Los Altos Real Estate Blog


Why The Snobbiest Cities In America List Is So Wildly Wrong

A recent report by Movoto on the Snobbiest Cities in America is the perfect example of how good information can be used badly.  Having lived in some of the most expensive towns in America, I know what makes a snob.  What you don't know and the report didn't share, is that the criteria they used isn't what it appears to be.  Were I a resident of many of these places, I'd be insulted, very insulted, and here's why.


Sunnyvale California Is NOT Snobby

This town, which is #8 on the Movoto list, is so decidedly middle-class it's not funny.  The neighborhoods do not contain mansions, world-class country clubs, or 3-star Michelin restaurants.  The truth - not easily determined by the data - is that most homes are modest, there is some art, and several private schools.  Home prices are high relative to everywhere else but it's California.  A million dollar home here is not going to impress anyone, anywhere, as snobby.  Let's put it this way, the town next door, where the average selling price is over $2,000,000 - those homes are not going to impress snobs either.  Real estate here is REALLY expensive but you don't get as much for your dollar as you do in most of the country.

There are a lot of private schools, but not the kind you'd think of.  There is a lot of art but not the glitzy galleries associated with snobs.

In short, the Movoto report is an example of how data might be used to create an image that isn't real.  This is important because someone relocated from elsewhere in the country might read this report and look elsewhere.  That's a shame because Sunnyvale is really a nice place and I've never met a snob there.


Why The Private Schools Data Is A Sham

In California, particularly around the SF Bay Area, there are several "private schools" that are set up to support advancing skills in math, science, reading, music, and other areas.  There are also a few schools that cater to ex-pats from other countries especially those from Europe and Asia.  None of these schools fits the bill of what anyone would consider snobby.  It's just about kids getting the education they need to succeed in this highly competitive area.

That said, there are several private schools in other nearby cities that would have a much better chance at being called snobby.  They have wealthy parents, expensive tuition, wear uniforms, etc.  The reality is that for this area, the statistics are not telling an accurate story.


Santa Rosa Is NOT The Wine Snob Capital

I've been to Santa Rosa, several times, and there is absolutely NOTHING snobby about the residents.  You might use that for some tourists but not the residents.  This town ranked high because of the number of art galleries but the assertion is that because it's a big town in the wine country, they're all drinking chardonnay.  There is art here but then there are galleries all over Napa and Sonoma counties.

There are a few places nearby that could qualify as a base for snobs, this is not one of them.  Ask a local, someone who lives in Northern California, where the snobs are and most will say Napa.  Why?  It's purely based on reputation and perception.  I've been to Napa many times as well and while you do run into snobs, you can find them anywhere.  I have yet to meet a snobby resident or winery owner.


Smart People With Money Who Like Art = Snobs?

I like Movoto, I really do but the insinuation that smart people (college education was a criteria) who have money (household income was a factor) are not snobs by default.  What I'd recommend is altering their criteria to where it really shows - conspicous spending.  I've lived in or visited most of the highest priced places in the country where most people have high-end cars, expensive houses, and college educations.  Almost none of the people I knew or know are snobs.

The private schools factor might be more meaningful if they focused on schools were student tuition was high, parents were really rich, and kids arrived in limos instead of a Honda Accord.

The lack of fast-food is kind of a joke but I'm laughing.  Some of the richest people I know love In-and-Out burger more than a $500 steak dinner.  Yeah, I'm sure they're closeted snobs.  Not.

Focusing this report on areas where people spend money on art (think Carmel and not Santa Rosa), have truly high incomes (think Atherton and not Sunnyvale), and spend money on cars or other luxuries (think Beverly Hills and not Pasadena) would make it a bit more realistic.  In the meantime, the folks at Movoto are right about one thing - we're all snobs about something so just revel in it and don't take these online reports too seriously.

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 Bryan Robertson, CEO | T: 650.799.9951 | Email: bryan@catarra-re.com | Website: http://www.BryanRobertsonHomes.com |CA BRE# 01191946 | Catarra Real Estate, Inc  | 171 Main St #220 | Los Altos, CA 94022



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Comment balloon 24 commentsBryan Robertson • June 27 2014 12:41PM


It's all perception.  We have people locally in $500,000 homes that act like snobs.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 4 years ago

Hi Bryan - Just out of curiosity, I took a look at the list and was amazed to see Fort Collins ranked 12th. Looking at the data, it seems we're there because we have a well-educted population and a lot of art, but I don't think I've ever lived in a place that pays less attention to status or class. Oh well, at least it's a win :)

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) over 4 years ago

I do not know how to measure snobby areas but I do not think of Sunnyvale either.

Posted by Tim Lorenz, 949 874-2247 (TIM LORENZ - Elite Home Sales Team) over 4 years ago

That list is ridiculous!  I've lived in Glendale, CA and have visited many of the other spots and I have never thought of them being snobby.

In the area I currently live, many newcomers have reservations about one of our villages because they have heard that it's snobby.  Luckily, I lived there for 18 years and can attest that it simply isn't.

It is indeed (incorrect) perception in most cases.

