Celebrities’ homes also taking hit on real estate market

Properties of high-profile sellers generate interest and often move quickly, but after price has been lowered

Las Vegas’ real estate market is in the tank, and celebrity homes are no exception—for the most part.

The foreclosed Spanish Trail residence of Michael Jackson generated a lot of interest and quickly sold in January to a couple of Southern California-based fans, who paid $3.1 million for a place that the King of Pop had only rented for a short time. And actor Nicolas Cage’s home, also in Spanish Trail, was plucked out of foreclosure the day it hit the market last month for nearly $5 million.

While it sounds like the banks got a little luck from celebrity association, it’s important to note that Cage bought the 14,300-square-foot place for $8.5 million in 2006 and had lowered the price once before defaulting on his loan.

And one day on the market is not normal, even for star-owned homes, says Zar Zanganeh, a partner of Vegas Fine Estates.

Zanganeh helped his first celebrity client, a drummer in a famous rock band, buy a house in 2004. Since then he’s represented other celebrities, including Jackson, professional athletes, CEOs and royalty.

Overall, he says, having a celebrity living in the neighborhood boosts property values. While the typical luxury home that lists for $3 million-plus is getting 79 percent of the asking price, celebrities’ homes are coming in about 10 percent closer to the sale price sought.

Celebrity homeownership also gives neighbors bragging rights and the neighborhood credibility. Besides Spanish Trail, Zanganeh says celebrities prefer the exclusive confines of the Ridges, in the southwestern point of Summerlin; Southern Hills, south of the Las Vegas Strip; and Anthem Country Club and MacDonald Highlands, both in Henderson.

While marketing a celebrity property could be as easy as the star allowing their name to be used on the listing, Zanganeh said showings can be tricky. Not only does he have to screen whom he shows the home to, but he has to work around the celebrity’s often unusual schedule, showing the home only at nights or other times no one is home.

Although many celebrities buy homes in Las Vegas to escape the spotlight, it always seems to find them eventually. After Jackson’s death, for example, the number of hits to Zanganeh’s company website (vegasfineestates.com) increased 1,000 percent as people checked out the “Wonderland” property, which Jackson was in the process of buying in Las Vegas.

Celebrities have devised clever ways to keep looky-loos at bay. Janet Jackson’s Green Valley home is filed at the Clark County Assessor’s office as Puffy Trust. Her late brother filed his under Jasper Properties. Inevitably, though, word gets out that a star has moved in.

As part of his screening, Zanganeh requires prospective homebuyers to show proof of funds. Some fans have actually presented him with fake bank statements. He now follows up with banks to verify.

“We have to be very careful about who we give access to homes,” he says, adding that his real estate firm prescreens their house hunters. “When we list a celebrity’s home, no matter how discreet we are, people always find out.”

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