May 19, 2005
Poor Paradise Valley. Residents in ZIP code 85253 who think they’re living high need to look up. Last year, there were 134 ZIP codes with higher median home sale prices.
A recent study by Forbes magazine places 85253 — Paradise Valley’s only ZIP code, shared with a small portion of Scottsdale — 135th of 150 ZIP codes in the United States. That ranking means homes in the town had an $821,022 median sale price.
That’s a far cry from the $2,486,553 of 94027 in Atherton, Calif., or 65 others in the $1 million-plus range.
Hold on. Don’t drive your Bentley into the pool, sell your purebred poodle Wellington, or guzzle the 1996 Chateau Petrus Pomerol you usually sip with cheese and crackers.
Take a deep breath and realize that, as the only ZIP code in Arizona to make the list, you don’t have it so bad after all.
"We live in a very affluent area, but that ranking doesn’t surprise me," said Paradise Valley resident Linda Austerberry. "There are some $5 million homes but also some that are old and original."
The ranking didn’t sit well with resident Samantha Reynolds. "It should be much higher," she said. "Any houses under a million are selling like hotcakes. Something has to be wrong with those numbers."
Sara Clemence of Forbes magazine feels residents’ pain.
"I feel badly for them," she said with a chuckle. The writer explained that while there could be 20, $1 million homes in Paradise Valley or Scottsdale, the number of condos in some ZIP codes drag the values down.
That’s what Paradise Valley Mayor Ron Clarke thinks happened to his town.
"That list is skewed," Clarke said. "We have $3 (million) to $4 million homes here. It’s because of some apartments that were turned into condos. I don’t think (ranking) makes a difference. We have a number of well-to-do people, but they don’t wear it on their sleeves. They don’t have to show off. It’s not like Bel Air (Calif.). You don’t need to put on the glitz."
OnBoard LLC, a New Yorkbased data-collection company, compiled Forbes’ list. Clemence said in some places, home sale prices don’t need to be publicly recorded. Even if they are, prices can be wrong or records incorrect. The companies may not have information for all of the thousands of ZIPs.
Once the most expensive ZIPs were identified, Forbes sought houses that characterize each market, though their prices may be high above the median.
"This isn’t the end-all beall," Clemence said. "It’s just a measure of what’s out there." Clemence wrote that many of the neighborhoods included are rarified places. They are close to beaches and golf courses and prime yacht moorings, or at least within spitting distance of the power centers that are the sources of great wealth.
Thanks to their high tax bases, these areas also usually offer better schools, health care and public services, not to mention such amenities as better exotic-car mechanics, caterers and gardeners.
Penthouses and mansions abound, filled with expensive fittings, such as antique marble mantles, gunite pools and hand-painted hallways.