Expensive Taste: Rich, Single Women Buying More Multimillion-Dollar Homes

Realtors report an uptick in the number of wealthy women seeking ultra-high end properties.

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Women are becoming an increasingly potent force in the luxury real estate market and a recent report shows their ranks are likely to swell in coming years.

As highly educated women experience increasing professional success—and ballooning bank accounts to match—realtors across the nation are seeing an uptick in the number of female buyers interested in luxury real estate.

Women now control $20 trillion in consumer spending worldwide, according to the Coldwell Banker Previews International Luxury Market Report and incomes for women worldwide are expected to jump $5 trillion—the combined GDP growth of China and India—over the next five years. Many women are also poised to benefit from the largest transference of wealth in history as retirement and inheritances from parents and spouses loom.

Real estate is increasingly becoming the answer to what to do with all that money. Wendy Walker, a Phoenix-area Coldwell Banker realtor who specializes in the area's luxury listings, says she's seen a noticeable jump in the number of wealthy women hunting for homes.

"We're seeing a lot of financial advisers advising their clients to use real estate investments in their portfolios more, because there's a lot of opportunity, especially since the majority of the buyers are cash," Walker says.

Walker's clients range from heiresses to self-made business mavens—as much as 25 percent of her business comes from affluent women with no financial support from a spouse—but there are some characteristics common to the female luxury buyer set, she says. For starters, women tend to prioritize high-quality finishes over palatial floor plans.

"Affluent men prefer more statement homes [with] tennis courts and a big office. They want something more stately," Walker says. "Women are more interested in the finishes and the feel."

Above all, residences purchased by affluent women have to be private and secure in Walker's experience, which is why many end up buying property in guard-gated communities.

Realtors across the country have also noticed the growing force of affluent women buyers in their market, although the age group is slightly younger, according to Karen Krupsaw who manages the East Coast market for online real estate agency Redfin.

Take Washington, D.C. for example. The younger demographic has a lot to do with the city's location and thriving economy, she says. Thanks to the federal government and high profile institutions such as the World Bank, the area attracts some the nation's best and brightest, many of whom take home a healthy paycheck.

[See a gallery of the nation's most expensive ZIP codes.]

"These women are smart and savvy," Krupsaw says. "They know the market has already hit bottom and they're looking for a personal home and a great investment."

Like Walker, Krupsaw finds that wealthy women house hunters in D.C. zero in on architectural details and the materials used. They also look for security when thinking about where to put roots down.

But unlike some markets where paying $1 million will get buyers a palatial estate with ample acreage, D.C. house hunters—and those in other urban areas—might find out that a seven-figure budget might not stretch as far.

"I have a client who's looking in the $900,000 to $1.2 million range and she's looking to move quickly—it's shocking to her that she doesn't have the pick of the litter [in that price range]," says Andrea Paro, a senior agent for Redfin in Washington, D.C.

While Phoenix and D.C. have seen their fair share of luxury market buyers—both women and men—other high-end markets in metro areas across the country are booming, too. The number of new luxury listings in Miami skyrocketed 176 percent from January 2012 through October 2012, and places such as Aspen, Colo., and Naples, Fla., have dozens of $10,000,000-plus listings.

Here's a look at the top five U.S. ZIP codes with the most $5 million-plus listings as of October 2012:

1. Beverly Hills, Calif. (90210)

Number of $5M+ listings: 184

For a cool $24.5 million, you could call this Beverly Hills pad "home." With 7 bedrooms and more than 19,500 square feet, there's plenty of space to spread out.

See the full listing here.

2. Malibu, Calif. (90265)

Number of $5M+ listings: 156

Situated on a lush knoll just above the Pacific Ocean, this $9.5 million estate is one of the most exclusive properties in Malibu.

See the full listing here.

3. Miami Beach, Fla. (33139)

Number of $5M+ listings: 123

This Miami Beach property offers a wall of windows to view direct city and bay vistas. Priced at $8.2 million, the gated estate has seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and more than 7,600 square feet of living space.

See the full listing here.

4. Greenwich, Conn. (06831)

Number of $5M+ listings: 104

A majestic Georgian-style home, this property has four acres of land, eight bedrooms, and 13 bathrooms. The estate was built in 1998 and is on the market for $13.75 million.

See the full listing here.

5. Santa Barbara, Calif. (93108)

Number of $5M+ listings: 101

Priced at about $6.4 million, this Georgian manor boasts a vast living room, a gourmet kitchen, and sparkling pool.