Oscar Nominees: Who's the Most Real Estate Savvy?


It's Oscars time, and HousingWatch gives its awards for Best Celebrity Real Estate. All eyes are on Hollywood when the Academy bestows little gold statuettes on the actors and actresses who helped us escape into other worlds (even 3-D ones!) over the past year.

But here at HousingWatch, we're also interested in the real world. Sure, they can act, but how real estate savvy are this year's nominees? And what do their home-buying decisions say about them?

To answer that, we've decided to present our first-ever Celebrity Real Estate Awards, culled from this year's nominees. We unfortunately couldn't give Oscars - or at least our official nod - to all of the nominees. For one, we can't reward Carey Mulligan for being evicted from an apartment in London for "rowdy behavior" and "wild parties." And for some nominees, we just can't figure out where they call home these days (readers, any word on Gabourey Sidibe's home, let us know!) And frankly, as much as we love George Clooney, he's received enough publicity recently regarding his real estate acquisitions and we'd like to give him a rest.

But for those we did evaluate, we came to a unanimous, albeit unilateral, determination. And the winners are.... Jeremy Renner photo by Angela Weiss / Getty Images EntertainmentJeremy Renner
Best Investment

There aren't many people out there in their 30s who can say that they purchased a million-dollar home just before the bubble burst and sold it two years later for nearly three times what they paid. But actors Jeremy Renner, 39, and Kristoffer Winters, 31, can.

Renner, nominated by the Academy for his role in "The Hurt Locker," earlier this year sold a gated and restored 1924 Greek Revival in the Hollywood Hills area for $4 million and some change, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Renner and business partner Winters purchased the 5,800-square-foot home as a rental investment in 2008 for $1.55 million, according to public records. That's quite the return and deserves accolades.

The 4 bedroom, 4.5 bathroom two-story has a library with a bar, a wine room, an eat-in kitchen with two islands and a screening room. The property even comes with a one-year tenant paying $25,000 a month.

The two actors, who have moved on to their next project of refurbishing Preston Sturges' old home in Hollywood (Sturges bought the house in 1936 from producer-director-actress Lois Weber), find that developing and renovating property around LA can be quite lucrative.

"I make more money doing that, which allows me the freedom to choose the [film] projects I want to do," Renner told a Reuters reporter. "I'll always act, but I'll never be forced to do it because there are bills to pay."


Morgan Freem photo by Mark Sullivan / WireImageMorgan Freeman
Best Commitment to Home State

Morgan Freeman, nominated for his role in "Invictus," garners top HousingWatch points for putting down roots in the Southern town where he grew up. He maintains a residence just outside of Charleston, Miss., on a 126-acre ranch with a main house, peach trees and horse stables. Freeman built the ranch in Clarksdale, population 22,000, on the same land his grandparents worked. It is where he spent much of his childhood, according to The Dish Rag.

"More than five decades ago, when he left Mississippi, Freeman couldn't imagine ever wanting to return," reported AARP Magazine. "But around 1990, with his mother growing older, he moved back to spend time with her. By then she was living in what had been her parents' house in Charleston, and Freeman bought adjacent land to build his own home next door."

To get to the quaint, but rural town, one must drive past cotton fields and fried-catfish joints, writes Nancy Griffin in AARP Magazine. "Implausibly located in its rundown center is Madidi, a fine-dining establishment co-owned by Freeman that features honey-coated salmon with horseradish and roasted red pepper fondue on its menu. This is the Oscar-winning actor's preferred place to socialize and conduct business. It represents his deep emotional and financial commitment to his home state."

Irrefutably, Freeman also has other emotional ties to the area, such as his car accident with a mistress, his messy divorce after 25 years of marriage, and his scandalous sexual affair with his step-granddaughter, nearly half a century younger than he. As much as we'd like to nominate him and Woody Allen for a "Cradle Robber" award, we won't let the indiscretion disqualify him from getting our nod for his real estate savvy and sentiment.


