Are stars just like us? It doesn't feel that way when gazing at some celebrity's multimillion-dollar estate through the window of a star-map tour bus.
But thanks to the rise of peer-to-peer vacation rental sites, staying in a legend's current or former home is now sometimes just a click away. These properties offer travelers the chance to live vicariously—and, sure, lavishly. Staying in a house with ties to big names like actor Denzel Washington, rock star Jim Morrison, or celebrity cook Paula Deen also comes with vacation-rental perks like private pools, gourmet kitchens, and ample square footage.
Some celebrities keep their rentals on the market year round, while others are getting savvy about choosing when to seize the moment. In June, timed to the World Cup, soccer star Ronaldinho rented out his Rio de Janeiro mansion for $15,000 on Airbnb.com and touted it on Facebook. Musician Kevin Jonas (of the Jonas Brothers) made headlines earlier in 2014 when he put up his New Jersey home for rent during Super Bowl XLVIII.
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"At the end of the day, celebrities are just like everyone else and have an interest in making their investments work for them," says Jon Gray, senior vice president of HomeAway.com. "If they have an empty property that they rarely use, why not make money on it?"
Such is the case for novelist Anne Rice, who rents out her 5,000-square-foot Florida beach house. Tenants get to spend days in the rooms where she used to write—and experience her sense of style. "Certainly the lavish furnishings reflect my love of the baroque," she admits. "It's the overall aesthetic that may engulf a guest and make him or her think of my books. I'm glad people are able to enjoy my home now the way I once enjoyed it all the time."
New rental site Elite Luxury Homes lists only A-listers' properties, handpicked by owner Martin Beaurivage, previously of CAA—a talent agency that signs million-dollar contracts with boldface entertainers. His site now allows the general public to book vacations in unforgettable dream homes, although its exclusive listings mostly avoid name-dropping.
"We've found most celebrities are quite private and don't make it public when one of their properties is available for rent," agrees Gray. "However, those who do put their name out there are able to generate more interest and, ultimately, more bookings."