Profile of a billionaire

The Savills Blog

Global billionaires: a world city love affair

Billionaires play an active role in global property markets, either through investments or the search for their own private, ultra-prime residences.

But who are these wealthiest of buyers? Where do they come from, what are they looking for and where do they most want to live?

Using data from Forbes, we take a look at the average profile of a global billionaire in order to better understand their property needs.


Billionaires love New York

As the predominant financial and business hub in the US, it is unsurprising that New York is the city home to the most billionaires globally, with 85 in total. This is followed by Hong Kong (79), Moscow (71), Beijing (61) and London (55).


Billionaires by city of residence


It is no coincidence that many of the cities with the largest number of billionaires are also among the most expensive in the world for ultra-prime residential property. As well as having cultural and social appeal, they are magnets for talent hence residential property is in high demand.


Most expensive cities for ultra-prime property


For 2019, the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen all rank highly for the number of billionaires, with 61, 45 and 39 respectively. China’s fast economic growth has caused a significant rise in wealth and ultra-prime property values have risen in conjunction, with cities seeing much of this growth. Shenzhen has experienced the fastest rise in ultra-prime values, with growth of 103 per cent in the last five years to December 2018, followed by Beijing with 98 per cent and Shanghai with a more modest increase of 27 per cent. As these cities have grown as business and industry hubs, they are increasingly appealing to domestic billionaires in China.



The majority of global billionaires are male (89 per cent), married (83 per cent), and on average have three children. This could indicate a high demand for family homes, although billionaire buyers are likely to own a variety of house types and apartments around the world.

A large share of them (67 per cent) are self-made while 33 per cent have inherited their wealth, though this varies by country of citizenship. In the US, a wealthy and developed nation, almost a third (31 per cent) of billionaires inherited their fortune. In China, where wealth creation is relatively new, that figure is just 2 per cent.

China’s relatively recent growth in wealth is also reflected in the average age of its billionaires – 56 years. This compares with 66 for the US and 64 globally.



China’s fast economic growth is producing a wave of billionaires. Of the new entries to the Forbes list in 2019, a quarter were from China, more than any other country. However, at 28 per cent of all billionaires globally, the US still leads the way by a large margin.




Declining wealth

According to Forbes, this year the combined worth of billionaires was US$8.7 trillion, down from $9.1 trillion in 2018. Over half (52 per cent) who made the list last year saw their individual wealth decline, compared with 34 per cent who saw an increase and 14 per cent whose wealth did not change.  

The fall reflects the current economic uncertainty and volatile financial markets around the world which have also slowed ultra-prime residential price growth.

In the year to December 2018, the 17 cities in Savills World Cities Prime Residential Index saw combined growth of just 2.5 per cent for ultra-prime property, the lowest since the global financial crisis.


Further information

Contact Savills Research


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