.
But when locals talk about million-dollar homes, these days they're likely to be referring to regular middle-class abodes. Boulder's seven-figure real estate market has been on an incredible tear in recent years, as the city struggles with a lack of available housing in the midst of a tech boom. Boulder is home to dozens of start-ups and major outposts of corporate giants like Google and Microsoft, and it's running out of land to build new homes.
4. Truckee, CA
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2017: 12.4%
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2014: 7.1%
Million-dollar growth: 5.3%
For generations, the Lake Tahoe region has been a favorite vacation spot for Northern Californians, with world-class skiing in winter and water activities and gorgeous hiking in summer. A lakefront property used to represent the apex of luxury, but increasingly, wealthy buyers are drawn to new communities with top-flight amenities in Truckee, just north of the lake.
Martis Camp, a luxury community that boasts tournament-standard golf courses and a private high-speed lift to the Northstar ski resort, leads in luxe home values with a median list price of $3.5 million. Even the cheapest home there lists for $1.8 million. Similar communities, where homes feature modern design and acre lots, have also seen explosive growth in the million-plus-dollar segment.
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2017: 13.6%
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2014: 9.8%
Million-dollar growth: 3.9%
Located in central Texas, this is a town of ruggedly beautiful terrain, scattered live oaks, and tall grass prairie. In the region dubbed the Texas Hill Country, the latest wave of settlers are wealthy transplants seeking a picturesque place to retire that's also within distance of urban amenities. Big city life is just an hour and a half away—Austin to the east and San Antonio to the south.
"You get easy access to urban life, yet you don't have to live in the San Antonio ’burbs," says real estate agent Amy Patrick with Keller Williams City View. "Here we have the river, lots of great little places to eat, and local shopping boutiques."
The moneyed class is typically looking for 100-plus-acre "recreational ranches" where residents can enjoy hunting, fishing, and horseback riding. Aside from the strong cowboy vibe, there are plenty more cosmopolitan cultural offerings, like museums, theaters, art galleries, and numerous festivals all year.
Fun fact: Fredericksburg has the highest share of millionaire households in Texas—they make up nearly 6.5% of its population, according to the wealth research firm Phoenix Marketing International.
6. Heber, UT
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2017: 10.5%
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2014: 6.8%
Million-dollar growth: 3.7%
Located in a beautiful valley outside Salt Lake City, two peaceful mountain towns—Heber City and Midway—have become the newest regional hot spots for premium real estate. You dig outdoor activities? These are dream locales.
Only 20 minutes south of the better-known resort town of Park City, Heber's million-dollar home market is expanding every bit as quickly as Park City moves farther out of reach. The same $1 million that buys you a mountain villa in Heber is barely enough for a ski cabin in Park City.
Ritzy communities have sprouted all over the Heber Valley, offering amenities designed to appeal to the elite.
"The Heber and Midway area is where a big chunk of the future growth is," says real estate consultant David Lawson from Engel & Volkers. "When people come to Park City and look at what their money gets them, these towns get all the more attractive."
7. Boston, MA
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2017: 9.9%
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2014: 6.8%
Million-dollar growth: 3.1%
Hey, what the heck is blue-blooded Boston—certainly no stranger to luxury dwellings—doing on this list of newbie million-dollar homes? While it's true that Louisburg Square and Beacon Hill have no shortage of red-brick townhouses fetching $10 million or more, there's new growth far from such trophy addresses, or those in wealthy suburbs like Brookline. An epic building boom in recent years has added thousands more luxury housing units, mostly apartments, in every corner of this town.
Ambitious developers have shoehorned glaringly modern, glassy apartments into neighborhoods of historic row houses. In the gloriously expensive South End and West End, condo units with custom cabinetry and 16-inch-deep cast-iron tubs range from $1 million to $2 million. Occasionally, you'll come across a single-family home, but they usually start at $3 million.
Even perennially working-class neighborhoods like South Boston have seen a budding market for million-dollar homes.
8. Seattle, WA
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2017: 7.7%
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2014: 5.3%
Million-dollar growth: 2.4%
As Seattle's population of the "tech wealthy" and "global affluent" is on the rise, seven-figure homes are becoming the norm. Good deals are snapped up fast, virtually citywide.
Even once unimpressive neighborhoods like Ballard and Delridge have also seen dramatic shifts of late. Bungalows have been torn down to make room for new development. Newly constructed luxury condos and renovated century-old homes are proving extremely popular, thanks to their proximity to downtown and high-tech employers.
9. Santa Fe, NM
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2017: 11.7%
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2014: 9.4%
Million-dollar growth: 2.3%
If down-to-earth Santa Fe doesn't strike you as a luxe market, check out designer Tom Ford’s $75-million ranch, which went on the market last year. Like Ford, many who own high-end homes in Santa Fe don't live here full-time. They are vacationers or retirees who are attracted to the city's renowned galleries, clear skies, and easy access to national forests.
The juniper-covered hills northwest of town are dotted with spacious estates with million-dollar price tags—ensuring privacy and panoramic views. Buyers often spot ranch-style haciendas that come with sprawling acreage for horseback riding, or gated adobes that honor authentic Pueblo-Spanish architecture.
10. Charleston, SC
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2017: 7%
Share of $1 million-plus homes in 2014: 4.9%
Million-dollar growth: 2.1%
Beaches, mild weather, and beautiful historic homes—Charleston checks almost every box for a perfect place to buy a second home. And that's why this old-world city has never fallen out of fashion among business moguls and celebs.
But lately it's been the new-money class, many of whose members work in the city's fast-growing tech game, fueling the upper-end real-estate boom. Developers have embarked on a new construction frenzy on the waterfront—many are tearing down old properties and building brand-new luxury ones.
"Charleston is sophisticated, artistic, and has incredible food," says Thomas Bennett, a Realtor with Carriage Properties. "If you want to buy a nice second home on the coast between New York and Florida, this is it."
Sullivan's Island, about 15-minute drive from downtown, is a beloved spot to buy a lavish second (or fifth) home. Beach homes are built with broad piazzas and high ceilings to catch sea breezes. Only four homes on Sullivan's Island are on sale for less than a million. Act fast!