I thought this article was interesting.
The International Herald Tribune's Kevin Brass writes on the world of celebrity property buying.
Catering to the foibles of celebrity real estate
Madonna likes to low-ball sellers. George Michael may not show up for meetings. Prince wants a house he can paint purple. Like most people - but with a lot more press attention - celebrities have their quirks when it comes to real estate, property agents say.
And within the real estate business, catering to those foibles has developed into its own specialized industry.
For property agents, working in celeb-estate requires a specialized set of skills, ranging from the ability to outmaneuver paparazzi to expertise in advanced security systems. "You have to have a reputation for keeping your mouth shut," said Richard Klug, an agent with Sotheby's International Realty in Beverly Hills, California. "They have to know you're discreet."
Paranoia is at an all-time high, thanks to the media's obsession with celebrity real estate. Regular columns in a host of London newspapers, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Post, as well as a dozen blogs, are devoted to the transactions of even B- and C-list celebrities.
In recent weeks, for example, papers around the world carried articles about Burt Reynolds's decision to reduce the price of his Florida compound to $10.5 million from $15.9 million while others focused on the decision by a former child star, Frankie Muniz, to list his five-bedroom house in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles for $3.9 million.
Celebrities are "living in a fantasy world," said Ruth Ryon, who writes the widely read "Hot Property" column for The Los Angeles Times. "People like to read about people with more than they have."
Real Estalker, a blog devoted to insiders' gossip about celebrity real estate, receives more than 300,000 page hits a month, according to its founder, Mark David, who declined to give his last name to preserve his anonymity. Writing as "Your Mama," his detailed reporting often focuses on the career arcs and decorating tastes of the celebrities, as well as the business transactions. "Most of them could use a well paid decorator," he said in an interview by telephone.
Although property records are open to the public, many celebrities routinely use trusts or front groups to try to hide their transactions. The singer Christina Aguilera used the Brat Pack Family Trust when she paid $11.5 million to buy Ozzie Osbourne's West Hollywood home - and the home was technically sold by Minnie, a trust named after one of the Osbourne's family dogs, according to media reports.
In many ways the famous do business differently from regular people, agents say. They tend to be late; many like to shop more than to buy. And they generally require properties with private access and high fences that block the views from potential paparazzi nests.
Keeping the tabloids away from a client can be a full-time job, agents who specialize in the market say. In one widely reported incident, a London tabloid reporter posed as an Arab sheik interested in buying property to gain access to an estate owned by Princess Michael of Kent.
In London these days, prospective buyers often have to sign confidentiality agreements before they are even allowed to see a celebrity-connected property. "That never happened 10 years ago," said Noel de Keyzer, director of the Sloane Street office of Savills, the real estate company.
Agents selling property in high-end markets in centers like London, Los Angeles and New York know that a signal to "clear" a house means a celebrity buyer is on the way.
"Usually I say if there is one cameraman there, the buyer will absolutely not purchase the property," said Joshua Judge, managing director of Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, based in New York, who recently worked with the actress Jessica Alba.
In many cases, agents never meet their celebrity clients until the final stages of a purchase. A-listers like Madonna and Keira Knightley "have very good assistants," said Lucy Russell, managing director of Quintessentially Estates, a property company based in London that specializes in the luxury market.
Beyond any desire for privacy, famous buyers have practical reasons for remaining anonymous for as long as possible. "We all know what they are worth," said Carlos Riveros, a high-end specialist with Chesterton in London. "That's a disadvantage."
Last year, the owner of a London row house did not even reply when Madonna, his neighbor, submitted a bid hundreds of thousands of pounds below his asking price, according to an agent familiar with the deal. The Material Girl, who is actively buying up property in both London and New York, eventually made a better offer, paying £6 million, or $11.8 million, for the eight-bedroom Georgian townhouse.
Within the industry, there is a wide-ranging debate about the effect of celebrity on property values. "With people looking in this price range, you don't need to say this house once belonged to so-and-so," said Barbara Candee of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Real Estate in New York. "If you are an astute businessperson, you are looking for value, and that's the only thing you're looking for."
Candee is representing the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who gave her permission to use his name in marketing his five-acre, or two-hectare, waterfront estate on Long Island Sound, which went on the market last year priced at $14.8 million. Today it is still on the market, with the price reduced to $12.8 million.
But there is little doubt that a celebrity presence can create buzz for a property. "It adds intrigue and curiosity - that's for sure," said Giles Cook, central London director for Chesterton, the British property company.
Last year, despite the continuing downturn in the market, Paris Hilton sold a house in Los Angeles for $3.865 million, which agents said was much more than the prices paid for other houses in the area. "If Paris wasn't associated with the house, no way it gets that money," Klug said.
Whether they are buying or selling, in some ways celebrities are no different than other people - evidenced by Hilton's willingness to push for top dollar.
And last year, when camera crews followed Victoria Beckham and her entourage as she shopped for a $10 million-plus home in Los Angeles, one of her first questions was: "What famous people live around here?"