Celebrities and the wealthy find ways to keep home sales secret.
Madonna is selling her Beverly Hills estate, but she doesn’t want you to know about it. The sinewy singer is asking $28 million for the 16,500-square-foot, French-Normandy-style mansion. You won’t find it, however, on the Multiple Listing Service, Realtor.com or other online marketplaces. Her real estate agent is quietly shopping it among a select network of Los Angeles-area brokers with deep-pocket clients.
This velvet-rope tactic, known as a “pocket listing,” is being used more and more by celebrities and the wealthy in this TMZ age, say real estate agents specializing in high-end properties. Listing publicly just invites paparazzi mischief. With word-of-mouth marketing, there’s no for-sale sign on the front lawn or snoops traipsing through open houses.
Actress Meg Ryan and billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel are among the wide-ranging contingent that has bought or sold through pocket listings in the last year. Also fueling the pursuit of privacy, experts say, is the change in the economy. The well-to-do have a stronger sense of needing to protect themselves and raise the drawbridge on the details of their lives, said clinical psychologist Stephen Goldbart, the coauthor of “Affluence Intelligence.”
A recent convert to pocket listings is Randy Phillips, chief executive of concert-promotion powerhouse AEG Live, who sold a house late last year outside the MLS. The gated estate he had renovated in Beverly Hills went for $15.5 million, more than Phillips expected to get.
“It’s the only way to sell a great house,” said Phillips, who has a passion for restoring homes. “Once it’s in the MLS, it ages like bread on a shelf.”
Pocket listings have become the signature niche of Ben Bacal of Sotheby’s International Realty in the Hollywood Hills, who estimates about 70% of his business comes from such deals. He worked with Phillips on his sale and sold several other multimillion-dollar houses in Beverly Hills that way.
Beyond pocket listings, a traditional way for well-heeled property owners to shield their identities is to buy real estate in the name of a trust.