The Surprising Secrets Behind These Celebrity Real Estate Deals

Have you ever found a surprising secret in the process of buying or renting a home? You know, like a broken old lawnmower, or a pile of dirt that refuses to budge, or maybe a tax lien? These are the types of mundane gifts that await new tenants and homeowners who aren't rich and famous.

It turns out, celebrities aren't exempt from new home disappointments either. But thanks to their wealth and fame, their real estate snafus can be completely over-the-top. When you think about it, it could be even more frustrating when an issue pops up during a multimillion-dollar real estate deal, as opposed to a less expensive one. Break out the tiny violin!

Take Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Montecito mansion, for example. With 16 bathrooms, there are bound to be some wild surprises in there. Or Simon Cowell's ill-fated Beverly Hills abode, which ended up losing him scads of cash. Yes, celebrities do everything bigger than us — even their new home nightmares. Here are some surprising secrets you might not have known about the ritziest real estate deals ever.

A nun claimed Katy Perry 'had blood on her hands' after she tried to buy a convent

Not many little girls' "Teenage Dream" includes buying a convent. But that's what Katy Perry decided to do with the gobs of money she's made from her music career. Her desired nunnery was far from the typical austere convent, though. Located in Los Feliz a stone's throw from the Hollywood sign, this property boasted interiors designed by a leading set decorator from the silent film era, per The Hollywood Reporter.

The mansion's owners gifted it to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1971, and eventually, the nuns could no longer ignore the fact that they were sitting on a real estate goldmine. The Archdiocese governing the region agreed to sell it to Perry for $14.5 million, according to Page Six. The nuns had other plans: they told property developer Dana Hollister the convent was hers for $15.5 million.

This led to a protracted court battle with many dramatic moments. One of the nuns, Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, said to a Fox 11 Los Angeles TV crew, "Katy Perry, please stop. It's not doing anyone any good except hurting a lot of people." And then she died in court. Yes, a nun died in court battling Katy Perry. Sister Rita Callanan later said Perry had "blood on her hands." The deal appears to have fizzled out, per Page Six, so this convent will remain Perry's "One That Got Away."

Kim Basinger's ill-fated purchase of a town helped inspire Schitt's Creek

Kim Basinger was a pretty big deal in the '80s and '90s. How many Bond girls can say they went on to win an Oscar (besides Halle Berry, of course)? But before she reached the heights of movie stardom, Basinger was a Georgia girl who loved her hometown of Athens so much, she even returned in 1991 to dedicate some tennis courts, according to a report by AP.

She had taken her love affair with Georgia even further in 1989 when she casually bought an entire town there. Braselton, Georgia, was a town of 500 people owned by the eponymous Braselton family for generations, per The New York Times. Basinger reportedly told the Braselton family "that all America would now know who they are and where Braselton is," according to the outlet.

But just three years later, the Chicago Tribune declared Braselton was "stuck at the intersection of Hollywood and Dying-on-the-Vine." Basinger had wanted to transform the hamlet into an entertainment production hub, but resident James Deaton told the Chicago Tribune, ”It's deader than it was three years ago." By 1995, Basinger had filed for bankruptcy, causing chunks of the town to be sold off, according to the Baltimore Sun. Sounds like a bummer — but Vanity Fair confirmed the whole kerfuffle helped inspire the Netflix show "Schitt's Creek." So, maybe it was worth it?

Brad Pitt's foundation was accused of building 'defective' homes for Hurricane Katrina victims

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2005, Brad Pitt leaped to the region's aid by promising to build new homes for residents with the Make It Right foundation. In fact, he grew so fond of The Big Easy, he and then-partner Angelina Jolie purchased a historic row home there in 2007.

But it seems the road to collapsing staircases and rotting decks is paved with good intentions. Some of the Make It Right homes turned out to be faulty and downright dangerous. "Our porch, the wood is rotten," one of the homes' residents told Architectural Digest. "We have a hole in the porch. The railing came apart. Right now we have problems with the light switches. It's just coming apart."

