Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island retreat
Courtesy of Virgin Limited Edition
Powdery white-sand beaches and colorful coral reefs surround Sir Richard Branson’s 74-acre, private Necker Island retreat, in the British Virgin Islands, where you and up to 27 guests can have all to yourselves.
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updated 2/7/2010 2:53:09 PM ET 2010-02-07T19:53:09

Staying at a hotel popular with celebrities means you could swim in the same pool as Kate Hudson once did or sleep in Madonna’s favorite oceanfront suite. But imagine if you could actually live—at least for a week or two—in Mick Jagger’s six-bedroom Caribbean retreat in Mustique. You could check out his personal photos, tool around in his Jeep, even use his can opener.

Sure enough, if the Rolling Stones front man approves your application for the villa, Stargrove (potential renters must submit a bio, and the rocker personally vets each one), the Japanese-inspired casa Jagger—which includes a cook, housekeeper, and gardener—is yours.

And Jagger is hardly the only celebrity handing over the keys to his kingdom to strangers. Increasingly, A-listers are offering their properties to anyone—or at least, anyone who can afford the sometimes eye-popping cost. At Stargroves, the tab starts at $15,000 per week; others cost more than that per night.

Why would a celebrity open his home to strangers? According to the experts, it’s a very wise fiscal decision, and even heavy-hitters who aren’t necessarily desperate for cash still want to break even. “As a graduate of the London School of Economics, Mick Jagger is an astute businessman,” says Richard Klug of Beverly Hills–based Sotheby’s International Realty, who works with high-profile clients. “He understands that leasing out the property when he’s not there helps defray costs for the house.”

Klug also explains that stars, especially those in the music business, have been hard hit over the past five years due to dramatic changes in payment methods and royalty structures. The result: many of them are being forced to scale down, which means they’re willing to give up the keys to their beachfront villas.

Lucky House, Turks and Caicos
Courtesy of Parrot Cay
Christie Brinkley’s, lushly landscaped estate Lucky House, lies on more than an acre of private beachfront land at Parrot Cay, the private island resort in Turks and Caicos (Brinkley’s remote villa is far removed from the hotel area and separated by a spit of land).
Not that movie megastar Bruce Willis is lacking for cash, but he’s nevertheless renting his Turks and Caicos compound, the Residence, where he married model Emma Heming. The oceanfront property has a five-bedroom main residence, two three-bedroom guest villas, a gigantic pool, and cool white furnishings. And the Willis family does vacation there. In fact, their volleyball games are pretty competitive. “I still have the scar on my knee from two Christmases ago,” Heming told W magazine.

You can even rent the abodes of stars who have passed on. Guests staying at Merv Griffin’s 40-acre, 14-bedroom Palm Springs estate are encouraged to chat with the house staff, who worked with the star and love to share stories. They’re also welcome to take Griffin’s swan paddleboat for a spin on the property’s lake, visit the racetrack and horses, or check out the photos of Griffin taken with various presidents.

For stars who like the idea of renting their home but don’t want guests snooping everywhere, Randy Travis has the ideal solution. At his Santa Fe property, which he rented until just recently, Travis kept the sacred office/gym—where he wrote seven songs in two days—off-limits to guests. How? The country singer said he put “police tape around that area.”

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

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