Sounds like the one-percenters are getting a little edgy about buying and selling gajillion-dollar houses out in public (i.e., on the generally-accessible Multiple Listing Service). Celebrities and other richies have long tried keep their purchases under the radar, but with the wide variety of information now available online (and assholes like us paying much closer attention), more and more are trying to keep their transactions secret. The LA Times rounds up the set of tricks, some of which are not at all cool with the MLS, incidentally:
What it is: An old classic--houses are quietly shopped to only the most discerning fellow brokers so the hoi polloi never has to know that a megamansion is even for sale. One Sotheby's broker says about 70 percent of his business these days is in pocket listings. An agent down in Manhattan Beach says about a third of deals in the South Bay are from pocket listings.
Who's doing it: Madonna's pocket listed her house on Sunset Boulevard for $28 million; AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips sold his Beverly Hills house in a pocket listing last year for $15.5 million (He says "Once [a house is] in the MLS, it ages like bread on a shelf.").
What it is: A classic: celebs buy or sell in the name of a trust; they can make up anything they want. One broker says he's "seen an increase in the use of Asian trust names among celebrities, perhaps hoping to blend into the sea of international buyers in the Los Angeles housing market."
Who's doing it: Britney Spears (Love Shack Trust); Nicolas Cage (Hancock Park Real Estate Trust); just about every famous person ever.
Limited Liability Companies
What it is: A legal entity that "limits an owner's liability and, like a trust, can use a fictitious name."
Who's doing it: Stavros Niarchos bought the Richard Neutra-designed Kronish House (right next to Madonna) last year using a Greek-themed LLC.
What it is: Assorted messing with listing information--using a "0" as the street address, labeling the assessor's parcel number as 'unavailable' or posting a photograph of a flower, a sleeping puppy or other unrelated subject instead of the house image." These are all violations of the MLS's rules. Brokers will also "withdraw a listing or allow it to expire to hide a sale because the agent has signed a confidentially agreement with the seller." The MLS cross-references with other data to try to get all the most accurate information into its database.
Who's doing it: Pierce Brosnan in his attempt to lease his Malibu beach house; Jennifer Aniston in selling her Hal Levitt house in the Trousdale Estates last year.
· Celebrities and the wealthy find ways to keep home sales secret [LAT]