By 2018, two of the homes were in such disrepair they'd been demolished, according to But who's to blame for this disaster remains unclear. In April 2021, Pitt's foundation was still in court, this time suing a former executive director. Pitt asked to be removed from the tangle of lawsuits in 2018, per

Despite his glamorous image, Hugh Hefner paid rent to live at the Playboy Mansion until his death

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner was a master of branding. For much of the 20th century, the general public saw him as a swaggering lothario with America's most iconic mansion to his name. But the truth is that when it came to the legendary Playboy headquarters, Hef was a mere tenant.

The actual owner of the estate was Playboy Enterprises, which bought it for $1.1 million in 1971, according to the Los Angeles Times. And when the company sold the mansion to a neighbor for $100 million in 2016, it required any buyer to let Hef keep living there until his death, which would be in 2017. Playboy Enterprises agreed to pay Hef's new landlord $1 million per year in rent.

Prior to that real estate mega-deal, Hef had paid his own rent — and he probably had the best deal in LA rent history, coughing up a mere $100 per year to live in the manse, (via Esquire). And yet, despite the fact that he didn't own the mansion, he had no qualms about enforcing draconian rules for his girlfriends who lived there with him. Not only did they have to deal with a strict curfew and limits on spending, but Holly Madison says they were also required to wear matching pink flannel jammies on occasion, per Cosmopolitan. Suddenly the average lease agreement doesn't sound so bad.

Luann de Lesseps' own children sued her over the family's Hamptons abode

A cabaret star formerly known as The Countess, Luann de Lesseps has broadcast her dramatic life on "The Real Housewives of New York City" over the past decade. Her turbulent love life has included two quickie marriages and one quickie divorce as well as an alleged dalliance with a Johnny Depp lookalike. And then there's her arrest and rehab record. But her real estate rap sheet might be even more intriguing than the rest of it.

De Lesseps' children and her ex-husband filed a lawsuit against her in 2018 alleging she had tried to pocket proceeds from a house sale that belonged to her kids. De Lesseps sold the family's Hamptons home in 2014 and her divorce agreement required her to set up a trust for her kids with half the proceeds, according to People. Her ex and her children filed a suit alleging she hadn't created the trust — and had instead used the cash to fund the purchase of a second Hamptons abode.

Talk about rich people problems, right? Fortunately, it seems the de Lesseps family was able to sort this out on their own and the lawsuit was dropped in 2019, per People. De Lesseps bought a cute round house on the Hudson River that same year. Even though fellow "Housewife" Tinsley Mortimer remarked that living in the house would "[drive her] to drink," per Bravo TV, it seems de Lesseps was satisfied.

J.K. Rowling angered the neighbors while building her dream home in Scotland

J.K. Rowling started as a humble children's fantasy author and became one of the richest women in the world — not to mention an increasingly controversial figure. And while the brouhaha surrounding the "Harry Potter" author usually stems from her internationally-followed Twitter account, she's made plenty of enemies closer to home in the form of her own real estate drama.

Rowling's first brush with her Edinburgh, Scotland, neighbors came in 2011 when she sought permission to bulldoze a neighboring house and turn it into a greenhouse and garden, according to The Herald. A local watchdog group lamented "the loss of a perfectly adequate and functional recently-constructed dwelling from the city's housing stock." The next year, Rowling asked to build a couple of Hogwarts-inspired treehouses on her property, (via The Guardian), and neighbors were annoyed that they might be able to see the possible eyesores from the street. Things came to a head in 2015 when she was accused of causing "chaos" with a never-ending hedge-trimming project, per The Guardian.

Rowling's bottomless appetite for home improvement seems to have subsided — for now. But in 2020, she bought a new property: her own childhood home in Gloucestershire, England, according to Insider. Residents of the new neighborhood might want to polish their wands in case there's another renovation duel.

Mohamed Hadid's lavish construction project was labeled 'a clear and present danger'

Fans of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" will remember that former cast member Yolanda Hadid's ex-husband, Mohamed Hadid, was billed as a real estate dynamo on the show. The father of high-fashion trio Gigi, Bella, and Anwar Hadid certainly set his kids up for success in the form of a ritzy upbringing and plenty of Hollywood connections.

But not every real estate deal of Mohamed's has been a winner. Neighbors complained that one of his projects, built on a cliff in Bel Air, was too big and could send rocks flying onto properties below, according to the Daily Mail. One neighbor's lawyer said, "the massive, illegal monstrosity hangs unstably above the neighbors heads. That's why a judge found it to be a clear and present danger." According to the outlet, the City of Los Angeles eventually brought Hadid up on criminal charges over the property.

