The Price of Fame & Foreclosures

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It's practically impossible to ignore the swell of foreclosure tales flooding the popular media these days. And while many Americans seem to have plenty of worries of their own, there are still those who manage to find a little time to gloat at the misfortune of others. Witness the column inches, internet pages, and hours of air-time, dedicated to stories about the rich and famous who are slashing the prices, or even losing, their palatial homes. And, while it's fair to say that many of these wealthy celebs are far from being in the horrific position of saying so-long to their only home, it does go to show that even those that many of us expect to be pretty untouchable, are more than capable of making fundamental errors with their finances. And why not? These movie stars and sporting giants are no more likely to be fiscal geniuses than the rest of us.

For keen-eyed buyers, still in possession of deep pockets and hoping to scoop up a prestigious property, there are plenty of glitzy spreads coming onto the market at bargain-basement prices, relatively speaking.

It certainly appeals to some people, to live in a house where a reality-TV star briefly lived life to the full, or to own a place that was once part of a genuine big name's portfolio of impressive homes, but buyer beware; the price-tag may well be more reflective of the former residents' status, as opposed to the true value of the property itself. Surely, the actual house, rather than the allure of its previous occupants, should be the focal point of a buyer's desires? A place to live; not an investment or symbol of wealth? Well, when you're dealing in several millions of dollars, the normal rules don't really apply.

But what makes owning a home, once lived in by an A-list celebrity, so special? That's easy to answer. After all, we all accept that a 1956 Harley Davidson once owned by Elvis, unquestionably has a lot more appeal than a 1956 Harley Davidson that wasn't. We love the notion of celebrity, and there would be few things cooler than explaining to dinner guests "The pool? Oh, yes, Marilyn Monroe simply adored taking a dip in it" or, "...and here is the room where Tommy Lee and Pammie made a lovely home movie together..."'. And should you be interested in snapping up one of actor Nicholas Cage's current crop of imperiled piles, you may also be investing in the former home of Dean Martin and Tom Jones at the same time - now, that's got some credibility! By buying into something with celebrity attached to it, we somehow get to share the glamour, albeit vicariously.

Though it's not only the people who may have lived in a house, that can add appeal to a piece of real estate. To some discerning purchasers, the name of the architect can be every bit as potent. Iconic designer Frank Lloyd Wright, created scores of much admired properties around the US and many are still in private ownership. But even some of these prized pieces of residential art are proving slow to shift in these economically challenged times. In Los Angeles, the 1924 Wright-designed Ennis House has struggled to find a buyer, and was relisted at almost half of the $15 million value it was initially put on the market at, just months earlier.

But it's not just famous houses, or houses of the famous, that are making the sale rail. Mortgage debt is running rife in all sectors of the community and a Newport Beach, CA, house that once held pole position on the marketplace at $23.9 million has now been repossessed, after failing to make a measly $7,790,000 at auction.

A canny buyer can certainly pick and choose, in many parts of the market at the moment, and if a home with an impressive roster of past residents is what you want, you may just find a real red-carpet property, at what amounts to a vinyl-flooring price.

-By the Ashton Real Estate Group Writing Team


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