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More from News
- Plots in Atherton, Zip Code 94027, are selling for $1,100 a square foot
- Prices have soared 40 percent in last six months alone since it appeared in the Forbes list of most expensive zip codes
- 80 percent of buyers pay in cash, realtor who has bought a private plane to show properties to clients, claims
- Town sees frenzied bidding wars between Silicon Valley billionaires and Chinese and Indian tycoons
- The 'super nova' property bubble means that many of the buyers purchase a mansion without ever seeing it
- But town doesn't have any designer boutiques or Michelin-starred restaurants
- Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg have homes there
By Richard Alleyne In Atherton, California
Published: 11:06 GMT, 10 June 2014 | Updated: 11:32 GMT, 10 June 2014
It doesn't have any designer boutiques and certainly no Michelin-starred restaurants.
There are no sweeping vistas of coast or countryside and its streets are not peopled by the fashionable and the famous.
Yet Atherton, a small suburban town in northern California, has quietly overtaken the likes of Beverley Hills and uptown Manhattan to be the richest piece of earth in America.
Fit for a Silicon Valley king (or queen): 333 Atherton Avenue (under offer at $14m) is one of the properties up for sale in Atherton, where it costs $1,100 per sq ft
Highly polished: The Corinthian-columned and Palladian-windowed, six bedroom home has eight bathrooms and is set on 2.5 acres of land
Space to grow: 333 Atherton Avenue has a double-height staircase and chanderliered ballroom - just right for those soirees with the rest of the tech elite
Airy: The cavernous rooms within 333 Atherton Avenue are perfect for those cravings privacy and space - but they'll have to have an equally big wallet to pay for it
Pool party: As well as a huge swimming pool, the property boasts a tennis court, cabana and parking for more than a dozen cars
Quiet: Atherton has no fancy restaurants or boutiques but is now home to the likes of Google's Eric Schmidt and Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg
The flat wooded plain, five miles square, has been crowned the most expensive Zip Code in the US by Forbes, with average house prices running at $6.7m and plots going for $1,100 a square foot.
But now its secret is out and values have shot up by a further 40 per cent in the last six months alone.
'To say it's on fire is an understatement,' said Eugene Korsunsky, a local realtor. 'It’s supernova hot. There are billionaire buyers from all over the world falling over themselves for a piece of Atherton.
'Mansions over the price of $10m are being paid for in cash in just a matter of days - often without being seen.'
The area, nestled between San Francisco and San Jose, has always been affluent ever since it was the favoured location for the summerhouses of local industrialists and businessmen.
But the rise of Silicon Valley and the international super-rich, especially in China and India, have seen prices skyrocket in the last few years.
The town is 45 minutes south of San Francisco, and just 15 minutes from the headquarters of Facebook, Google and most of the major technology giants in Silicon Valley.
Billionaires among its 7,000 residents include the executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt, Hewlett Packard's president and chief executive officer Meg Whitman, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and the investor Charles Schwab.
But being named the most expensive Zip Code – 94027 – has sparked a frenzy among the Chinese and Indian buyers who want the cache of living in the town.
In the first quarter of 2014 there were seven sales above $10m in the area.
Yours for a cool $14m: 1 Ridge View Drive is surrounded by the trees that crowd Atherton - a five mile-square wooded plain between San Francisco and San Jose
Going for a dip: The opulent English Tudor estate has exquisite grounds, a cabana for the salt-water pool, spa and waterfalls in more than an acre of land
Family home: Ridge View Drive also features a catering kitchen, two family rooms and children's playroom, gym, home theatre, wine salon and library
Let's make a deal: Ridge View Drive boasts a professional office perfect for the tech tycoon making the next billion-dollar deal
Short commute: Atherton is just 15 minutes from the headquarters of Facebook, Google and most of the major technology giants in Silicon Valley
Ken DeLeon, of DeLeon Realty, has already sold $300m worth of property this year including a mansion for $14 million to a Chinese buyer in less than three days.
His sales are so buoyant he has bought an aircraft to show perspective buyers an aerial view of the area and a Mercedes Limousine to whisk them around its oak-lined streets.
'There is no doubt it is the best market in America even better than Manhattan,' he said. 'Being named the most expensive area in the U.S. has become self-fulfilling.
'Chinese buyers are so prestige driven and want to be able to say they live in the richest town in all America. Once they have bought a house they often knock it down to build a bigger one.'
He said that he felt that the boom was based on solid foundations and not a bubble.
'I think it is built on real wealth,' he said. 'Not just speculation. I think we have several more years of growth left. It’s a real property boom and not just a bubble.'
He said that 40 percent of $5m houses were bought for cash, and 80 percent of $10m homes.
His company has just bought a $500,000 Cirrus GTS aircraft to show them the beauty of Atherton from above.
