Stars’ house-hunting expeditions look quite a bit different from everyone else’s.
Never mind what the celebrity magazines say: When it comes to home listings, the stars are not just like us.
Agents who represent celebs on either side of a real estate transaction must tread carefully.
“The last thing you want is your neighbor taking a selfie with your Academy Award,” said Kofi Nartey, who recently launched Compass’ global sports and entertainment division.
1. No cell phones allowed
Nartey and other agents frequently prohibit cell phones inside properties listed by stars. Allowing them is not worth the trouble, and people who are truly interested in buying the home — sometimes celebrities themselves — tend to understand.
2. Discretion is key
Because paparazzi and gossip mongers are constantly lurking, it’s important to be discrete about all sorts of things — including what exactly a celebrity client is looking for in a home. Take the star Nartey represented who was deciding whether to buy homes “based on how many people could fit in the shower.”
That was a tricky expedition. “Sometimes you can tell from photos; sometimes you preview it,” Nartey explains. “Sometimes you call the listing agent and say, ‘This is going to sound odd, but how many people can fit in the shower?’”
3. Tell a story
Celebrities who agree to publicity for their multi-million dollar listings often have more control over the message, and an agent can have a lot of fun with those stories both in the media and in presenting homes to potential buyers.
When Nartey was marketing the Michael Jordan estate outside Chicago, which is listed for $14.855 million, “we were able to talk about the breakfast club, which was a group of his teammates who got together for breakfast and to train at his house.”
Even former homes of everyone from Cher to Groucho Marx can gain publicity points for the lingering stardust.
4. Some stars are shy
Fame brings more eyeballs to a property, and sometimes more money. But it can cut both ways: Stars who value privacy must take extraordinary steps to hide their ties to a home.
That can start when the home is bought, by using a trust name and address that’s not traceable to the real owner. Still, photographers and fans have a way of ferreting out celebrities’ homes — one reason that, by the time they sell, they’re ready to leverage their celebrity.
Even then, the going can be rough.
One star had people trying to climb over his fence as soon as news of his listing hit, said Sally Forster Jones of the John Aaroe Group. She has brokered her share of celebrity real estate transactions, including for Mariel Hemingway, Candy Spelling and baseball player Coco Crisp.
5. Other celebs are just weird
It helps when celebrity sellers move to another home so prospective buyers can drop by without invading their privacy. But some insist on staying.
Christophe Choo of Coldwell Banker Previews International in Beverly Hills had one client who hung out in her bedroom during showings and hid behind a screen while potential buyers were in the room.
“I can’t tell you how private some of these clients are,” he said.
6. Watch out for looky loos
People used to dropping by open houses just to snoop can forget about that with celebrity homes — or almost any luxury listing.
Agents are good at sussing out whether you have the dough to buy a place, and whether you’re genuinely interested. There’s the Internet, the polite-but-probing telephone interview, and the network of other agents. Some agents require people to come with their own real estate agents.
“We vet who the buyer is, so they’re not going to see a home just because of the star appeal,” said Forster Jones.
On occasions when an open house is permitted for a select group of brokers, there will often be security guards in bedrooms and even in large closets, Choo said. “There can be maybe 10 people manning a private open house.”
7. Keep the entourage happy
Control is a big deal for many high-end clients, whether they’re used to the limelight or the board room.
“A well-paid billionaire or businessman likes to be in control of situations,” Choo said. Even celebrities who are not control freaks can have PR managers, lawyers and others who are, he said, adding that he can’t mention the names of famous clients whose homes he’s sold.