At a certain point, the wealth of the mega-rich becomes so massive as to surpass imagination. Can a person who is not worth tens of billions of dollars truly grasp the difference between Bill Gates (net worth: $78.1 billion as of Thursday, according to Forbes) and Warren Buffett (net worth: $65.6 billion)? Sure, we intellectually understand the difference, in the same way we understand that Mars is closer to the sun than Neptune; we know, but we know from a distance, because we will never personally approach this gulf.
Here’s another way to look at this staggering accumulation of wealth: If Bill Gates took every dollar of his net worth (most of which comes from Cascade Investment, his investment firm, as well as Microsoft), he could afford to buy every home in Boston — and still be worth more than a billion dollars, according to a new report from the online real estate site Redfin.
For the report, Redfin calculated the combined cost of every single-family home, condo and townhouse in a city by looking at home sales between April 1, 2013, and April 1, 2014. These sales were used as a representative sample of all homes in a city. The combined costs were then lined up next to the net worth of billionaires on this Forbes list. (You can find more about the methodology here.)
So for Seattle, Redfin calculated that 241,450 homes in the city are worth a combined $111.5 billion dollars. Bill Gates could afford each of the 114,212 homes they included in the Boston calculation (total cost: $76.6 billion), but he couldn’t buy every home in Seattle. The Walton family that founded Wal-Mart could afford every home in Seattle, but only if they teamed up. They could also afford every home in a lot of other cities, including Miami, Dallas and Washington.
Using the combined home prices on this list, some billionaires could settle for purchasing a few smaller cities rather than picking up one of the pricier options. Mark Zuckerberg, who reportedly spend more than $30 million last year buying up homes near his Palo Alto house, could take his Facebook money ($28.2 billion) and buy every home in nearby Berkeley ($25.9 billion, according to Redfin). Or he could decide to buy up a few Zucker-bergs (sorry) across the country, purchasing Corvallis, Ore. ($9 billion), Punta Gorda, Fla. ($10.1 billion) and Oak Park, Ill. ($7.6 billion) with $1.5 billion left over.
Redfin also mapped the cities certain billionaires could purchase, offering a glimpse of a possible future wherein Larry Page doesn’t just retire to Boca Raton, Fla., but instead opts to buy the entire city out from under your grandparents:
— Redfin (@Redfin) June 5, 2014
This post has been updated because Warren Buffett’s last name has two T’s, obviously.