Property Grunt

Monday, December 26, 2005

Oscar winner cooling off in the housing market

Oscar winner Jessica Lange is another casualty in waiting of the real estate downturn.

According to the Star Tribune the esteemed Oscar winner's Stillwater home has been on the market for a year and a half. It was originally priced at $3.3 million and has now been reduced to $1.995 million.

Below are a series of interesting points from the article.

"That's a spectacular property," said Mark Berthelsen of Keller Williams Premier Realty, who said Lange bought the former bed and breakfast in 1994 for $415,000. Back then, he said, "Everyone thought she overpaid for it."

So what? If she makes a million she will make a decent profit right? Not quite.

J.L. Family Trust of Beverly Hills, Calif., is listed as the house's owner. Records indicate the home's taxable value in 2006, without the guest house property, will be $809,700.


Sharon O'Flannigan, the property's principal real estate agent, said that sales of more expensive houses are "extremely slow," caught in a downturn that might be a result of a saturated buyer's market.

Double yikes. But if Ms. Lange's property was located in Manahattan she would have an easier time to selling it since there is more demand to live in Manhattan than Minnesota. No offense Ms. Lange.

Unlike others, of course, the Lange-Shepard house on the "North Hill" has the advantage of its celebrity image. At first, everyone wanted to see 903 N. 4th St., which is largely hidden behind tall trees and two board fences, and where Lange and Shepard raised three children for nine years. "Interest that was displayed was directly proportional to the name behind the house," said O'Flannigan, who explained that curiosity seekers had to be screened.

The same protocols are instituted when celebrities are selling their homes in Manhattan. When Gwenyth Paltrow was selling her home in the West Village, buyers were all screened and were required to sign a confidentiality agreement before stepping one foot into the premises.

The New York Times reported in May that Lange and Shepard bought a three-bedroom corner apartment on lower Fifth Avenue, near Washington Square Park, after renting an apartment in Greenwich Village. The apartment they bought had been listed at $3.495 million, the Times said.

If Ms. Lange had waited a little longer perhaps she could have gotten a better deal or a better apartment. I don't think she is losing sleep over her situation. Afterall, the residuals alone from Blue Sky could probably pay for the mortgage and maintenance for the next ten years on her new purchase.

Nevertheless, there is one winner.

Lange's brother George is living in the house until it sells, O'Flannigan said.

Unless Ms. Lange has an urgent need to sell and is willing to make severe reductions in her selling price her brother will be living there for quite awhile. I am sure he won't be in any rush to move.