Nestled in the forest: 244 Polhemus Road, on the market for $18.9m sits among redwoods, is a three-story, six-bedroom home with a guest house
Thrill seekers: The home has a sports bar, fitness room, 'sommelier-worthy' wine cellar, private cinema and a custom built tree house with its own zip line
Bidding wars: The homes in Atherton have been at the centre of frenzied bidding between Silicon Valley moguls and Chinese and Indian tycoons
Money talks: According to one local realtor, around 80 percent of the home sales are from buyers who have purchased the properties outright with cash
Creature comforts: No-one need ever leave their property in Atherton as the mansions come with every mod-con and distraction you ever dreamed of
Private community: There are no businesses allowed in the Atherton area but it has its own police force, town hall and library. There are two private schools and a private university within its limits
RICH LIST: Top 10 zip codes
1. 94027 - Atherton, CA
Av. house price: $6.7m
2. 94022 - Los Altos Hills, CA
3. 10065 - The Upper East Side, New York, NY
4. 94920 - Marin County, CA
5. 11962 - The Hamptons, NY
6. 10014 - Greenwich Village, New York, NY
7. 10013 - SoHo and Tribeca, New York, NY
8. 07620 - The Palisades, Alpine, NJ
9. 94028 - Portola Valley, Silicon Valley, CA
10. 10012 - Greenwich Village and SoHo, New York, NY
DeLeon says that the market is getting competitive and he can spend as much $250,000 of his own money giving homes a facelift to beat off rivals and can spend as much as $10,000 on promotional videos for the properties that are being bought without a viewing.
DeLeon said that two years ago there was a frenzy of homes being bought at the $5m mark, but now it is more like $10m. He said that 80 percent of the buyers pay in cash.
Korsunsky, of Intempus Realty, said: 'We have high demand, low supply and lots of rich people who want to live here.'
Stare down any of it’s quiet, sun-dappled avenues and you would have no idea you were in the richest town in America.
Apart from its location, Atherton, which only has 2,500 homes, is an unlikely spot for the super-rich.
It is flat and heavily wooded with oak, palm and redwood trees and its mansions are all hidden behind gates, hedges and walls.
There are no businesses allowed in the area but it has its own police force, town hall and library. There are two private schools and a private university within its limits.
A previous resident Olive Holbrook-Palmer left her 22-acre estate to the town in 1958 which is now used as a park.
Its weather is good even by California standards. The neighbouring Redwood City boasts the slogan: 'Climate Best By Government Test'.
is named after Faxon Atherton, a businessman and property speculator,
who purchased a lot of the area in 1860 at a cost of $10 an acre.
Hollywood glamour: 50 Belbrook Way is on the market for a whopping $25m. It was designed by architect Joseph Esherick and is set in more than five acres of land
Boom: Atherton is named after Faxon Atherton, a businessman and property speculator, who purchased a lot of the area in 1860 at a cost of $10 an acre
Secluded: Marion Oster, president of the Atherton Heritage, said it was a 'worry' that so many old homes are being knocked down to make way for modern constructions. She said: 'Atherton will get through this. It is a very private town so we get a lot of people that want privacy,' she said
Preservation: One 19th century home was recently saved by being cut in half and moved by road to a neighbouring plot. Oster spent $3.4 million of her own money to preserve a Victorian fountain and home
A SUNNY PLACE FOR SUPER- RICH PEOPLE
Cheapest house: $1.7m
Average household income: $250,000
Average daily temperature: 70F (21C)
Average days of sunshine: 260
Average yearly rainfall: 21in
Most likely seen car: $70,000 Tesla Model S
Famous sons/ daughters: Shirley Temple, Lindsey Buckingham (of Fleetwood Mac)
Favourite pastime: Gardening
Crime rate index: 44 (US average 214)
His land remains the central attraction of the area, being the home of the Circus Country Club, with its own polo pitch and tennis court.
Inevitably such a frenzy is having its downside, with historic properties being ripped down to make way for new mansions.
Marion Oster, president of the Atherton Heritage, said it was a ‘worry’ but that ‘Atherton will get through this’.
‘It is a very private town so we get a lot of people that want privacy,’ she said. ‘We don’t get the kind of wealthy people that have big parties.
‘We are disappointed that a lot of older homes are being knocked down to be replaced by bigger places. A lot of the ranch style homes are going to be replaced with two storey houses with a basement.’
Asked what it’s like to live in the wealthiest town in America, she said: ‘We don’t advertise it. It is more of a low-key place and we like it that way.
‘We worry about the building boom and cannot help but wonder when it is going to stop. But I am sure we will get through it.’
She said they have to fight hard to keep some of the historic properties.
One 19th century home was recently saved by being cut in half and moved by road to a neighbouring plot. Oster spent $3.4 million of her own money to preserve a Victorian fountain and home.
A slice of Italy: 1 Faxon Road is on the market for $22m. A local realtor said the real estate in Atherton is 'supernova hot' and prices have rocketed 40pc in six months
Classic tastes: The Italian country manor is a five-bedroom home built in 2003 on 12,800 sq ft and the whole plot is 1.73 acres
Fire up the grill: The gorgeous gardens includes a gourmet outdoor kitchen, gardens with a pergola, heated lamps and a firepit to while away those balmy evenings
Hole-in-one: The home also features a putting green and chipping pads. On the first floor the ceilings are 13 ft high and marble craftsmanship throughout