By Kathleen Carlin-Russell

Editor in chief of Unique Homes Magazine

There are more millionaires in America now than there were a year ago. In the New York area alone, there are now 667,200 high-net-worth individuals (people with a net worth of more than $1 million, excluding real estate), according to the 2010 U.S. Metro Wealth Index released last week by consulting firm Capegemini. That number put New York at the top of the list, which showed HNWI in the 10 largest U.S. metro areas monitored grew by 17.5 percent in 2009 — the highest rate of growth in more than four years.   

New York’s tally represented an 18 percent increase over the previous year’s number and brought the number of HNWI past the boom-year totals of 2007 (650,100). Wall Street’ s rebound has certainly brought wealth back to New York, and gave this metro area a sizable lead over others in the index. Los Angeles came in a distant second with approximately 235,000 HNWI (a 13.3 percent jump from 2008), followed by Chicago with 198,100 (a more than 15 percent increase from 2008). Number nine on the list, Houston, had the fastest rate of growth, with an almost 29 percent increase from the previous year.

No doubt this growing echelon of well-heeled men and women are fueling much of the luxury market activity in places like the Big Apple, which is showing increases in many areas, including median sales price and price per square foot, according to second-quarter reports by The Corcoran Group and Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

Like the New York area, the metros of Houston, Washington, D.C., and San Jose have all bounced back to their 2007 levels (or higher) as far as HNWI are concerned. Does it correlate that more millionaires equals more sales in these locales too? A peek at the Houston Association of Realtors site noted that Houston has seen a four-month uptick in sales activity, with the largest increase coming from homes priced at $500,000 or higher. And according to a second quarter Long & Foster report, sales are way up in the D.C. area’s high-end market compared to a year ago. Certainly hoping all the new millionaires out there help that trend to continue.