The perks of fame and showbiz success are undeniably many, but when it comes to selling their multimillion-dollar residences, famous folk and other industry bigwigs are, by and large, subject to the whims and forces of the marketplace just like regular people. The golden rule of real estate is almost universally touted as “location, location, location,” but most agents we spoke with told us that price is the real culprit when a property — celebrity-owned or otherwise — languishes on the market.
According to Sotheby’s agent Marc Silver, the right price can overcome whatever obstacles or shortcomings with which a property might be saddled. As a somewhat extreme example, he says, “A house that backs up to a busy freeway isn’t loud at the right price.”
Michelle Oliver at Douglas Elliman Beverly Hills doesn’t think a famous owner automatically translates to a higher sale price, and in her experience, a property owned by a celeb or other high-profile individual will likely sell
in the same time frame and for around the same amount as if the property were owned by Ned or Nancy Notfamous. Nonetheless, exceptions being the rule in all things, including real estate, a number of the agents we chatted with — who definitely know a thing or two about the celebrity real estate sandbox — did agree that a snazzy manse with an uber-A-list owner and/or a plum property with a compelling celebrity pedigree will likely garner extra, if not always wanted, attention, and that added injection of publicity can sometimes create an awareness and demand that results in a faster-than-average sale and/or an above-market-value sale price.
In 2010 a Brentwood residence where Marilyn Monroe lived and died in 1962 sold with multiple offers in less than 30 days for a whopping $255,000 over asking to a deep-pocketed fan — it traded again just two years later in an off-market deal for $5.1 million — and top-producing “Million Dollar Listing” star Josh Altman at Douglas Elliman says he recently had an international buyer who was only interested in the purchase of a property owned by a celebrity.
Homes at the uppermost end of the market tend to take longer to sell; there are, quite simply, fewer buyers who can afford a $50 million-plus house who also want said house in that particular location. Just ask television syndication titan Richard King, who officially put his carefully and expensively rebuilt Holmby Hills mansion — a gigantic Georgian once home to silver-screen star Fanny Brice and later owned by Alan Ladd Jr. — up for sale in July 2011, at a nose-bleedy $65 million.
Despite a slew of ballyhoo (the stately spread was fawned over in Architectural Digest and, over the years, has been yakked about by property gossips around the globe), the not-quite two-acre estate and its sumptuous, 17,000-square-foot residence remains unsold at its original asking price.
Veteran Tinseltowner and skin-care entrepreneur Connie Stevens, who was billed in 2000 by L.A. magazine as “one of the richest women in Hollywood — ever,” has owned a nearly two-acre spread, also in the high-toned Holmby Hills ’hood, that she picked up in the mid-1970s for $350,000, and first hoisted on the open market in late 2012, with a pricetag of just a wisp less than $18 million.
Alas, more than two and a half years later, the spacious, if dated, 27-room 1930s Colonial mansion and its two much more contemporary townhouse-style guest houses that tower over the backyard pool have yet to attract a buyer. For nearly a year and a half now, since March of 2014, the price has risen, with the property patiently listed at $18.5 million.
Meanwhile, after more than two years on and off the market at a consistent $15.5 million, sitcom icon Bob Newhart’s 9,200-square-foot French County manse in Bel-Air is in escrow, according to the MLS. The exact wages of his patience have yet to be assessed, as the buyer is unknown, along with the sale price.
Other property owners use a downward trajectory to try to lure buyers. Sitcom staple Kelsey Grammer’s third ex-wife, former “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast member Camille Grammer, was granted in their 2011 divorce the erstwhile couple’s almost five-acre equestrian compound that’s tucked into the rustic-luxe rear of the guard-gated and celeb-favored Serra Retreat in Malibu. The lavish property, replete with swimming pool, tennis court and a lily pond, first popped up on the open market in August 2012 at $17.5 million. The property was later relisted at a scosh under $15 million, and now, more than three long years after its original list date, is still up for grabs at the significantly reduced asking price of not quite $14 million.
Still others try to take advantage of the market. During the summer of 2006, when Mischa Barton was a dewy 20-year-old star on the hit show “The O.C.,” she shelled out a very grown-up $6.4 million for a multilevel, neo-Tuscan mansion of more than 10,000 square feet in a gated enclave high off Mulholland Drive above Beverly Hills. John Stamos lives close enough that she could easily send her assistant over for a cup of sugar, although we have no idea if she ever did.
Anyway, about five years later, after a rough period of tabloid-documented personal turmoil, the young actress put the place up for sale at nearly $8.4 million. Since then, the hillside property has been on and off the market at least a half of a dozen times at a variety of prices.
We understand it has been leased out over the years, and since late May, has been listed at so close to $9 million you can taste it, a price that Elliman’s Oliver optimistically posited “would seem like a good deal even for the dirt,” given the generally electrified pace of the high-end market in Los Angeles.
Maybe this’ll be Mischa’s year to finally shed her Beverly Hills white elephant? We shall see, butter beans, we shall see.