Luxury Real Estate: How Rich Do You Need to Be to Own It?

luxury real estate
luxury real estate

Luxury real estate -- looking at it, coveting it -- is one of America's favorite pasttimes. But while gawking at the lavish homes of the rich and/or famous, few observers ever pause to truly appreciate the superwide chasm that separates most of us from those who can afford them. Bruce Watson at our sister site,, takes a thoughtful look at the homes of the ultra-rich.

When it comes to real estate, the battle to be America's most expensive neighborhood is fierce: Every year,Forbes magazine compiles a list of the highest-price zip codes in the country, showing which areas made the cut and which didn't.

Yet the question of which zip code is the priciest and whose home is the most expensive is only half of the story. The bigger tale lies in just how far the world of the average American is from that of the ultra-rich. While the price tags on Beverly Hills homes and private Caribbean islands are often well known, the chasm between the middle class and the seriously wealthy is almost impossible to measure.

Several analysts have recently reminded us about the breadth of that chasm, and whether they use Citibank's term "the plutonomy," Robert Frank's word (and the title of his book)Richistan, orAtlantic Monthlyauthor Chrystia Freeland's phrase "The New Global Elite," the message is the same: The ultra-rich live in a land whose borders are closed to the vast majority of us.

Originally published