When you're a star with a seemingly bottomless bank account and several film projects on the way, buying a pricey pad becomes almost de rigueur. Of course, it needs to be a big one. Preferably in a gated community. Maybe even one with an ocean view.
Also a must-have? Like-minded neighbors with similar ways of life.
Celebrities "want to move to where all their friends are," says Susan Breitenbach, a Bridgehampton, N.Y.-based Corcoran real estate agent, of the stars who flock to Long Island's East End. "Besides the obvious advantages, it's why everyone wants to come here."
The Hamptons may be prized for its beachfront property, but if you're a rapper or an aspiring hip-hop mogul, there's no better place than Alpine, N.J. (07620), the posh Northern New Jersey home to such stars as Sean "Diddy" Combs, Fabolous and Lil' Kim. The median home sale price here last year was a steep $3.4 million. But it's likely money well spent. The borough's mansions, lush lawns and even rose bush-devouring deer are a welcome escape from cramped city life. It has served as such since steel magnate Henry Clay Frick put the town on the map in the early 1900s.
For the more private sort, Star Island, a man-made key off the coast of Miami, awaits. Though paparazzi have been known to rent out jet skis and launch amphibious assaults, celebrities residing in 33139 are generally safe from the rattle of camera shutters. Besides privacy, inhabitants like Miami Heat basketball center Shaquille O'Neal, singer Gloria Estefan and talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell, enjoy the close proximity to Miami's nightlife.
"In Miami, celebrities buy homes on these islands to be on the water and because they're close to, but not in, South Beach," says Nelson Gonzalez, a broker with Esslinger Wooten Maxwell Realty. "They can go have dinner and be crazy if they want to, and then they can go home and sleep in peace."
While this may appeal to the younger set, as stars get older, they often move to quieter spots or secluded suburbs. Sean Penn and his family live in Ross, Calif. (94957), a San Francisco suburb with his wife Robin Wright-Penn and their children, with a median home sale price last year of $1.875 million. Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise all have homes in the Montecito (93108) section of Santa Barbara, a quiet Central California Coast community. There, the median property sold last year for just over $2 million.
Nowhere is this transition more evident than in the L.A. area, where different neighborhoods say different things about a star's lifestyle.
"If you are a working actor you may choose to live in Mulholland Estates or Beverly Park [both in 90210], because you're closer to the studios and the West Hollywood nightlife," says Mauricio Umansky, a broker at Hilton & Hyland. "Older actors tend to like Malibu because it's discreet, you have serenity and privacy and security."