While buying a home is never the easiest thing in the world, it usually doesn’t involve secrecy, fake names and business licenses. It usually comes down to finding a home you like, telling your real estate agent and beginning the offer process, signing your name on many sets of dotted lines.
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However 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 to protect your privacy, 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,” says 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 example, 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 who 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.
When Britney Spears and Kevin Federline bought their Malibu digs together in 2007, they made the purchase through “The Love Shack Trust.” Several 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.
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Despite their precautions, news of celebrity real estate movements is quickly broadcast. But Mills says it’s rarely due to an agent slipping up. It’s paramount to protect a celebrity’s privacy because it can mean repeat business for the agent, Mills explained. “If they feel like they trust you, they’ll use you again,” she says.
But it’s a precarious position, she adds. “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, adding, “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.”