Celebrity Real Estate

Owning a famous house might be an expensive nuisance

Owning a celebrity home or a house with notoriety might be exciting but, in the end, the thrill might not be worth the 15 minutes of fame. Here's why...
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Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, reportedly shopping for luxury homes in Spring 2018, will be attending TIFF 2018

Not all homes are equal. For every neighbourhood of cookie-cutter houses, there’s a uniquely exquisite property with a story to tell. Maybe it’s the home of an A-list celebrity or maybe the house hit celebrity status all on its own (famous due to a specific event or situation). Or perhaps its the creation of a world-renowned architect. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to assume that living in such a famous abode would be awesome. It’s easy to imagine that living in the Downton Abbey manor or one of the “Painted Ladies” in San Francisco must be magical and charming. Not so.

Tourists and fans

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You might think that there are enough famous residences open to the public that your own, private home might be left alone. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. It doesn’t matter how secluded or discreet your house is, there will always be people willing to make the pilgrimage to see your cultural icon.

Take, for example, the home of Hugh Grant’s character in the 1999 film, Notting Hill. Even though the interior shots were actually shot in another residence, the infamous blue door of that London, UK home still attracts tourists on a daily basis. In an effort to reduce the influx of attention, one set of owners replaced the original blue door (which was sold at auction, with proceeds going to charity) with a rather nondescript black one. It didn’t work. The current owners have reinstated the trademark colour.

Plain Jane neighbourhoods

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Archinect

Some famous properties have been built in otherwise normal, albeit exclusive, neighbourhoods. Both the Millard House, known for being the property used as Arnold’s home in season two of Westworld or the Sheats-Goldstein Residence, recognized for its use in The Big Lebowski, are on regular streets with regular neighbours but still attract big attention.

Listed status

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There are a number of historical examples in Toronto’s real estate, including these Victorian classics in the Cabbagetown area.

If the property is considered to be nationally significant, either for its history or architecture, you will probably find that it has been awarded a special status. In England, this is known as ‘listed’ status. In Canada, the term used is “Heritage” building. While this status doesn’t prevent you from purchasing and enjoying the building, it does come with certain limitations and requirements that a conventional property would not have.

For example, you won’t be able to make any modifications to the property without first consulting the area’s local conservation area. Even if you are restoring, rather than changing the property’s original design, your plans may be denied or altered.

You will also be required to keep the property in the same condition you purchased it in, if not better. This means that you can spend a significant amount of money on maintenance and improvements, as historic properties often require specialist expertise. For more advice on architectural conservation visit Hutton & Rostron.

Difficulty selling

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Surely a unique, luxury home would be snapped up immediately by a swarm of desperate buyers? Simply not the case. (For more on marketing unique and luxury homes, check out our five tips.)

Firstly, there isn’t an endless pool of buyers that can drop a few million on a home, no matter how iconic. Secondly, even if they have the money, most people will want to splash out on a contemporary property with all the mod-cons – not a historic home with dated fixtures.

Regardless of whether the property has historical significance, represents an unusual design movement or used to be inhabited by a celebrity, the majority of your future potential buyers are unlikely to see the same thing you do. You’ll be left trying to sift through the countless viewers that either care about the property’s unusual attributes but don’t have the money to buy it, or have the money to buy it but will low-ball your asking price because they don’t care about the building’s history.

Although owning one of these properties might seem like a dream, you could easily end up with a financial nightmare on your hands. It’s usually better to enjoy these residences fleetingly, either by visiting those that have been turned into museums or renting them for a well-earned escape. Unlike the real owners of famous homes, once you’ve soaked up the atmosphere for a few nights, you can slip seamlessly, blissfully back into normal anonymity.

Dakota Murphey
Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is a Brighton, UK-based content writer. She writes on a variety of topics including homeowner tips, smart tech, travel and business planning.