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California holds 70% of the country’s priciest ZIP Codes for home buyers

An aerial view of a multi-story mansion that includes a putting green above one of the stories.
An aerial view of “The One,” a 105,000-square-foot Bel-Air mansion with a sky deck and putting green.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Home prices across the country soared during the pandemic, but at the top of the market, California kept its crown as the priciest state in the nation — by far.

A new study from PropertyShark found that California holds 89 of the 127 most expensive ZIP Codes in the country, or roughly 70%. That’s three percentage points more than the lion’s share it held last year.

The report, which measured 2021 residential transactions that closed from Jan. 1 to Oct. 22, also named Los Angeles County as the highest-priced county in the country, with 21 ZIP Codes on the list. The Bay Area’s Santa Clara County ranked second with 15, and San Mateo County ranked third with 10.

For the fifth straight year, the Silicon Valley suburb of Atherton was the tip-top ZIP Code, with a median sales price of $7.475 million. Of the 28 houses currently up for grabs in the ultra-rich enclave, 22 are listed for more than $10 million.

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“Stanford professors used to live there in the 1960s, and now it’s home to tech moguls and venture capitalists,” said Bret Parsons of real estate company Compass, who grew up in the Bay Area. “It’s always been a top ZIP Code.”

Southern California’s housing market has slowed ever so slightly, but it remains ultracompetitive. Prices in October were up 14% from a year earlier.

L.A. County holds two ZIP Codes in the top 10: Beverly Hills’ 90210, where the median price was $4.125 million, and Santa Monica’s 90402, where the median price was $4.058 million.

Drew Meyers of Westside Estate Agency said a property in Beverly Hills isn’t just a house, it’s an investment.

“If you buy in the 90210 ZIP Code, you’re not losing money a decade from now,” he said.

Two other coastal communities tied for the 21st spot: Malibu’s 90265 and Pacific Palisades’ 90272, where the median price was $3.25 million. Manhattan Beach’s 90266 ranked 32nd at $2.91 million.

Malibu saw the priciest home sale in California history last month when billionaire Marc Andreessen paid $177 million for an oceanfront compound owned by fashion mogul Serge Azria.

An aerial view shows an estate in Malibu.
In a historic deal, billionaire venture capitalist Marc Andreessen has paid $177 million for a sprawling estate in Malibu.
(Google Earth)

COVID-19 unleashed new demand for homes, made the well-off wealthier, and fueled extreme bidding wars. The result? The $1-million home is everywhere.

“During the pandemic, people got comfortable spending money in domestic vacation cities like Malibu,” Meyers said. “A lot of European countries are still shut down, so instead of spending money there, people are buying houses in places where they can vacation but still have a sense of normalcy.”

L.A. County’s priciest ZIP Code on the east side was San Marino, where the median price of $2.49 million is fueled by good schools and stylish architecture instead of proximity to the ocean.

“San Marino is one of the best designed cities in America. You get fantastic public services, and the lots are all spacious,” Parsons said.

The city saw its highest sale ever in July when the USC presidential mansion, a 14,000-square-foot American Colonial-style home built in 1934, traded hands for $25 million — or $500,000 more than the asking price.

A mansion is surrounded by sprawling lawns.
USC’s presidential mansion sold for $25 million in July, setting a San Marino record.
(Compass)

Southern California was well represented beyond L.A. County, with Orange County holding nine ZIP Codes and Santa Barbara holding five — a significant leap after having just one in 2020. The wealthy flocked to Santa Barbara to escape city life during the pandemic, but the surge contributed to a housing crisis in the area that left many UC Santa Barbara students without a home during the school year.

In all, 127 ZIP Codes made the top 100 list — ties accounted for the extras — and all are found in 10 states: California (89), New York (17), Massachusetts (7), Connecticut (4), New Jersey (3), Nevada (2), Washington (2), Arizona (1), Florida (1) and Maryland (1).

The statistics should come as no surprise to Southern California home buyers, who saw median price records shattered over and over in the last year.

An auction of the Bel-Air mansion known as The One is called off after the limited liability company that owns it files for bankruptcy protection.

Propelled by historically low mortgage rates and a desire for more space during the pandemic, bidding wars created a seller’s market that saw properties consistently sell for more than the asking price. In October, L.A. County’s median home price hit $790,000.

Although Westside neighborhoods make up most of L.A. County’s presence on the list, many areas in northeast L.A., South L.A. and the San Fernando Valley are starting to catch up. During the pandemic, 15 places including Crenshaw, Highland Park and Porter Ranch became “million-dollar neighborhoods,” where the typical home price is more than $1 million.

Southern California’s luxury market has soared to new heights this year. In addition to Andreessen’s $177-million purchase in Malibu, which beat out Jeff Bezos’ purchase for the priciest home sale in California history, other notable deals include one by Scooter Braun, who dropped $65 million on a Brentwood farmhouse, and the Hearst Estate in Beverly Hills, which went into bankruptcy and was auctioned off for a record $63.1 million.


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