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.
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Gary Kristensen says
I would buy a house that was once owned by a celebrity as long as that was someone that I respected. I would not want to tell someone I live in O.J.’s house for example. I would be willing to pay a small premium if I was a big fan of the prior owner, but not if the house was a tourist attraction and subsequently couldn’t open the binds. I tried to get my hands on the old Lundquist homestead, but it got snagged up too quickly. #MaybeSomeday
Ryan Lundquist says
Ha. That’s funny about the Lundquist homestead. Trust me, you would not have wanted our last house. 🙂
I actually feel very similar to you. I’d love to own a house formally owned by Bono, for example. 🙂
I think part of buying a house with a bigger story is dealing with the baggage it might come with. If you had to explain why you live in OJ’s old crib time and time again, it could get very old. I’m sure you’d hear all the same comments and jokes too despite people thinking they were original. Trust me, I had to use all the power within me to not ask if the Cobain house “smelled like….” you get the point. If it was a tourist attraction, that would be insanity. I’m a fan of having peace in life where possible.
John Ashworth says
In the 1990s I appraised Elvis Presley’s Beverly Hills home he bought when he started making movies. Elvis had already left the building and I was doing this for a lender, so went with “most probable buyer” being typically motivated but not extraordinarily so because of Elvis’ presence. But…I did add commentary that it was quite possible the property could command a price greater than market value as defined to certain buyers, and that marketing should include appropriate nationwide efforts (ads and publicity) to attempt to exploit the Elvis connection. I’ve found just adding special marketing comments to be an effective way to deal with situations like this (a fanatic is not a typically motivated buyer). Also, in this area many home have provenance related to the entertainment industry…at the time, one neighbor was Phil Donahue and the other George Burns.
On the flip side, I’ve recently had to do a lot of research for stigma, and have also seen and concluded that most fade quickly over time and ownership transfers…with some exceptions for the extreme. The apartment building Jeffrey Dahmer lived in was razed, as was the home of the mass suicide with the cult down around San Diego. The home of Sharon Tate and the Charles Manson murders in 1969 was reported to have unceremoniously sold at market value a few years ago after decades of stigma.
Ryan Lundquist says
John, what a golden comment. Thank you. My mother-in-law probably would pay more to own a house owned by Elvis, so that marketing tactic might work (but my father-in-law wouldn’t, so there’s that).
I appreciate your local examples and the last paragraph too. I recall reading something a while back on the Dahmer building being razed. I think that was a good idea on many levels because of how heinous his crimes were and for the sake of kids in the community. I hope you end up publishing some of your findings.
I mentioned a murder property above and it’ll be interesting to see if it comes to the market. Some long-time locals in the neighborhood still know about the crime obviously, but it was really a generation ago. The neighborhood has changed dramatically too since then.
Heather Ostrom says
What a fun and fascinating read – Ryan, you are amazing. Thank you for this great post. <3 Always teaching while educating.
Ryan Lundquist says
Thank you Heather. You are the best. I appreciate your kind words. I really had fun with this post. What gave me the idea actually was seeing a friend post a selfie of the house from Lady Bird on Facebook. It was fascinating to make those two graphs too. I like to geek out on that sort of thing. Thanks again.
Wes Blackwell says
A famous house only has added value for being famous if the buyer sees the added value in it.
I might not care if a house was previously owned by Elvis, but if I was a die-hard Breaking Bad fan and dressed up as Walter White for Halloween every year than you might be able to get me to pay a little more for a house that was used when filming the series.
How much added value? Impossible to put a price tag on that. You pretty much just have to throw it out there and see what happens. I’d caution sellers not to overprice their home for something like this because that’s just going to get everyone else to pass on it.
Ryan Lundquist says
Thanks Wes. I always appreciate your take. When I was reading your comment and you said, “die-hard” I was sure we were going to get to talk about how valuable Nakatomi Plaza is. 🙂
I think you are right that at some point it’s best to put a house on the market and let the market decide. This would be for a home that was mildly famous. The truth is that who owned the property might attract more eyeballs on the home, but it might not bring a value boost either. For something presidential or historic there could be some real value there though for the market. Overpricing is definitely something that could easily happen.
The thing we have to remember too is that fame is only a snapshot in time. Thus last week we might have felt one way about buying Matt Lauer’s house, but this week we might feel different….
Tom Horn says
Great article, Ryan. This is a fascinating subject to study. I’m sure you have heard of Randall Bell as he is an appraiser that specializes in this type of appraisal assignment but on a much larger scale. He has appraised the property where the heavens gate deaths occurred and I think OJ’s house as well as JonBenet Ramsey. I’ve always thought I would like to take a class from him and find out what all goes into an assignment like this.
Ryan Lundquist says
Thanks Tom. Oh yeah, he is a legend. I own his book Real Estate Damages.
Sabi Cunningham says
Hi, I was a tour guide in Europe for many years, staying in 5 star hotels with my traveling guests, and at one point the hotel was fully booked and because I was a frequent visitor they put me into their presidential suite. Since this hotel was in Former Eastern Europe and was built in the 70’s in “Brutalism Style” many dignitaries, presidents and infamous people had stayed there, including Michael Jackson. I realized that I am sleeping in the bed that these people slept and I am using the same bathroom, LOL – at night I couldn’t sleep, there was a button and a camera to see who is in-front of the hotel door. I asked the next day to be moved into a sister hotel, I just couldn’t relax there. It was too big and I was scared, weird? yes, now a funny memory 🙂
Ryan Lundquist says
That is so wild Sabi. Thank you so much for sharing. You are such a high roller staying in celebrity rooms and such. 🙂