Michael Jackson’s notoriety could hurt resale value of his old haunts

Michael Jackson fans Elia Barbosa, left, and Amanda Tongen read a farewell note at a makeshift memorial at the gates of the pop icon's old Neverland Ranch, in Los Olivos, Calif. Jackson died Thursday in Los Angeles at the age of 50.
(Michael A. Mariant / Associated Press)
The homes of even the most beloved stars rarely see any appreciable gain in value from their celebrity cachet, and in the case of Michael Jackson’s old Neverland Ranch and the Holmby Hills mansion the pop icon leased, the association may work against the property.

For the record: An earlier version of this story misspelled Randall Bell’s first name as Randell.

“Neverland and the Jackson estate have an uphill economic battle,” said Randall Bell, a specialist in appraising stigmatized properties with Laguna Beach-based consulting and valuation firm Bell Anderson & Sanders. The singer’s Santa Barbara ranch was purchased by Colony Capital earlier this year for $22.5 million in a deal worked out with Westside financier Tom Barrack and tied to Jackson’s comeback tour.

“First, Neverland is not immune from the same unprecedented economic meltdown experienced by all property owners nationwide,” Bell said. “Second, in the minds of many real estate developers and buyers, Neverland is tainted with similar stigma issues that are also associated with the O.J. Simpson, Jon Benet Ramsey and Heaven’s Gate properties. Right or wrong, Jackson’s properties are negatively perceived by some with regards to crimes against children.”

“The people standing vigil outside of Jackson properties are not those who might purchase these properties,” he said. “The people I work with do have the financial resources and will consider both the positive aspects of the Michael Jackson legacy as well as the negative perceptions.”

Such perceptions remain with a property.

“As we know from crime scenes across the country, even where convictions do not occur, these do have a significant impact on property values.”

Should Jackson’s association be remembered mostly in a positive light, it still likely won’t enhance the value because the Southern California real estate market is somewhat immune to star power.

“People who buy houses like that are usually almost celebrities in their own right, so the star quality is not going to affect the price,” said Raymond Bekeris of John Bruce Nelson & Associates, who sold a house in 2004 that Jackson had been renting. “I don’t remember ever being in a negotiation where someone said, ‘Hey, you should pay more because Michael Jackson lived here.’ ”

“Because a celebrity lived there doesn’t make it worth more,” said Billy Rose of Rose & Chang, Prudential California Realty, Beverly Hills, “but may make it sell faster.”

Whether the property associated with the superstar was owned by him or a rental doesn’t matter, Bell said. Jackson most recently had been renting a French chateau estate built in 2002 with seven bedrooms and 13 bathrooms for $100,000 a month.

” Sharon Tate was a renter but nevertheless that property was very much impacted by crime scene stigma,” he said.

Likewise, whether the house remains or is destroyed doesn’t diminish the association with the address.

“Whether the developers come in and try to capitalize in some way with a museum like they did with Elvis and Graceland or try to bulldoze it, they will have issues either way,” he said.

A Neverland museum might be financially viable, Bell said, but the location is remote.