Not all celebrity home purchases end well: Scarlett Johansson lost $2m on her home in 2010 Photo: Sotheby’s (via Zillow )
Anyone following the events of the Italian wedding of human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin and actor George Clooney are sure to have seen the reports of the cherry-on-the-top luxury riverside pad purchased by the couple in Oxfordshire, handily in time to spend their honeymoon there. No last-minute change of moving-in arrangements for the wealthy.
Amal was reputedly keen to return to the area because of her time spent there during her Oxford university days. The mansion, which is said to include a cinema room and luxury spa complex, also has two separate cottages for visiting guests. When Alamuddin and Clooney are here, rather than in their other waterside residence, the villa overlooking Lake Como, neighbours will, no doubt, be keeping their eyes peeled for the couple in the beautiful Oxfordshire surrounds – an area popular with celebrities, who have included Sir Richard Branson, Kate Winslet, George Michael and Emma Watson.
Watson’s Harry Potter sidekick Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley in the fantasy series, has been focusing on property investment for some time. At just age 26 he has amassed a significant property portfolio said to be worth nearly £13 million, all within a 20-mile radius in Hertfordshire, where he grew up. He himself lives in an 18th-century mansion, with five reception rooms and two pools, worth over £5 million, according to reports by the Daily Mail.
Grint’s neighbours in the past included the Beckhams, with their ‘Beckingham Palace’ also having been located in the county of Hertfordshire. The county is a popular commuter area because of its good links to the capital while being simultaneously a countryside escape. The Beckhams purchased their home, a Grade II-listed 1930s, Georgian-style property, 15 years ago for a ‘modest’ £2.5 million and reportedly spent £3 million refurbishing the seven-bedroomed house before selling it last year for £12 million. The couple opted for city living and relocated back to London, to an eye-watering £30 million four-storey mansion in Kensington, complete with customised features such as a nail salon and underground entrance tunnels.
Another footballer, the ex-Liverpool Robbie Fowler, has also consciously built up a property empire in and around his home town, said to be now worth around £31 million. Eschewing the luxury end of the market, Fowler instead concentrated his investment portfolio on lower-end properties, his success leading him to establish the ‘Robbie Fowler Property Academy’, which offers training in buy-to-let property investment.
The purchase of a multi-million-pound mansion is also an essential symbol of success for celebrities in the music business, for those finding fame through talent shows as much as through the traditional route. The UK is popular not just with home-grown stars but also those from across the pond. Madonna famously owned a country pile in Wiltshire with Guy Ritchie, until the couple’s split required the inevitable division of assets. Also in Wiltshire, the Compton Bassett home of Robbie Williams, bought in 2009 for £8.1 million, has been on the market frequently since its purchase by the singer – but at less than its original price. The Take That star is now living in a 45-room mansion in London’s Holland Park with his wife Ayda and baby, the house having formerly been owned by the late Michael Winner. However, reports this summer in the Metro of a stench coming from a landfill site adjacent to the Compton Bassett mansion may make things even more difficult for the singer.
Given the fact that being in the ‘commuter belt’ is not necessarily a requirement for celebrities, with their jet-set schedules and private transport, you can find them scattered throughout the UK, with counties proving popular including Norfolk and those of the south west: Dorset, Cornwall and Devon. The most famous of the famous in Norfolk are, of course, William and Kate, and baby George, who have chosen to reside at the refurbished Anmer Hall on the Sandringham estate in north Norfolk. Their county neighbours will include Bill Bryson, Stephen Fry and John Hurt.
On the opposite coast, the West Country has also been drawing celebrities to set up home, offering more peace and privacy than some of the more traditional celebrity bolt-holes. On offer is not only the rural escape of Exmoor, but the homes of the super-rich at Sandbanks in Dorset, and the sailing opportunities at Dartmouth. Celebrities in this neck of the woods include Martin Clunes, Goldie Hawn and daughter Kate Hudson with Hudson’s musician husband Matt Bellamy, the French and Saunders duo (separately) and the Madeley/Finnigan duo (together!).
Celebrity property purchases are not always and upwards-only investment and the rich and famous can also suffer the effects of bad decisions and rocky conditions like the rest of us. Robbie Williams is not the only superstar to lose money in the property game. Scarlett Johansson made a £2 million loss, not including renovation costs, on her LA Outposts neighbourhood property between purchasing the property in 2007 and selling it in 2009. Singers of 1990s fame Beck and Lenny Kravitz both made losses on their properties in part due to global turbulent property market conditions, while Nicolas Cage had to undergo repossession of his properties by the bank, following worldwide car and properties shopping sprees.
However, with the disposable income of the super-rich ready to take on the escalating UK top-end property prices, there might just be a celebrity or two hidden down the road from all of us.
By Ahmed Al-Ansari, property expert at Morgan Pryce, London.