Prudential Douglas Elliman broker Dolly Lenz counts Donald Trump's $125 million Maison de L'Amitie among her listings and Richard Gere and Bruce Willis as her clients.
But no showing compares to one involving "Babs."
"I made an appointment for Barbra Streisand to see a property, and when the seller showed up, he got down on his knees and sang 'People Who Need People,'" says Lenz. "Wall street gurus, masters of the universe, most will bend over backward for a movie star."
Oh, the difficult life of a star in need of a home.
For starters, privacy is a huge concern. Brokers do whatever they can to hide their client's identity as they scour the finest locales for luxe properties. That's because if a seller finds out the potential buyer is someone they regularly see in Us Weekly, chances are good that the seller's friends, neighbors and family members will show up, cameras and autograph pads in hand.
"Most [celebrities] are private people," says Mauricio Umansky, a broker at Hilton & Hyland in Southern California. "It's why they choose to live in gated communities or around other celebrities." These include Columbian singer Shakira, who lives on Star Island near Matt Damon and Ricky Martin, and Courteney Cox and David Arquette, who live in Malibu and call Pierce Brosnan and Ted Danson neighbors.
Stars do whatever they can to limit exposure, even after a sale. When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought a $3.75 million French Quarter mansion in New Orleans, they did so through a trust Pitt set up called "Mondo Bongo." Susan Breitenbach, a Bridgehampton, N.Y.-based Corcoran broker, says many stars use limited liability corporations or trusts to ensure anonymity.
But brokers are no dummies. And within limits, they will try to convince high-profile sellers to reveal themselves to drive up the price and nab a quick sale. When Bruce Willis sold his Trump Towers apartment in 2004, Lenz says the buyer paid more than 25% above market price.
"It was a record price because of his name," says Lenz. "Stars start not wanting to use their name--and say they don't care about the money--but when they see it can be $5 million or more extra, they might change their mind."
So far, that strategy hasn't worked for Britney Spears. Her seven bedroom, 9,200-square-foot Serra Retreat Spanish-style mansion, which has a dance room and recording studio, was re-listed in early April at $11.9 million, almost $2 million beneath the original asking price.
Brokers say it's often this high level of customization that can negate any benefit from having a celebrity name attached.
Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal bought his 20,000-square-foot Miami home from former Heat center Rony Seikaly in 2004. Besides the indoor basketball court, the house is supersized, with doorways and ceilings made for a seven footer. O'Neal has had the house on the market since 2005 at an asking price of $35 million. If it remains there much longer, he might want to ask Heat brass to raise the salaries of his backups, Alonzo Mourning and Michael Doleac, so he can find a buyer.
Also feeling burned? Soccer star David Beckham and wife Victoria, who are in the midst of relocating to Los Angeles for Beckham's new contract with the L.A. Galaxy.
Before settling this week on a multimillion-dollar Beverly Hills manse, People.com reports the couple had spent months searching, in small part because once sellers found out about the Beckhams' identities, they tried to boost the price, figuring the famed midfielder could afford it.
This is often when the real work begins.
"Selling to a celebrity is one of the hardest sells, because not only do you have to get them to like it," says Lenz, "you have to also convince a huge group of attorneys, business managers and accountants that it's the right move."