You see a home you like. You tell your real estate agent and begin the offer process, signing your name on many sets of dotted lines.
But if you’re a celebrity, forget signing your name on any real estate document. Home purchases are public and as a very public person, you’re going to do your best to keep where you live a secret.
So what do you do? You establish a Limited Liability Company (LLC), or trust to purchase the home.
“It’s so easy to pull up public records with the Internet — a LLC is just an added protection,” said luxury real estate agent Jade Mills of Coldwell Banker, who currently holds the listing for Jennifer Aniston’s custom Beverly Hills home “Ohana.”
Beverly Hills real estate attorney Hugh Robertson of Roberston + LUM LLP explained the trust process:
“They [celebrities] find someone to be a trustee, a lawyer or a business manager, and set up a trust called a blind trust,” Robertson said. “The trust would be the owner of the property and the trustee would be someone that wouldn’t be easily connected to an individual.”
For instance, when Jennifer Aniston purchased her new penthouse digs in New York it was reportedly under “Norman’s Nest Trust.” Norman was the actress’ beloved terrier-corgi mix that died recently at age 15.
According to The Arizona Republic, Sarah Palin’s Scottsdale home was purchased by Safari Investments LLC, a company created the day before the deal for the home closed. The name Safari is thought to be taken from Alaska’s Safari Lake where the Palins own two large cabins.
And when Britney Spears and Kevin Federline bought their piece of Malibu real estate together in 2007 they made the purchase through “The Love Shack Trust.”
Many celebrities often go a step further to ensure their privacy and have their real estate agents and everyone else involved in the purchase sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Despite stars’ precautions, news of their real estate movements are quickly broadcast. But Mills says it’s rarely due to an agent slipping up.
Mills explained that it’s paramount to protect a celebrity’s privacy because it can mean repeat business for the agent.
“If they feel like they trust you, they’ll use you again,” she said.
But it’s a precarious position, she continued.
“You have to be so careful to tell anyone — not even inspectors. You can’t tell anyone because it’s so easy for that information to slip out,” said Mills.
So how does news of a celeb real estate transaction hit the Web so fast? Blame old-school sleuthing, and, says Mills, “a celebrity’s friend who may slip and tell someone.”
And finally, when they get the house, celebrities will further fortify their wall of privacy and secrecy, literally with walls, fences, gates and massive shrubs and trees to protect themselves.
It’s a huge issue,” said Mills. “They want to be able to come home and get away from the paparazzi and want privacy when they go into their yard. They usually have foliage [and] hedges so that people can’t look in.”