Oftentimes, celebs are finding homes in behind-the-scenes deals that displace the people who actually live there
When a celeb goes on vacation, they could stay at a luxury resort with tons of amenities and people to tend to their every need. Or they can rent out a private home, often one that isn’t available on the rental market and that might actually be owned and occupied by a family.
The Wall Street Journal got a peek inside several U.S. properties where celebrities have resided in recent years, whether during a vacation or while working in a city where they don’t have their own home base. Many of these stays are handled in off-market, behind-the-scenes deals, and sometimes they can displace homeowners. But for the price that’s being paid, many find the inconvenience worth it.
For example, Spyro Malaspinas, a cybersecurity expert who lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona, rented out his five-bedroom home to Rihanna during this year’s Super Bowl. He bought the place for US$7.3 million last year, and had no intention of renting it out to anyone. But when a property management firm he works with inquired with an offer for US$500,000 a week, Malaspinas couldn’t say no. And at the time, he didn’t even know it was Rihanna who would be shacking up in his home. (Rihanna didn’t respond to the WSJ’s request for comment. Most other celebrities also didn’t respond, or they declined to comment to the newspaper.)
Similar deals have played out across the country, as stars and notable names try to find getaways that meet their exacting standards. In the summer of 2020, Mariah Carey rented a Bedford Corners, New York home owned by the former financial exec Jay Dweck. For US$125,000 a month, the singer was able to enjoy the property’s six bedrooms, theatre, 900-gallon aquarium, and violin-shaped swimming pool. Dweck, meanwhile, relocated to an Airbnb. After Carey’s stay, the home’s wooden floors had to be replaced—to the tune of US$90,000—thanks to pock marks from her high heels. “She’s not the kind of person where someone says, ‘Mariah, take your shoes off,’” Dweck said.
The celebrity rental process requires a lot of dealmaking on the back end, with real-estate agents and others tapping into their networks to see what they can make work. Often, assistants or travel agents are liaising for VIPs, leaving their identities a secret and sometimes giving just a few days of lead time. And these renters are meticulous as to what they have in the house: Some bring their own bottled water, linens, flowers, air purifiers, or scents. One even had their bed shipped to Hawaii for vacation, a real-estate agent based in the state told The Wall Street Journal. Of course, none of that compares to how Prince made some crazy alterations to NBA star Carlos Boozer’s Bel Air manse in the early ’00s, including turning the weight room into a night club.
At the end of the day, the quick turns and need to abandon ship might not be so bad for homeowners, though. Malaspinas said that the income he gained from Rihanna’s stay will cover his mortgage payments for two years. And he hasn’t actually moved back into his Paradise Valley home just yet—offers of “crazy amounts of money” have come in for him to sell the place.
So although his rental allowed Rihanna to lie low for the week, it’s given Malaspinas more visibility than ever.