Prez N the Hood
The Clintons move next door, breaking rules, raising a ruckus and
(I hope) boosting prices
By Daniel Kadlec
September 6, 1999
Web posted at: 10:17 a.m. EDT (1417 GMT)
I'm guilty. When word got out last week that Bill and Hillary
Clinton had settled on a house just up the street from me in
Chappaqua, N.Y., the first thing I did was hop in my car and do
a drive-by. How can I deny it? Half the village was there. With
the stroke of a pen (and imminent transfer of $1.7 million), the
First Couple have managed to turn a quiet suburban cul-de-sac
into the surest spot in town to be seen.
We locals have a lot of questions. How long will they stay if
Hillary fails to win a Senate seat from New York next year? Will
the daily parade of cars ever stop? Has the Secret Service
bugged our phones? Would we know an international spy if we saw
one? Does that omnipresent helicopter mean the end of nude
sunbathing? Most important: What will happen to property values?
This last question applies broadly to the presence of
celebrities, and many people are asking it. CEOs and athletes
have long sought the privacy and comforts of affluent suburbs.
But these days ceos are famous enough to attract attention and
athletes are wealthy enough to move wherever they want. Movie
stars have begun leaving Hollywood for rural spaces, furthering
the infiltration of fame. When it arrives, so does the circus.
Celebrity enclaves such as those in Sun Valley, Idaho; Nantucket,
Mass.; and the Hamptons on Long Island boast some of the priciest
digs in the world. The celebs made that happen, no doubt. But
their impact on less glitzy neighborhoods is unclear. Chappaqua
is a rural bedroom community that prizes solitude. Glitz is bad.
Yet a sitting President's decision to buy in our town is a
ringing endorsement. Real estate agents will trumpet it and
attract more potential buyers and prop up values.
In the 1980s, Richard Nixon bought a similar home in a similar
community, Saddle River, N.J. After the initial hoopla, values
throughout town edged higher, says veteran Realtor Tommi Josse,
at an area Weichert Realtors office. "It added pizazz, and people
wanted to move in," she declares. So maybe the Clintons have done
Chappaqua a favor.
Still, if you're house hunting you'd do better to pay attention
to these simple rules of residential real estate (see where the
Clintons messed up) than to search out a spot with high-profile
--Location. This is rule No. 1, and it's so important that if you
get it right, it will offset almost any home-buyer mistake. The
Clintons did fine. They bought in a top-rated school district
near reliable mass transit into Manhattan. They can be reasonably
sure of getting their money out, reasonably quickly, anytime they
--Budget. Don't overreach, especially if a big raise isn't in the
cards. This leads to stress and seriously erodes quality of life.
The Clintons may have erred. With debts of $5.5 million and
assets of just $1.5 million, they and their bankers are clearly
counting on lucrative book contracts and other ventures after the
President's term expires.
--Size. There's not much you can do to increase the value of the
biggest house on the block. The Clintons have it. The house next
door goes for about $550,000.
--Privacy/noise. No one really wants to live on a highway or in
full view of his neighbors. The Clintons did as well as they
could on this score. They're off the main road and on a full acre
with a lot of mature trees. If that doesn't keep out oglers, the
Secret Service will. As for noise, well, Chappaqua is a serene
little hamlet--or at least it was before the Clintons decided to
See time.com/personal for more on home buying. Dan is a regular
on CNNfn TV and BNN radio when he's not at his neighbors'
MORE TIME STORIES:
Cover Date: September 13, 1999