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May 2013

The rich get richer as U.S . income gap widens

Take a look at the Census Bureau’s just released information on household income for 2011 and you will see that the wealth gap is widening.  The highest earners are earning more relative to everyone else.  In the accompanying chart you’ll see dollar incomes across a 44-year period based on actual dollars received at the time — not adjusted for inflation.

Census Bureau Chart

The nation’s most expensive listing – $190 million estate

Cooper Beech Farm
The most expensive residential property currently on the U.S. market debuted this month in Greenwich (CT).  The $190 million property not only occupies 50 acres on Long Island Sound, it includes two offshore islands.  On the market for the first time since 1904, this classic 12-bedroom estate – Copper Beech Farm – features a long list of amenities.  The property is zoned two-acre residential and the mainland is subdivided into two tax lots of 20 and 30.6 acres, both of which are suitable for further subdivision.  The listing broker is David Ogilvy & Associates, Christies International Real Estate.

Should the property sell for list price, it will exceed the standing record for most expensive U.S. residence sold by almost 62%.  The previous record was set in 2012, with the sale of private-equity chief Tully Friedman's nearly 9,000-square-foot home in Woodside (CA) to SV Projects LLC for $117.5 million.

Where the very rich cluster

Where are the largest concentrations of very wealthy in the U.S.?
Here are the top 10 cities based on the count of Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) Individuals as reported in the “World Ultra Wealth Report.”

U.S. City Rankings
Based on Number of Ultra High Net Worth Individuals* Chart
1. New York City    7535
2. San Francisco    4580
3. Los Angeles    4525
4. Chicago    2630
5. Washington D.C.    2395
6. Houston    2295
7. Dallas    2075
8. Atlanta    950
9. Seattle    950
10. Boston    915
10 Philadelphia    915

Source: World Ultra Wealth Report
UHNW Individuals have at least $30 million in investable assets -- defined as money invested or available for investment, typically measured by asset values, but not including a primary residence, consumables (such as wine), or “investments of passion” (such as art or jewelry).

Current homeowners leading home purchase activity

Housing PulseWhich homebuyer group is leading the recovering market nationally?  Despite buzz to the contrary, it is not investors.  New research suggests that first-time homebuyers and current homeowners are in fact the major players in this year’s marketplace.

The nationwide Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey data for March shows that current homeowners continue to dominate the overall home purchase market with a 42.2% national market share in March (based on a 90-day rolling average).  While that was down from the levels seen last fall, it was still up on a year-over-year basis.

Meanwhile, first-time homebuyers stepped up their buying activity, reaching an eight-month market share high of 36.1% in March, according to survey results.  Athough investors have been getting a lot of media attention recently in terms of driving – if not dominating – home purchase activity, their share of the national housing market was just 21.8% in March.  HousingPulse survey findings show the investor market share nationwide hovering between 19% and 23% for much of the past year.

If you look at just non-distressed properties -- the largest segment of the housing market -- the investor share was only 13.3% in March.  Current homeowners had a 50% market share and first-time homebuyers a 36.8 percent of the non-distressed housing market last month.  More information on the study.