Rich, Famous and Playing the Real Estate Market

It’s been a long, sobering week of anticipation and announcements from the Fed, from the Fed testifying to Congress, from news sources reporting the housing decline is still declining …

But now it’s Friday. So let’s talk celebrities.

Or, more specifically, celebrity real estate. For the non-famous, buying property is a big decision.  Although an increasing number have second homes for vacations or other uses–The National Association of Realtors says 3.34 million second homes were bought in the U.S. in 2006, up 16 percent from 2005 — it’s unlikely we commonfolk are going to buy and sell property on a whim, or own several estates, or sell our homes more than once within a given year.

Not so for the stars! Take, for example, Dixie Chick singer Natalie Maines and her husband, actor Adrian Pasdar. The couple, who already have homes near Austin and New York, picked up a
five-bedroom, seven-bathroom house in August in LA’s Brentwood area
when out there for a brief meeting — reportedly on a whim. (It was a quick trip, but apparently buying an LA snowglobe at the airport just wouldn’t satisfy their desire to shop.)

When you’re famous, convenience is everything. The New York Post reported last week that Mariah Carey — who owns a
home in New York City’s TriBeCa neighborhood — is renting a condo in
the Philippe Starck-designed 15 Broad St. building. (She also rented
Tommy Hilfiger’s Hamptons spread for $350,000 for just the month of
August, according to the Post.)

Living in one house until retirement is a reality today’s stars couldn’t even begin to fathom — but which are winning the real estate game, and which just appear to be on a fresh home frenzy?

  • Speedy Seller: Paris Hilton just sold her house — which is allegedly decorated with
    photos of her — in a mere 10 days (and in today’s market! In California!) for its
    full, $4.25 million asking price, according to Luxist. She bought it for $2.9 million in
    2004.
  • Lucky Landlord: Others, like Gisele, are renting out their unused properties when they’re away. Gisele Bundchen‘s  1754-square-foot West Village penthouse loft goes for $29,000 a month, according to the Post.
  • In Need of a Listing Agent: But mind you, that rental logic may not float outside of housing-cramped New York. Not everyone understands why a fabulous celebrity would need to pick up some extra cash by renting out real estate. Former boy bander Lance Bass was teased by blogger Perez Hilton earlier this summer when Hilton posted an alleged e-mail from Bass offering his California house for rent while he working in New York on Broadway.
  • Ms. Many Properties on the Market: Other celebs, like Britney Spears, buy early and buy often. Brit bought a 9,000 square foot, $7.2 million Beverly Hills home last year — but it’s now been added to the list of things she’s totally over. With 6 bedrooms, it was listed at $7.495 million in July — for the second time (it was first put on the market in Feb.). Her Malibu house (because all celebrities need two homes in the same city) has also been on the market since November.
  • The Clever Investor: Madonna this summer bought her sixth London property — for
    ¬£6 million, according to the Daily Mail. And what luck: It’s right next door to her current London home! The 10-bedroom
    Georgian townhouse will presumably be joined with their current digs. Madonna also owns two other properties nearby for staff. She’s been lauded with buying in London’s Marylebone  area, which is said to show rising property prices that are still lower than some other nearby areas.

With capital to invest and a need for multiple homes — celebs do often work on both coasts — it’s understandable why they’d be so into property ownership. It’s also likely their investment team is heavily advising them about what to do and when to do it.

But, as some films and albums just don’t pan out the way stars have hoped, real estate investments can have mixed results — for you, for me and for our most famous celebrities.

And maybe it’s wrong, but it’s somewhat comforting to know in these troubled housing market times that a celebrity’s house can sit on the market for months, too. Even if they are staying at a five-star hotel while they wait for it to sell.