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The Price of Fame

Landlords think that a star's lingering spirit casts a spell over prospective tenants. But renters are rejecting phantom celebrities.

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When Jennifer Lopez's $25,000-a-month rental came back on the market, it had a great selling point: Puffy slept here. But J.Lo's former pad is still empty. "We can't even get anyone to pay attention at $20,000," admits Robert Eychner, president of Eychner Associates. "Market conditions are market conditions."

Celebrity apartments often sell for inflated prices. (Halstead's Robin Horowitz notes that Ed Burns paid $1 million more for JFK Jr.'s loft than the apartment downstairs sold for.) But after a star's short-term rental, tenants are a lot less willing to pay a surtax. "The practical ones don't give a hoot," says George Arana, a senior associate at Halstead. "Sharon Stone lived on West 10th Street, and the owner thought she could get $500 more a month, but she was nuts. It sat there for a month and a half losing money, so she raised the rent even more to compensate." Three months later, she dropped the price -- and found a taker in days.

The same fate may be in store for this season's Real World rental, which is going empty at $38,000. "Seven brats and a camera crew just can't get into a co-op," notes Eychner. "So they ended up paying a premium on a rental" -- $55,000 per month for the former-chorizo-factory triplex at 632 Hudson Street. "It makes a strong impression on the owner, who thinks that because a celebrity paid extra, regular people will be willing to pay even more." Still, "the owner spruced it up," maintains Eychner. "We'll probably get about $30,000. It's a very sexy apartment."

Some shoppers can even be turned off by ghosts. "There was a brownstone in the East Village that the Grateful Dead supposedly lived in, and I couldn't give it away," says Arana. "It's a feng shui thing -- bad karma."

Still, there will always be starstruck tenants. When Ben Affleck's TriBeCa place opened up, says Arana, "one single female attorney had the hots for Ben, and kept saying, He slept here! And it was just the room, not even his bed."

Click here for this week's Big Deals
Click here to read about Steve Roth's luxury digs


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