Taylor Swift has been busy. When the country music diva released her fourth studio album in October, it sold 1.2 million copies in the first week. Pile on a tour and hefty endorsement deals with Diet Coke, Sony and Covergirl, and Nashville’s country-pop princess grossed $55 million in the 12 months ending in June. She’s been investing a good chunk of the proceeds in real estate, snapping up multimillion-dollar estates from coast to coast with cold hard cash.
In April, Swift dropped an estimated $17 million for a sprawling Rhode Island mansion called High Watch. Perched on five acres in tony Watch Hill, the Cape Cod traditional encompasses 11,000 square feet of living space including seven bedrooms and nine baths, and boasts 700 feet of beach frontage.
She bought the property weeks after flipping an estate in Massachusetts’ Hyannis Port, a Cape Cod address just down the way from ex-boyfriend Connor Kennedy’s family compound. Bought in November for $4.8 million, she sold it for $5.7 million, making a quick profit of almost a million dollars.
Then there’s the 2,800-square-foot Cape Cod style house in Beverly Hills, Calif., that Swift picked up in 2012 for just under $4 million. In Nashville, Tenn., her home base, she owns a penthouse condo and the Northumberland Estate, just outside the city, which she reportedly bought for her parents.
Sound like a lot of house hopping? For mere mortals maybe, but Swift, who ranks fifth on FORBES’ annual Celebrity 100 list, is just doing what comes naturally for the world’s most powerful celebrities.
Every year Forbes releases its Celebrity 100 list, a ranking of America’s top stars as measured by earnings and fame. With the help of Realtor.com, Trulia.com, Zillow and others, we’ve dug through listings and property records to uncover where these actors, singers, athletes and public personalities bed down for the night. We included homes bought and sold in the past year as well as a few long-term nests. Perhaps not surprisingly, most are located in the Los Angeles area.
The hottest neighborhoods among the Tinseltown elite are Beverly Hills’ Trousdale Estates and Hollywood Hills’ Bird Streets, two side-by-side communities perched high in the hills above Sunset Boulevard. “The reason that they are so much in demand right now is the view,” says Sally Forster Jones, an L.A.-based Coldwell Banker Previews International real estate agent who has helped broker deals for the likes of Barbra Streisand, Candy Spelling, Jessica Biel and Arnold Schwarznegger. “Celebrities, particularly, really want a drop-dead view and they will go to any lengths to get it. Price is less material than having the view.”
Actress Jennifer Aniston (No. 64 on the Celeb 100) has been a fan of the area for years. In 2011, she renovated and sold a Trousdale Estates abode known as Ohana for $35 million. In 2012, after scooping up a sprawling A. Quincy Jones-designed Bel Air estate for $21 million, she rented out another Trousdale Estates home for a reported $40,000 per month while remodeling the new purchase. Between her Ohana sale and the Bel Air purchase, the A-lister is also said to have briefly rented an Oriole Drive spread, according to the Real Estalker. (A flock of avian-named roads in the area has earned it the nickname of the Bird Streets.)
Other stars nestled in these hills include Celebrity 100 listmakers Ellen DeGeneres (No. 10) and Leonardo DiCaprio (No. 21). Degeneres and wife Portia de Rossi picked up a Trousdale Estates spread last year after selling a sprawling Beverly Hills compound to television host Ryan Seacrest (No. 26) for $37 million. DiCaprio has owned a place in the Bird Streets since his breakout role in the movie Titanic. DiCaprio also owns a penthouse condo in Manhattan’s Battery Park City and two homes in Malibu, including a three-structure compound in celebrity-studded Malibu Colony that he’s trying to sell for $18.9 million.
Certain aesthetics and amenities are must-haves among the rich and famous. Modern architecture has been the most popular, says Forster Jones. Huge windows, sleek lines and open floor plans that incorporate indoor-outdoor living are ideal. Screening rooms are a must as are exercise rooms.
But no features are more prized – and certainly more necessary -- than those centered around privacy. In Los Angeles, that means estates sitting at the end of long gated driveways, tucked behind hedgerows and trees, preferably in exclusive communities guarded by security officers. High-tech security systems are necessary, as the recently released movie The Bling Ring (based on true events in which teenagers looted celebrity homes) so aptly illustrates.
In New York City, it means an apartment in a highly exclusive building boasting a small number of units (meaning less neighbors), top-notch security, and discreet entrances, be it via an on-premises parking garage or a private elevator. In Midtown Manhattan, addresses like 15 Central Park West, the Time Warner Center, and new up-and-coming mega towers One57 and 432 Park Ave have lured celebrity residents. Downtown in the West Village, arguably the most sought-after neighborhood among A-listers, townhouses on quiet tree-lined streets have been popular and ritzy boutique developments like up-and-coming 150 Charles Street have attracted a number of famous buyers.
“Celebrities need several things to make their existence more pleasurable, starting with an on-site garage or a private driveway,” says Dennis Mangone, a managing director for Douglas Elliman Real Estate who works in New York and Miami. Mangone has brokered deals for celebrities ranging from Beyonce (No. 4) to Rosie O’Donnell, for whom he just sold a Miami Star island estate for $16.5 million and recently listed a $11 million New York penthouse. “When you look at the townhouse Madonna bought several years ago, she was only looking at houses with garages because she can’t get into a car in the street,” he adds.
Madonna, indeed. The pop icon, No. 5 on FORBES’ list, has been busily trimming her property portfolio this year. Having plunked down $32.5 million in 2009 on a triple-wide Georgian-style townhouse – with two garages – on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, she listed her duplex co-op apartment in Manhattan’s Harperley Hall for $23.5 million in November. It sold last month for a discounted $16 million. On the West Coast, she’s also offloading a Beverly Hills estate for $22.5 million. After quietly shopping the 1.25-acre French country estate as a so-called pocket listing, the 17,000-square-foot home officially debuted on the Multiple Listing Services earlier this year.