While some celebrities and sports stars have no problem letting the world know about their latest residential real estate transactions, others prefer to keep out of the public spotlight when it comes to revealing their latest change of address. REALTORS® representing that type of client must learn how to be discreet regarding such transactions, lest they tarnish their reputation as a “real estate agent to the stars.”
In star-studded Southern California, many of our agents deal with the rich and famous on a regular basis. Even they are somewhat reluctant to discuss how they manage to discreetly navigate on behalf of their A-list clients. But we managed to get a few of them to answer questions about why and how they ensure those clients’ wishes are granted.
Q: Why is it important to provide discretion for celebrity and high-profile clients?
A: “Many of them are concerned with paparazzi and stalkers, so the less information that is made public, the better,” said David Offer of our Brentwood office. “Our high-net-worth and high-profile celebrity clients require absolute discretion,” echoed Markus Canter of our Beverly Hills office. “Their privacy, and especially their security, is our utmost concern when working with them to buy or sell a property.”
Q: How can an agent offer discretion, since most residential transactions are public record?
A: “Suggest to the client’s business manager that the client create a blind trust or an LLC (limited liability company) so that the client’s name is not public,” David said. “Make sure showings are private with no one else around.” Daniel Encell of our Montecito Midtown office had similar thoughts: “It is a really good idea for the agent to explain to the buyer that sales are public record, and if they do not want the public to know where they live, there are some options: taking title as an LLC, or some other legal entity. You should direct them to continue the discussion with their attorney.”
Q: What kind of discretion do these types of clients seek: private or hidden entrances to their homes, private elevators from underground garages, isolation from paparazzi, condos instead of estates to blend in better with “ordinary people,” etc.?
A: “Mainly, a house with a big front-yard setback, gates, and high hedges with no other properties looking down onto the house or yard,” David suggested. Markus had similar advice: “Ultimately, private estates behind large gates and hedges provide the privacy and security that our high-profile clients require. They seek a sanctuary to retreat from the prying eyes of the paparazzi and public, so one of the key factors we are looking for is being able to get in and out of the property without being identified. Although a private single-family home tends to be their preference, there are a number of full-service condominiums such as the Serra Towers in West Hollywood, The Century in Century City, The Broadway Hollywood, and W Residences in Hollywood that provide safe haven to celebrity clientele.”
Q: Any celebrity clients who DID want their residence publicized while they were living in it?
A: “Every now and then, a celebrity wants to market the home with their name attached. I think that has only happened once in all my years,” David said.
Q: Any advice you can give agents and clients on how to stay out of the spotlight?
A: “Don’t tell anyone who your client is,” David continued. “Use a code name for the client in case anyone overhears. Don’t let inspectors or escrow know who the client is. Don’t respond to requests from media outlets looking to confirm who your client is or looking to get better quality photos of the property in question.”
Nancy Sanborn, also with our Beverly Hills office, has advice for any agents who might want to jump on their famous clients’ publicity bandwagon: “We have had some properties that have brought the press to our doorstep. I think that as an agent it can be tempting to garner publicity from all the interest for ourselves. But it is important to remember that we are hired to sell a home and to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible. Believe me, it is tempting when people want to interview you, but it is best to just stick to the job of selling the house, not getting caught up in the fray.”
Have a property that you would like to list with discretion? Connect with any one of our qualified real estate agents today.