Some celebrities and wealthy people buy several homes in their neighborhoods to grow their empires.
Earlier in the pandemic, the number of homebuyers doing the same thing surged.
Many people seek to protect the look of their neighborhoods or make room for friends and family.
When Brian Miller noticed that the real estate in his neighborhood was selling fast in 2020, he and his wife bought the 1.4-acre lot next door for $3 million to protect their view.
"It's a good investment," he told The Wall Street Journal's Nancy Keates.
More homeowners are beginning to expand across their neighborhoods — it's a way to keep developers from buying up houses, tearing them down, and creating eyesores. It's also a way to create more space for family and friends. Celebrities and rich investors have been doing it for years.
Elon Musk, for instance, the world's richest person, bought six houses on two streets in Los Angeles over the course of the past decade. In addition to a house in Northern California, that adds up to $100 million in real-estate spending, according to The Journal. The Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen combined 13 lots with about eight houses into a compound in Mercer Island, Washington, for an estimated $130 million. And the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought a 24,000-square-foot house next to his own in Medina, Washington, for a rumored $53 million in 2010, The Journal reported.
Related video: Bezos reportedly spent $165 million on a Beverly Hills estate in 2020
But it's become increasingly common for homebuyers with significantly smaller net worths to expand throughout their own neighborhoods, real-estate agents told The Journal. The creation of "compounds" surged earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic when remote work became common. Many of these transactions are private, occurring through personal networks before a house can even officially hit the market.
And many are making such purchases to keep things in the family, whether that's a literal one or the surrounding community.
"The land is worth more than the houses here, and if I don't buy it, it will be torn down," Charlotte Huggins, a film producer who is considering approaching her neighbors about buying their home, told The Journal.
Huggins already bought the house next door to her for $740,000 in 2019 after seeing a different one in the neighborhood sold, torn down, and replaced with a larger house. Before buying the house next door, she got to know its owner before he died, a man in his 90s. Huggins was able to buy it off market for what the man's daughter determined was a fair price.
May and Henry Lee, a San Francisco couple, bought a house next door to them in 2019 for their adult children who work in the Bay Area to move into, The Journal reported. Other families across the country told The Journal that they bought houses in their neighborhoods to serve as extended space for their families.
And neighbors sometimes treat a vacancy on the block as an opportunity to band together.
Bob Champey, an agent with William Raveis Real Estate in Concord, Massachusetts, told The Journal that last year, he oversaw a group of people offering to buy their neighbor's home in cash for $2.6 million, wanting to keep prospective buyers from putting up a large, obstructive house in its stead.
It resembles another recent trend: suburban homeowner associations blocking big investors from buying up their neighborhoods.
"I don't want a great, big, horrible house next to me," Huggins said.
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