THE BIGGEST EARNERS and wealthiest families are not feeling the effects of the credit crunch the way most Americans are. Sales of luxury yachts are up 15 percent year-over-year for several years running, according to published reports coming out of the Monaco Yacht Show in October. Even 5,000-square-foot, four-deck, luxury submarines have a market.

And sales of homes priced at $5 million and above are holding up, says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the New York–based Luxury Institute, noting that people in the market for such homes are likely worth at least $30 million.

“They're going to be less susceptible; they're going to buy what they want,” Pedraza says. “They're going to see this as a buying opportunity actually, because there are lower prices.”

Buyers shopping for houses between $1 and $3 million are a different story, says Leon Nicholas, principal of the consumer markets group for Global Insight, in Waltham, Mass. The credit crunch is being felt at the lower end of the luxury home market, where jumbo loans are tougher to qualify for, Nicholas says.

But wealth creation at the top of the economic food chain is booming. Households making at least $150,000 grew at 2.6 percent from 2000 to 2005, Nicholas says. Global Insight projects that between 2005 and 2010, the number of households earning at least $150,000 will grow even faster, at 3.7 percent.

While a potential reduction in bonuses to those working in the financial industry could impact the market for high-end homes in America, neither Pedraza nor Nicholas see that as likely this year, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to soar near record highs.

And due to better access to technology, education, and capital around the world, the creation of billionaires and centimillionaires (people worth $100 million or more) is also growing, Pedraza says. That will keep demand for all things luxury on the rise.