Exactly how rich are we?

One of the first things you notice in the Worth Magazine June rankings of the “250 Richest Towns,” in which Malibu ranks 54th, is not the median home prices but rather the population figures. While Malibu’s median home price is listed at $655,000, there are only four towns in all the nation with a higher median home average and more people than Malibu.

Beverly Hills (No. 18) is one of them, as are the neighboring Silicon Valley-area cities of Saratoga (No. 27) and Los Altos (No. 36). That Jupiter Island, north of West Palm Beach, Fla., ranks No. 1 in the nation with only 601 residents indicates that wealth is relative to size. Statistically, at least.

Worth lists Malibu’s population at 18,944, which includes the entire postal area of 90265, taking in homes outside city limits to the mountain top. One other element is critical to the study: Condominium/ townhouse prices are apparently added to the mix.

Jupiter Island surely doesn’t have many condos in its small population. Nor does Rolling Hills (No. 7) or Hidden Hills (No. 16), the two top-ranked towns in Southern California. Both locales have populations under 1900, one-tenth the size of Malibu. Several towns on the list ranked ahead of Malibu cannot boast a population over 1000.

That begs the questions: Where does Malibu rank if condos are excluded? Other than small enclaves, what cities are truly more expensive?

Through careful research, 321 single family home sales in Malibu can be traced during 1998 (by far the most in history, which coincides with the national achievement). The median average of those sale prices was $825,000. That is, 160 homes sold for less money and an equal number brought more.

Malibu moves into a tie for 23rd place at the $825,000 median plateau, tied with Greenwich, Conn., the only other top 50 city that claims more population than Malibu, besides those noted.

Malibu and No. 1 Jupiter Island are both coastal towns. The article doesn’t list how many homes in Jupiter Island sold in the last two years, but with only 601 residents, the sampling must be scanty (the survey adds sales from both 1997 and 1998 to determine averages). The $1.7 million average likely represents only waterfront estates, particularly along the Intracoastal Waterway. How does that compare to Malibu’s beachfront?

Twenty-seven beach homes sold in Malibu last year alone for more than $2 million! Malibu’s beachfront generated nearly $160 million in sales. A majority of the sales were above the $1.7 million benchmark. The average of Malibu’s 56 beach sales was a whopping $2.7 million.

While Malibu’s overall average, counting small homes in the hills and dozens of condos, ranks below such towns as Far Hills, N.J., Kenilworth, Ill., and Muttontown, N.Y., the truth is that Malibu’s elite real estate ranks with any locale in America. Specifically, the Malibu Colony, where a home on 3000 square feet of land can sell for $4.5 million, is incomparable. One Malibu beach estate is currently listed at $29 million. Two others sold last year for more than $10 million.

Thirteen of the top 20 towns listed in the study are from California (as are 76 out of the full list of 250). Worth projects that California cities will make a jump in next year’s survey, as state activity currently outpaces national production. Malibu was one of the many California cities that moved up in the rankings from 1998.

Curiously, Pacific Palisades is excluded from the list, which relies primarily on public records data and information from multiple listing services around the country. Other nearby cities make the list, however: Santa Monica is ranked 97th, Agoura Hills is 206th, Marina Del Rey ranks just behind Malibu at No. 58.

Rick Wallace has been a Realtor at Fred Sands Malibu office for 11 years and a Malibu resident for 23 years.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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