When it comes to truly big numbers, it helps to have examples or comparisons to gauge their magnitude. Need help picturing Jupiter’s 89,000-mile diameter? It might help to know that 1,300 Earths could fit inside it. How big a demographic are the Baby Boomers? So big that about 10,000 will retire every day until 2029. You get the point.
That idea can be extended to wealth, of course. Specifically, we’re talking about real estate, which is often the biggest asset held by the average Joe. Current homeowners can be happy about the fact that home prices have surged back to levels last seen in 2004. Those who aspire to be homeowners probably should stop reading at this point, however, because the following list of billionaires and how much real estate their fortunes could buy them won’t help their down-payment savings efforts one bit. In fact, it might hurt those efforts, at least in terms of enthusiasm.
Rich, In Real Estate Terms
Just how rich is the richest man on earth, Bill Gates? The founder of Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and his $77.5 billion could buy every single home in Boston. That’s 114,212 condos, townhouses and single-family homes worth roughly $76.6 billion, according to real estate brokerage Redfin. Come to think of it, there could be some similarities between the issues that city’s Big Dig infrastructure project has had and some of Microsoft’s operating system development woes.
The Walton Family, whose Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) has helped them amass $154.8 billion according to Forbes, could buy all of Seattle’s 241,450 homes (worth $111.5 billion), though they'd have to leave the city limits to shop at one of their stores. At least they'd have plenty of money left over to buy every one of the 99,964 homes in Boca Raton, Fla., which has plenty of Walmarts close-by.
Speaking of Boca Raton, Google Inc. (GOOG) founder Larry Page’s $30.8 billion fortune could buy every house there as well, and he'd have about $1.3 billion left over.
Adios To Omaha?
-If the Oracle of Omaha and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK-A) Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett decided against spending one more winter in Nebraska he could leverage his $63.5 billion fortune and buy all 280,214 homes in Charlotte, N.C., and have $7.4 billion left over to buy Dairy Queen for his new tenants.
-Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) founder and CEO Jeff Bezos could buy all 57,923 homes in Napa, Calif., with his $30.5 billion, and still have $1 billion to buy bottles of wine for his new neighbors.
-Facebook Inc. (FB) co-founder, chairman and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s $27.7 billion could buy all of Saint Paul, Minn.’s, 139,124 homes with about $900 million left to improve the Twins’ starting rotation, which local baseball fans would 'like.'
-The $18.3 billion amassed by Nike, Inc. (NKE) co-founder and chairman Phil Knight is enough to purchase every one of Fall’s Church, Va.’s, 37,838 homes, with about $300 million to spare, which is probably enough for a pair of Air Jordans.
-Tesla Motors, Inc. (TSLA) founder Elon Musk and his $8.8 billion could afford all 23,789 homes in Centreville, Va., a Washington, D.C., suburb, which, thankfully, has several electric-car charging stations.
-Current Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) President and CEO and former eBay Inc. (EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman and her $2 billion fortune could buy all 19,818 homes in Winder, Ga., and in an instant become the biggest news to hit the town since 2011, when it approved alcohol sales on Sundays - one of the first towns in Georgia to do so.
For the rest of the list, which includes The Koch Brothers, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch, Charles Schwab, Oprah Winfrey and more, visit The Redfin Research Center’s Which Billionaire Would Could Buy Your City report.
The Bottom Line
Real estate prices are surging along with the wealth of America’s richest people. That’s not bad news for those who already own their little piece of heaven. But middle-class-earners who aspire to owning a home may have already missed the boat in many metropolitan areas.