Posted by Margaret Goss, Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate (Baird & Warner Real Estate) over 4 years ago

I was all ready to tell you that you seemed to be taking the study personally, and then I looked at the study and was surprised to see Oceanside (large Hispanic and also large military population) and Escondido (large Hispanic population) on the list. Then, I figured out that "snobbiest" must not mean what we think it does ;-)

Posted by Melissa Zavala, Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County (Broadpoint Properties) over 4 years ago

Gosh, that's a really bad article to write - very poor taste and very opinionated.  Very sad indeed.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 4 years ago

I'm so sick of Movoto and their stupid blogs.  They ranked Fort Wayne as one of the most boring cities in the US.  Of course I gave them my two cents.  All they're looking for is attention, and clearly they got it.  Idiots.  

Posted by Amanda Christiansen, Christiansen Group Realty (Christiansen Group Realty (260)704-0843) over 4 years ago

     Bryan, I was puzzled when I saw this list.   I also have experience in some "expensive towns".   Scottsdale (AZ), Highlands (NC), and in Florida both Fort Lauderdale, and Sarasota (my home county).  I have no idea how they came up their Top 10!

Posted by Fred Griffin presently on Leave of Absence, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) over 4 years ago

Bryan, their criteria for listing these cities seems unreal. I live close to Alexandria, Virginia and don't see how it made the list.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 4 years ago

Point of view...there is nothing like it and everyone has one...What can you do? Investigate!

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 4 years ago

I agree with Richie's comment everyone has an opinion, good or bad!

Posted by Sybil Campbell, REALTOR® ABR, SFR, SRES Williamsburg, Virginia (Long and Foster REALTORS® 5234 Monticello Ave Williamsburg, Virginia) over 4 years ago

"Snobby" really has nothing to do with the price of the real estate in a neighborhood!  It's a silly term for the article writer to have used and contrary to what the author likely wanted, makes his story fall flat.  It shows Eugene OR on the list, and Eugene is about the "un-snobbiest" city I know!

Posted by Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging, "Staging that Sells Portland Homes" (Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR) over 4 years ago

I enjoyed your article quite a bit as I live in Scottsdale, AZ.. which is nicknamed "Snobsdale". I actually don't find that many people who act this way.. (you can find them if you're really looking-- but that's everywhere) . Yet we still have a bad reputation. I always take articles like this with a grain of salt.

Posted by Dana Schimek & Tony Nazario, REALTORS®, Sonoran Dream Homes over 4 years ago

Bryan - Perception, perception, perception it all boils down to the view of the author of the study.  A study, like statistics, can be skewed by the author to read any way or mean anything they want it to.  Being a Bay Area kid, raised in the days before and after hippies, I have to agree with your assessment.  Thanks for the blog.  

Posted by Steve Ewing - Keller Williams Realty (Keller Williams) over 4 years ago

Snob can be blue blood grey poupon or someone using cheap yellow mustard that gets their knickers in a knot when some bring in the imported flavor. Reaction can create the kink when everyone is being sincere. But someone is insecure.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 4 years ago

Funny how these types of articles are the ones that get CLICKED.  People love to read lists.  The lists keep changing: best city to live, raise kids, retire, lowest crime, best taxes.  The fact is, we can't have it all, and the "best" place to live is where you want to . . . snobby or not!  

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) over 4 years ago

Having lived in San Francisco and Sausalito in the mid-1970's I found it very interesting to read your perspective on various cities in California.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage ) over 4 years ago

Bryan, being from the bay area myself, having graduated from Sunnyvale High School, I could not agree more with you.  I did not read the Movoto report, but reading this, I don't have to, nor do I want to. Congrats on the Feature!

Posted by Kathleen Daniels, San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist (KD Realty - 408.972.1822) over 4 years ago

It's funny that Fullerton CA made #9. I think the movoto article used performing arts centers also to judge snobby. Cal State Fullerton is a respected college, but actually accepts lower SAT scores than other lesser-known Cal state schools. It's all perception.  

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 4 years ago

Bryan, housing prices are all relative to location. We have friends who bought a home in CA for a million dollars and tore it down to build a nice home. That would be consider nuts in my community, but in their community it's normal.

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 4 years ago


Actually people that like art and fine wine are more likely to be snobby. Because they CAN enjoy what they like and go about their business, however most insist on letting everybody else know about their proclivities.

I know this because I like art and fine wine and I often have to restrain myself!

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) over 4 years ago

That is too funny. When I read the comment by Melissa that Oceanside and Escondido were on the list I almost spit my soda out. I owned a home in Escondido (built in 1955) for 20 years. My family lived there. I spent 10 years in North County as it is called. Wow, so far from snobby it is funny. Most people just called us more on the lower end of the spectrum.  The joke was, the folks with money moved to San Diego, the rest of us landed in North County (SD).  LOL. 

Posted by Tammy Adams ~ Realtor / Podcaster, A Maricopa Agent who Works, Lives & Loves Maricopa (Maricopa Real Estate Co) over 4 years ago

Tammy - I totally agree.  I've got family there and it's definitely not a snobby place.

Posted by Bryan Robertson over 4 years ago

Hi Bryan - I read many of these lists and was surprised at some of the cities on the entries. 

Posted by Sharon Paxson, Newport Beach Real Estate (Compass) over 4 years ago

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