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When Jenna Gering and her husband advertised their 2,700-square-foot Hollywood Hills home for rent in 2008, they were surprised when actress Lindsay Lohan showed up at their front door ready to pay the asking price of nearly $10,000 a month. (Bing: How did Lindsay Lohan celebrate her 27th birthday?)
“We were desperate to rent the house, which was expensive, so we thought, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ ” says Gering, an actress who currently lives in the house with her family.
About nine months later, the Gering house made national news when it was burglarized. The culprits, dubbed the “Bling Ring,” turned out to be fame-obsessed youths from the San Fernando Valley who used the Internet to locate celebrity homes and steal more than $3 million worth of goods from them in 2008 and 2009. In addition to the residence, homes owned by Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson and others were hit.
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“The Bling Ring,” immortalized in a film directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Emma Watson, left a lasting imprint on the world of Hollywood real estate. Here, security and privacy are primary concerns — agents with famous clients are often required to sign confidentiality agreements — yet the exact locations of celebrity homes are hardly a secret. Encouraging interlopers are celebrity-gossip websites, aggressive paparazzi and reality-television shows, not to mention satellite mapping.
“Celebrity privacy is simply no longer — that’s why everyone in L.A. now has hedges and gates and perimeter beams,” says Jeff Hyland, president of brokerage Hilton & Hyland, which caters to celebrities. The sheer number of people involved in high-profile real-estate transactions — often 30 to 100 people — also contributes to the difficulty of keeping celebrity addresses under wraps, says David Kramer, a broker for Hilton & Hyland who recently listed Jodie Foster’s home.
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Between staging companies, inspectors, rival real-estate agents and even neighbors, there’s a lot of potential for loose lips, Kramer says.
“While there’s no way to shield a celebrity client completely,” he says, he often deliberately misleads curious observers about the identities of buyers and sellers until a deal is closed. To maintain anonymity, celebrities are encouraged to purchase homes in the name of a trust and appoint a neutral trustee from a generic trust company, since a business manager or a friend can be traced back to the celebrity.
Because the erosion of privacy has created so many security issues for stars, brokers says that high-end gated communities, such as Mulholland Estates and Beverly Park, both located in the coveted 90210 ZIP code, are increasingly popular with high-profile buyers. Both communities have full-time gatehouse security at their entrances.
But even wrought-iron gates can’t stop the most determined. Paris Hilton’s 7,493-square-foot, Mediterranean-style mansion in Mulholland Estates was robbed repeatedly by the Bling Ring shortly after she bought it for $5.9 million in 2007. The teens climbed a hill to evade the gatehouse and found a key left under a mat by the front door to enter the home, according to journalist Nancy Jo Sales’ book on the Bling Ring. The stolen items included “somewhere over $2.5 (million) to $3 million worth of jewelry,” according to Hilton’s grand-jury testimony.
Hilton, who still lives in the five-bedroom home — which has a nightclub room and a stripper pole — says she has added security since the burglaries. “I have new cameras and laser beams. I also now have security guards right outside my house, 24 hours a day,” she says.
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