Sandra Bullock photo by Steve Granitz / WireImageSandra Bullock
Best Revitalization Effort

Sandra Bullock and macho husband Jesse James have numerous real estate holdings between them, including, but not limited to: Residential and commercial properties in Austin, TX; an ocean front house on S. Pacific Avenue in Sunset Beach, CA; a townhouse on Sullivan Street in lower Manhattan that Bullock purchased in February 2000 for $3.35 million; and an oceanfront spread in Tybee Island, GA she bought in June of 2001 for $1,495,000, only walking distance from a house owned by John Cougar Mellencamp, as reported by the Realestalker.

But it's her supporting role in the rebuilding of New Orleans that wins Bullock our award. In the summer of 2009, she and hubby spent $2.25 million for a 6,615-square-foot home on Coliseum Street. The 5 bedroom, 4.5 bath Victorian features ornately carved marble mantels and columns and an unfinished third-floor.

Bullock blindsided Hollywood when she chose to hold the opening premiere for "Blind Side," the film for which she was nominated, in New Orleans. The film itself is set in Memphis. It was a nice move by Bullock, which shows that down-to-earth quality that comes through on the screen, not to mention in her personal life -- she's made generous donations to New Orleans schools, AOL News reported.


Jeff Bridges photo by Alberto E Rodrqiguez for Gett Images EntertainmentJeff Bridges

Most Settled

If we haven't heard much about the home of Jeff Bridges, who was nominated for his role in "Crazy Heart," that's because he hasn't moved in more than 15 years -- perhaps he knows that homeowners typically see a better ROI the longer they hold onto a property.

Bridges purchased his home on a 19.22-acre estate in Santa Barbara, Calif in 1994 for just under $7 million from singer Kenny Loggins, who had constructed the 8,500-square-foot main Tuscan villa-style house in 1988.

In addition to the main house, there's a guest house, a pool house, a caretaker's cottage and a sports complex, along with a whopping five kitchens, three laundry rooms, and eight fireplaces, according to Berg Properties. There's also a stream, a pond, a rock-grotto pool, two waterfalls, fountains and ocean and mountain views, according to the LA Times' Ruth Ryon's August 21, 1994 report on Bridges' purchase. (We considered adding a Best Water Feature award for him!)

The house also has a home studio, where Bridges has been known to play guitar, piano and sing -- talents that came in handy for his role as a washed-up country music singer in the low-budget flick for which he was nominated. Given that Bridges has been nominated four times in his career and has always gone home empty-handed, if he doesn't get an Oscar this year, perhaps he'll take some solace in knowing that he received the official HousingWatch nod. [Note: Bridges did win best actor Oscar for Crazy Heart role.]


Matt Damon photo by Toni Passig / WireImagesMatt Damon
Best Reason to Stay Put

We would've loved to have seen Matt Damon settle down in his Boston-area home town, but we give him kudos for not fleeing Miami after powerful Hurricane Wilma hit town just months after he paid a whopping $10.3 million for his 11,331-square-foot abode in April 2005. Wilma was the worst hurricane to hit Miami since Hurricane Andrew whipped by in 1992.

Perhaps Damon is stuck on Miami because that's where he met his now-wife, the Argentine-born Luciana Barroso, who was a single mom working as a bartender when Damon was in town filming "Stuck on You."

Or, perhaps he hasn't moved on because he drastically overpaid -- as Miami's real estate market has been battered, the home has dramatically dropped in value. It is now only worth about $3.9 million, according to Zillow. Ouch.

But there were other factors that offset that real estate flop. Damon, who is nominated for his supporting role in "Invictus," will always hold a special place in our hearts, not just because of his dashing good looks, but because he gives women everywhere hope that one day a hunky star might just walk into the corner bar, sweep them off their feet, and build them a dream home -- not to mention take on the role of Daddy to a child from a previous relationship. Ok, so it's a long shot. But hey, a writer can dream, can't she?


Sheree R. Curry is an award-winning business journalist who resides in a Minneapolis suburb.

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