How does fame impact a home? Does it matter for value if a famous person lived there? What if something notorious happened at the property? Let’s talk about this and consider a few examples. Please note there are entire books written on this subject, so don’t expect an exhaustive dissertation here. Any thoughts? I’d love to hear your take in the comments.
Here are a few examples:
Breaking Bad: The house where the TV series Breaking Bad was filmed was all over the news last month because the owner is building a 6′ front yard fence to keep people out of her yard. According to Albuquerque KOB4 there is a constant stream of visitors and fans have even thrown pizzas on the roof to reenact the main character Walter White doing so in an episode. The owner is clearly not thrilled, and I can’t imagine neighbors are either unless they can somehow monetize the situation.
Kurt Cobain’s Baby House: Brandon Turner at Bigger Pockets is an investor and he accidentally bought a home where Kurt Cobain lived as a baby. The duplex was purchased as an investment without any knowledge of the lead singer of Nirvana’s connection to the property. But tenants began complaining about photos being taken of the front of the house, and that’s how the connection was discovered.
The Almost Governor’s Mansion in California: The State of California built a Governor’s mansion in the 1970s in Carmichael, which is about 10 miles from Downtown Sacramento. This mansion began construction under Governor Ronald Reagan’s leadership, but it was not completed until Jerry Brown took office. Brown actually refused to live in this house, which he dubbed “The Taj Mahal”. This home sold for 4.1M in 2004 and has 8 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms and is 11,984 sq ft. The mansion is still there today, but some of the site has been subdivided for a few custom homes. This is literally one of a few residential homes EVER in Sacramento County that sold above $4M.
Reagan House in the Fab 40s Neighborhood: Governor Ronald Reagan and his family chose not to live in the old Governor’s mansion in Downtown Sacramento back in the 70s, so they moved to East Sacramento on 45th Street to lease a home in the “Fabulous 40s” neighborhood. The home boasted over 6,000 square feet with six bedrooms and four bathrooms (according to Tax Records). The home last recorded for $1,765,000 in May 2000. Not everyone can say, “The future President used to live here when he was Governor”. Do you think that matters for value?
Here’s a look at the price point of the Reagan house. What do you see?
Homicidal Handyman House: There is a property in Oak Park where a serial killer dubbed “The Homicidal Handyman” murdered someone in the later 80s. This property was purchased last year by an investor and I’m waiting to see if it comes on the market (it has a choice location). This murder occurred about 30 years ago though, and the reality is that stigma associated with gruesome crimes fades over time. In other words, it might be a big deal for value to buy a property right after a murder, but much less of an issue if the crime occurred 30 years ago. I observed a recent murder property in the Sacramento market and in this case there was a 5-10% hit on value, though it might not have been an issue at all had the murder taken place 30 years ago instead of recently. Architectural Digest actually did a great piece on stigma recently and I was pleased to see they interviewed Jonathan Miller.
Dorothea Puente Murder House: Seven bodies were discovered at a duplex on F St in Sacramento in the late 80s compliments of Dorothea Puente. She lured victims to her “boarding” home, drugged and buried them, and then cashed their social security checks. This Victorian duplex has some charm as you can see, but it definitely has a dark history too. There was a documentary made about this house in 2015 and the owner has even given tours through the years too. This just goes to show it may be possible to monetize a famous house. Though in this case the owner has donated tour proceeds toward organizations working to alleviate homelessness (way to go).
Here’s a sales history of the Puente duplex. What do you see?
Think Like an Appraiser Class (I’m teaching): By the way, I’m doing my favorite class on Dec 7 from 9am-12pm called How to Think Like an Appraiser. We’ll talk through comp selection, making adjustments, tips for talking about value, and what to do in various scenarios. Details here.
Questions: Would you buy a house that was famous in a movie or owned by someone famous? Why or why not? Have you seen any measurable impact to value for a celebrity property? I’d love to hear your take.