Back in the ‘Gilded Age’ of the 1980s and 90s, Robin Leach hosted a popular TV show called Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. His show, along with soapy series melodramas like Dynasty and Dallas gave the rest of us a front-row seat to how the rich and ultra-rich lived, and served as aspirational viewing, dangling the tantalizing possibility - however remote - that one day, somehow, we too might achieve that kind of glittering luxury.
Apparently, not much has changed. The rich still live a fabulous lifestyle, and whole cadres of professionals - from attorneys to accountants and wealth managers to real estate brokers - specialize in helping them find and acquire homes in keeping with their lifestyle.
“Typically,” says Edward Mermelstein, an attorney and a partner at One & Only Holdings, a wealth management and investment firm representing celebrities worldwide, “celebrities have a team around them that oversees the purchase of a home. The same team provides advice as to the type of property to purchase and the location.”
Aside from the comfort and amenities money can buy, what are celebrities and more lowkey (but no less wealthy) players seeking in a home? What is the holy grail of celebrity home buying? In a word, security.
“Privacy and security are quite important,” explains Mermelstein. “Most celebrities are concerned for personal and family safety.” That’s not surprising in today’s world. The possibility of threat to person and family goes back a long way, both in the United States and around the world. The case of Patty Hearst still resonates, and that was a half century ago. “Certain buildings appeal to celebrities more than others,” Mermelstein continues. “The staff and management in those buildings are well trained in securing the property and protecting their residents.”
The concern with security even extends beyond just the physical perimeter of a building to concerns about the flow of information in and around it. Brokers who act on the behalf of celebrities and other very high-net-worth buyers are often asked to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) about the transactions. Despite questions that have arisen in recent years about the enforceability of NDAs, Mermelstein points out that most real estate professionals understand that by signing one, they are signing enforceable contracts with hefty penalties. Attorneys drafting these documents will ensure that those who are signing them take the document very seriously.
Where Do Celebrities Live?
The answer is really ‘anywhere they want,’ but the most popular markets for celebrity home buyers in the United States are Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. “A-list celebrities can afford multiple homes and will own at least one home in Los Angeles, New York City and Miami. Some will also own overseas,” says Mermelstein. “These cities are hubs for media, they are cultural centers and are significant travel hubs. Most celebrities have at least one home in Los Angeles and New York. Athletes tend to have a preference for Miami.”
The price for celebrity housing will rarely exceed $25 million dollars, Mermelstein explains. “There are very few celebrities that can afford to purchase above that price point, as it typically requires an all-cash purchase. Your net worth would have to be substantially above $100M to consider a home that costs more than $25 million.”
Overall, the consensus among those who know is that non-famous residents of buildings with celebrity neighbors generally like having them there, despite the possibility of disruptions and unwanted attention from the media, overzealous fans, and so forth that can come with having an A-list resident. On the other hand, some buildings - particularly co-ops, where the board has the right to approve or reject sales - may refuse to accept celebrity buyers for the aforementioned reasons, but often the panache of having famous neighbors outweigh the drawbacks.
So, whether you’re a celebrity yourself or just want to live near one, there’s a whole industry out there dedicated to finding you the perfect home - provided you’ve got the cash to back up your champagne dreams.