Flip this house: Celebs show how it's done in real life

Flip this house: Celebs show how it's done in real life
Corbin Bernsen and Amanda Pays in the living room of a home they renovated. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Celebrities who moonlight as house flippers have been frequent subjects in Hot Property.

"Friends" star Courteney Cox, talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres and actors Jeremy Renner and Kristoffer Winters are among the self-professed house obsessed.


But few have been as prolific as actor Corbin Bernsen and his wife, actress Amanda Pays. The couple have appeared regularly in the column for decades.

The pair started flipping in the late 1980s, about the time Bernsen was gaining fame playing divorce attorney Arnie Becker on "L.A. Law." They have worked on homes in Hollywood Hills, Beverly Hills and the San Fernando Valley.


"For us it was always a way to make extra income and be creative at the same time," Pays said. "My thing is finding old houses with good bones and reworking them. I am not a tear-down girl."

They have renovated about 20 houses. "That," she said, "is an addiction."

Among their sales of note was a Beverly Hills home purchased by Steve Martin in 1995 for $3 million.

Their current flipping pattern is to buy a house for under $1 million, put several hundred thousand dollars into it and sell at about $1.5 million, Bernsen said. They often live in the houses for two years or more to save on capital gains tax.


"We both grew up with parents who gave attention to the homes they lived in, and I suppose that was passed on," Bernsen said. "The real truth here is that we just love doing it, and it's something we've had in common from Day One."

Up next is a Toluca Lake home Pays describes as "hideous."

Bernsen offers a slightly different opinion. "It simply has been overdone and added on to incorrectly," he said. "Amanda is totally in control of this project. I gave a little input, but most of it was rejected by her."

Both agree on one thing, however. "It's going to be spectacular."

One of Hot Property's early home enthusiasts was Jane Seymour. The British actress made the column in 1987 when she sold a home to supermodel Cheryl Tiegs for $1.65 million.

She and her then-husband, business manager David Flynn, bought, fixed up and sold homes in the Beverly Hills 90210 Zip Code as investments back when the word "flipper" was still widely associated with a TV dolphin.

They enlisted architect Gus Duffy to help on the remodels and his wife, Jana Jones-Duffy, as their real estate agent. By the end of 1988, Seymour and Flynn had five flips under their proverbial tool belts.

"They once bought the house across the street from theirs because it was so ugly," Jones-Duffy said, redoing it "so they could look at something they liked."


Seymour, who would go on to star in the series "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," selected the colors and draperies for the homes, which were usually sold furnished. She and Flynn favored English-style interiors, paneled walls and shelves filled with books.

"One house sold three times with the same furnishings," said Jones-Duffy of Coldwell Banker. The team ended up redoing 11 houses.

And that house Tiegs bought? She eventually sold the Hollywood Hills home to actress Jodie Foster, who parted with it this year for $4.995 million.

Preferences for particular home styles have emerged among those who spent their non-acting moments on house projects.

Bent on restoration, Oscar-winning actress Diane Keaton has favored homes by well-known architects and 1920s Spanish-style homes.

She made her column debut in 1996 selling the Lloyd Wright-designed Samuel-Novarro home in Los Feliz for about $950,000 after, the column reported, she had put nearly $1 million into renovations. The Mayan-inspired house, built in 1928, is on the market now at $3.995 million.

Keaton moved on to a series of grander Spanish-style home restorations including one in Beverly Hills that sold in 2000 to singer Madonna for $6.5 million, several in Laguna Beach and another in Bel-Air that she sold for close to $17.2 million.

The actress told The Times in 2003 that she grew up accompanying her father as he invested in tract houses. That fueled her interest in homes, and she became driven to save vintage Spanish Colonial-style houses from destruction. "I'd buy every one of them that comes up for sale if I could afford it."