As of May 2021, Mohamed Hadid had finally found a buyer for the troublesome property. As revealed by the New York Post, he sold it for $8.5 million after six years of fighting with the neighbors and the city. At least he can always stay with his daughter and Zayn Malik in rural Pennsylvania?

Mark Zuckerberg was called 'the face of neocolonialism' after suing neighbors in Hawaii

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg owns more properties than most people have social media friends. And being an absurdly wealthy person, he's no stranger to becoming entangled in lawsuits with his neighbors. Are we noticing a pattern yet?

Zuckerberg paid $100 million over 800 acres of land on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in 2014 and 2017, according to Insider. The area "was approved for up to 80 homes," but, naturally, Zuckerberg only planned to build one. Issues arose when Zuckerberg filed lawsuits against Hawaiians who claimed to own the land under the Kuleana Act of 1850, per The Guardian. The native Hawaiians weren't living on the land, and Zuckerberg claimed that all he wanted was "to find all these partial owners so we can pay them their fair share."

But suing indigenous Hawaiians did not turn out to be a stroke of PR genius, and Zuckerberg dropped the lawsuits. But not before a University of Hawaii professor called him "the face of neocolonialism," per The Guardian. Ouch! It's unclear whether Zuck has completed his Kauai dream home yet, but his pads in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Lake Tahoe should be keeping him sheltered for now.

Jessica Simpson reportedly thought a fire in the Osbournes' home was 'a sign' she shouldn't buy it

If you watched "The Osbournes" back in the 2000s, you might have noticed plenty of signs that Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne's mansion could be haunted or at least full of weird vibes after a rock star known for biting the heads off of bats lived there for so long. Even the show itself left Ozzy Osbourne "falling apart emotionally," he claimed to Metal Hammer.

But when singer Jessica Simpson thought about buying the place in 2013, a small accidental fire gave her pause. The flames erupted after Sharon Osbourne forgot to blow out a candle before bed, according to Radar. Simpson and husband Eric Johnson "were planning on making an offer on the mansion somewhere in the region of $12 million," a source told Radar. "​​Now, they're going to have to assess the damage before committing ... [Jessica is] also a believer in fate and is wondering if the fire was a sign that she shouldn't buy it and wait for something else to come on the market."

Loudwire reported that Ozzy lost his eyebrows to the flames and sustained some minor burns, so Simpson's hesitation to drop $12 million on the house truly added insult to injury. Still, Simpson ended up buying the Hidden Hills home for $11.5 million and has lived there ever since, according to Hello!. A small candle fire equals a $500,000 discount? Not such a bad deal.

Liam Hemsworth and Miley Cyrus got married after losing their home to wildfires

Miley Cyrus's May 2017 single "Malibu" revealed a softer side of the singer, heavily influenced by life with her then-fiancé Liam Hemsworth. But in November 2018, the Woolsey Fire destroyed the home they shared. Instead of taking this as a bad omen, Cyrus credited the fire with pushing them toward marriage.

"What Liam and I went through together changed us," she told Vanity Fair in March 2019. "I'm not sure without losing Malibu, we would've been ready to take this step or ever even gotten married, who can say? But the timing felt right and I go with my heart."

Unfortunately, the timing felt right for a divorce just a few months later. Cyrus told Howard Stern that they split up in August 2019 due to "too much conflict" in their relationship, (via Stylecaster). Cyrus soon moved to a house in Hidden Hills, which she showed off in an Architectural Digest spread before selling it just a few months later. Hemsworth, meanwhile, swapped SoCal for Australia. If only we could all cope with breakups by putting several continents between ourselves and our exes.

Robbie Williams and Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page feuded over a basement pool

British singer Robbie Williams is no stranger to high-profile squabbles — he even beefed with his own fellow boy banders. He's also accustomed to home drama, as his "Cribs" episode was completely based on a lie. So it's no surprise that he found himself in hot water when he attempted to build a pool in his London basement and angered a neighbor.

