The Real Deal Webcast: As the market falls, celebrities trade up

 
On a Webcast last month, The Real Deal’s Jen Benepe explored a lighter side of real estate — celebrity apartment swaps. While the New York market is still struggling, there are plenty of celebrities including “30 Rock” actress Tina Fey, Britney Spears and Rihanna, who are all still actively buying, selling and renting apartments. At the Apthorp on the Upper West Side, for example, Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker and music executive Tommy Mottola have all reportedly looked at apartments recently. Log on to www.therealdeal.com to see the full segment and to access the archives. The Real Deal posts new editions of the Webcast regularly, featuring exclusive interviews with industry insiders.

Hi, I’m Jen Benepe and this is The Real Deal.

In the last few weeks alone, actor Alec Baldwin looked at three condos at the Apthorp, comedian Joan Rivers put her East Side townhouse up for sale with an asking price of $25 million, while “Pretty Woman” actress Julia Roberts, television sitcom star John Stamos and singer Rihanna all either inked deals to rent or started looking at apartments to lease.

And they just add to celebrity activity in apartment hunting that has taken place since Lehman Brothers collapsed last September.

Whether celebrities are actively trying to take advantage of a down market is unclear. But one thing seems to be certain: They are either selling for losses, negotiating deals or getting steep discounts when they buy just like everyone else.

Brokers that we talked to said other celebrities are getting good deals, too — relatively speaking, of course.

Actress and comedian Tina Fey of “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” fame recently bought an Upper West Side apartment with her husband for $3.4 million — that’s $700,000 lower than the initial asking price. The apartment was listed by Marcy Grau of Stribling Real Estate.

As I mentioned, fellow “30 Rock” actor Alec Baldwin visited the Apthorp, the massive prewar condo conversion between 78th and 79th streets on Broadway. Units in the building failed to sell at their original $3,000-a-square-foot prices, and prices have since dropped. According to the New York Times, Baldwin is considering purchasing and combining three units but is apparently looking to offer less than the $15.5 million asking price. The paper also said that actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, who are married, as well as music executive Tommy Mottola, are among the other celebrities who have looked at the building.

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In a market where many are still feeling serious economic pain, it would be silly to describe celebrities as struggling, especially since many of them still make millions of dollars. But some are still trading down, even if it is to a multimillion-dollar pad.

Britney Spears, for one, made headlines when she listed her Beverly Hills mansion, which saw a price reduction last week to $6.5 million, from $7.9 million. According to Life & Style Weekly in March, Spears started renting a place in Alpine, New Jersey, 15 minutes north of the city. The monthly tab? $30,000 — but Britney’s record label, Jive Records, is reportedly paying the bill. In a telltale sign of how much the market has changed since its peak, the house she’s renting is also for sale for $7.5 million, down from the $8 million asking price just over two months ago.

In the finance world, there are plenty of fallen executives trading down or looking to unload property. Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld reportedly placed his 6,200-square-foot Park Avenue apartment on the market for about $32 million in late May. He paid about $21 million for it two years ago.

While we’re talking finance, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had trouble unloading his five-bedroom house near Larchmont, N.Y., after having listed it for $1.6 million early this year and then reducing the asking price to $1.57 million.

According to news reports, Geithner gave up and rented it for $7,500 a month a few weeks ago.

We mentioned Rihanna earlier; the singer is reportedly renting a Soho loft, which was listed by broker Lisa Maysonet at Prudential Douglas Elliman for $18,000 a month, while she films a new movie, “Personal Protection.”

And according to the Post, Julia Roberts is putting $50,000 a month toward two apartments at One Morton Square on West Street while she’s in town filming “Eat, Pray, Love.” One apartment is for her family and the other is for her nanny and staff.

So while the high-end market may still be hurting, it is clear that some still have their fame and their fortune intact.

Compiled by Victoria DeCarmine.