Every time I am about to sell my house, my husband and I have the “Great Debate”: open house or not? My husband dreads the “open.” It gives him the creeps to know that people we don’t know are traipsing through our house – especially the nosy neighbors who just want to look.
I, on the other hand, love open houses. Even when we’re not in the market, I can’t resist pulling the car over on a Sunday – sometimes going all the way up a winding road, following those silly little flags – just to see a home I haven’t been inside before. It’s amazing that in the 20 years we’ve lived here there are still some houses we’ve never been in, but that I of course would love to see.
Every once in a while a really famous property comes on the market. Just two weeks ago, we finally made it in to see the “Ozzie and Harriet” house that was open just around the corner from where we live now.
There are a lot of pretty fabulous houses in old Hollywood. And, in spite of all the teardowns and remodels, quite a few original gems have survived in Beverly Hills and Brentwood, too. Unlike most of the new construction, you can’t see these beauties from the street; you really need an invite up that private lane.
I’ve seen grand two-story entries with glowing chandeliers, beamed-ceiling living rooms, views from the pool terrace to die for, kitchens that a caterer would adore. Do people really live in places like this? How many people help keep it clean? How much is their electric bill?
But now you don’t have to wait to see houses of people you don’t know because there’s a new trend in town. It started slowly about four years ago when Barbara Streisand was going to sing at a very powerful Hollywood mogul’s house in Malibu to raise money for the Democratic National Committee. At $10,000 a ticket, it sold out in a New York minute. Women were hanging out in high heels stuck on grassy lawns shivering in the dewy night as Streisand sang “People.” It doesn’t get better than that.
And now everybody’s doing it. If you have a cause, you need a great house to have the fundraiser–and it certainly doesn’t have to be your own. Nobody wants to go to a ballroom at a hotel anymore or even a restaurant. Spectacular houses make for even more spectacular fundraisers, and that means big names and big money.
Sometimes they don’t even give the address of the house on the invitation. “R.S.V.P.’s will be given the location of a shuttle to take you to the home,” one invite boasted. Ugh. It’s worse than a dinner cruise.
A couple of months ago, I heard of one “themed” event that seemed like fun. Wives of Hollywood heavyweights would hop in a minivan and go around from remodeled kitchen to remodeled kitchen (some of these kitchens were as big as my house!) to watch cooking demonstrations at each home. The purpose of the event? To raise money for a worthy cause. But the realpurpose was the chance to peek (and snack) at places you might not ever have the opportunity to see.
Now it seems this voyeuristic hobby has been taken to an even higher level. People make a donation to the charity that is running the event, then take a minibus or van ride to a “behind the scenes” guided tour of the home. And it is a roaring success. Geared for the wives, girlfriends and significant others of some highly moneyed folk, it seems that this is thenewway a lot of people are spending their afternoons here in the Westside of Los Angeles. And they’re raising money to boot. They stroll around, open a few drawers, and scrutinize the photos on the dresser in a leisurely fashion. It’s sort of like a ticketed open house!
The next thing you know, people will pay to spend the night.
Julie Brosterman is a consultant to the real estate technology, mortgage and servicing industries. She lives in Los Angeles and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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