But this wasn't just any neighbor. This was Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. Williams' Holland Park home abuts Page's, and he asked the city for permission to renovate some of the house. Page submitted a complaint letter (via Vulture), saying, "I am extremely concerned that this work will cause vibrations and possible structural damage." Things really went south when Williams later proposed adding a pool to his basement. Page called the plans "catastrophic" in yet another complaint letter.

Things got more and more dramatic, but the city ended up giving Williams permission for the basement pool. And Williams seems to be a sore winner: one neighbor claimed that Williams would blast music from Page's '70s rivals every time he saw the guitarist outside, Vulture reported. Williams still resides at the Holland Park home when he's not in his other homes in LA, Malibu, and Geneva. Meanwhile, Page continues to defend the sanctity of Holland Park. He took issue with yet another neighbor's basement extension in 2020, per the Daily Mail.

Emily Ratajkowski and her husband were accused of exploiting a law in order to dodge rent

New York City rents are legendarily high, perhaps thanks to the scads of celebs and rich people who jack up the city's real estate prices with their gazillion-dollar dream homes. It's hard to afford a place in NYC if you don't have family money or a Wall Street job. So, it's understandable that some New Yorkers were miffed when it came to light that model Emily Ratajkowski and her husband, movie producer Sebastian Bear-McClard, were dodging rent thanks to a decades-old law meant to protect displaced artists.

Bear-McClard had been living in a downtown loft without paying rent to the tune of $120,000 in missing payments, according to the New York Post. His attorney told the Post, "He's an artist. Born and raised New Yorker and a child of artists who themselves fought to save their homes, including under the Loft Law." But the New York Post also pointed out that his estimated worth was $12 million, while Ratajkowski's is $6 million. So while the pair may be artists, they don't really fit the profile of having to "fight" for their homes.

After some squabbling in the legal system, the pair were reportedly paid to vacate the apartment. The couple — perhaps wisely — haven't revealed much about their new NYC digs, aside from an Instagram photo Hello! magazine captured. They also own a home in Los Angeles and seem to divide their time between the two coasts.

Ed Sheeran allegedly went to great lengths to hide a secret swimming pool from his neighbors

It's hard out here for British celebrities who want swimming pools. Ed Sheeran ran afoul of his neighbors when he allegedly put a pool in his backyard — when nothing more than a small pond was allowed.

First, Sheeran got permission to install the "pond," but neighbors soon noticed that it looked suspiciously like a pool, according to The Sun. Not many naturally-occurring ponds come with ladders and changing rooms, after all. Then, per the Daily Mail, they were even more enraged when it looked like Sheeran had arranged some bales of hay to block the pool/pond from public view. The bales of hay were "​​placed precisely in the right places and at the right angle to shield his pool," one neighbor told the Daily Mail.

But Sheeran doesn't seem bothered — and he insists that the pond is, in fact, a pond. "There's no filter system," he said on the Hits Radio Breakfast Show in June 2021. "It's naturally cleaned itself with the plants that are in it ... There's a big thing about like wildlife and newts and blah, blah, blah." Convincing! He added that he has added plenty of new vegetation to the area, and concluded, "I just think people just need to mind their own business."

Bethenny Frankel claims her mother-in-law botched the paperwork when she bought her dream home

Bethenny Frankel's "The Real Housewives of New York City" spinoff, "Bethenny Ever After", may not have been long for this world. But the divorce battle that ensued went on a whopping eight years. And one major bone of contention was how she and now-ex Jason Hoppy would divide their marital assets — specifically Frankel's dream home, a gut-renovated New York City apartment that was revealed in the final episode of their show.

In 2011, Frankel bought the home for $5 million using a trust that bore her name and Hoppy's, according to E!. The couple announced their split in December 2012, per People, and Frankel stayed in hotels while Hoppy remained in the apartment. Their court battle raged on, and in 2016, a judge declared the trust invalid, according to E! — all because of Frankel's mother-in-law's alleged malpractice as a notary.

Frankel and Hoppy's trust was notarized by Carol Hoppy, his mother. But she was registered as a notary in Pennsylvania, and the document was signed in New York City, per All About the Tea. Frankel's lawyers argued that this invalidated the trust. After the couple's divorce was finalized, Frankel sold the loft for $7 million in a single day, (via 6sqft). It's unclear whether she had to split the proceeds with Hoppy. At least now they can hop out of each other's lives, apartments, and bank accounts — for good.