Stars go top of the bill to make res more des

Kate Watson-Smyth reports on the celebrities who are coming out of the shadows to make sure that their homes sell fast
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MOST celebrities will agree, sometimes reluctantly, to hit the publicity trail when they have a new book or a film to plug, but, increasingly, they are using their fame to help sell their houses.

Ferocious protectors of their privacy when they are living in a property, they will grant interviews when it comes to selling it.

Comedian Griff Rhys Jones recently invited one newspaper into his former home, a loft in Clerkenwell, and gave a guided tour. The house was sold a week later for pounds 795,000.

Philip Jackson, manager of Stirling Ackroyd, the estate agency which handled the sale, said that using one's name is a way of gaining wider exposure for the property.

"Not all of them want to do it but they do realise that an ability to gather column inches will really put a property on the map and can help to sell it."

But he admitted that Rhys Jones was initially reluctant to invite the photographers in.

"He realised his house was very unusual and that if he could do anything to help sell it then that would be useful, but he was very nervous about it.

"He was cringing at the thought of a Hello magazine-type piece, but he knew it was a good idea," Mr Jackson said.

The resulting article certainly worked hard to encourage potential buyers. "It is the handsome vaulted kitchen ... and the fine room below that give the flat its character. Most striking is the downstairs fireplace, a vast edifice of pale yellow stone," it gushed.

Property journalist Rosalind Russell, of the Evening Standard, said: "Very often they agree to the publicity because they are desperate to sell, either because their house has been on the market for a while without moving or because they have seen something else that they want to buy in a hurry.

"They are also often happy to let people know that they are moving, but not keen for people to find out where they are buying or how much they spent on their new house," she said.

Deborah Battsek, of agents Foxtons, said: "At one end of the scale, celebrities are quite happy for publicity, but when you get to the more established stars they are not so keen to have details of their lives broadcast."

Certainly, Andrew Lloyd Webber was not happy to see the news that he was selling his house all over the papers last year, but Tom Watkins, manager of East 17 and the Eighties' boy band, Bros, used his vicarious fame to sell his house. Angela Douglas, wife of the actor Kenneth Moore, also agreed to lend her name to publicity when she sold their Fulham home last year.

Mr Jackson said: "Sometimes it can be helpful, but if Elton John was selling his house then we would strongly recommend he kept quiet about it as it would only encourage gawpers.

"It can also backfire if they come on to the market with a big fanfare, and then the property doesn't sell and everyone knows they have had to drop the price."

Mike Oldfield put his house in Chalfont St Giles on the market last summer, but has yet to find a buyer.

Martin Chester, of Hamptons International, who is handling the sale, said: "He was very happy to put his name on the press releases, but did not want to do any more publicity than that.

"We were initially asking pounds 1.6m to pounds 2m, but are now looking at offers of around pounds 1.6m, so it is not a reduction but a change of strategy."