Millionaires & Billionaires

Billionaires who could buy your town

Who wants to buy a city?
Who wants to buy a city?

Larry Page may have no plans to retire in Boca Raton, Florida. But if he wanted to, he could afford any house in town—in fact, every house in town.

A new analysis from Redfin, a real-estate brokerage and search site, looked at the towns or cities that certain billionaires could buy. They paired the fortunes of each billionaire with the cost of all of the homes in various cities and towns.

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The Walton family, with a combined fortune of $111.5 billion, could buy all 241,450 homes in the city of Seattle. That calculation doesn't include surrounding towns and suburbs, so they wouldn't get Bill Gates' house in suburban Medina.

But Gates could buy Boston. His $76.6 billion fortune could buy all 114,212 homes in Beantown. His pal Warren Buffett could no doubt buy a couple of Omahas, but he could also buy Charlotte, North Carolina, with its 280,214 homes valued at $56 billion.

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"The two things everybody talks about are rich people and real estate," said Nela Richardson, Redfin's chief economist. "So we thought it would be interesting to pair them."

She said the study reveals just how large today's fortunes have become—especially when compared to the entire housing stock of certain towns and cities.

"When someone's worth $77 billion, you're not talking about how much house they can buy. You're talking about how much city they can buy," she said.

The data provide for some fun pairings. (Mark Zuckerberg as the King of St. Paul?) You can see the entire spreadsheet here and create your own pairings.

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For its methodology, Redfin started with wealth estimates from Forbes. For the cities and towns, it took all MLS sales between April 2013 and April 2014 and used those sales as a representative sample of all homes in a city. So if 10 percent of homes sold in a city for $1 billion, they would estimate the total value of homes at $10 billion. Only single-family homes, townhouses or condos were included.

Here are some of the top billionaires, their approximate net worth and the cities or towns they could buy.

  1. Walton Family ($154.8 billion)—Seattle (241,450 homes)
  2. Koch Brothers ($86 billion)—Atlanta (286,629 homes)
  3. Bill Gates ($77.5 billion)—Boston (114,212 homes)
  4. Warren Buffett ($63.5 billion)—Charlotte, N.C. (280,214 homes)
  5. Michael Bloomberg ($31.8 billion)—Anaheim, Calif. (69,167 homes)
  6. Larry Page ($30.8 billion)—Boca Raton, Fla. (99,964 homes)
  7. Jeff Bezos ($30.5 billion)—Napa, Calif. (57,923 homes)
  8. Mark Zuckerberg ($27.7 billion)—St. Paul, Minn. (139,124 homes)
  9. Steve Balmer ($20.4 billion)—Littleton, Colo. (64,516 homes)
  10. Phil Knight ($18.3 billion)—Falls Church, Va. (37,838 homes)
  11. Paul Allen ($15.9 billion)—Durham, N.C. (92,290 homes)
  12. Rupert Murdoch ($13.6 billion)—Peoria, Ariz. (60,894 homes)
  13. Elon Musk ($8.8 billion)—Centreville, Va. (23,789 homes)

Source: Redfin

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