A DIFFERENT ADDRESS

by David Sisler

Attorney Brian DeLaurentis bought an expensive house in Connecticut. The main reason for selecting the neighborhood where he plunked down almost half a million dollars was the Greenwich zip code. When he found out he was not in the prestige mailing address, he continued to list Greenwich as the city, but put the correct zip, for Cos Cob, a small enclave of the prestigious town. When the Post Office refused to deliver, DeLaurentis sued, and won the right to get his mislabeled mail.

In addition to the snob appeal, money ranks high on the list of reasons for coveting such addresses. In some swanky neighborhoods, property sells for 70 percent more than it does fifteen minutes down the road.

Zip code envy is nothing new, nor is it limited to swank Connecticut addresses. Chevy Chase, Beverly Hills, Palm Springs you don't even need to name the states are all coveted cities in which to promote the lifestyle of the rich and would-be famous.

Some people who want a Beverly Hills address, for instance, will pay almost $750 a year to a private service which has an authentic Beverly Hills street number. Then the word "suite" or "apartment" is added to the address thus giving the impression of a legitimate business or residence. A government postal box rents for less than $50 a year, but there is no way to disguise the truth. It just would not fit one's projection of a snooty ambience for one to admit to living in a post office box.

Fifth Avenue is one of the most desirable addresses in New York City. The developers of one building, located between Fifth and Madison Avenue, obtained permission from the city to list their address as the more prestigious 1049 Fifth Avenue, instead of the original, lowly 2 East 86th Street.

A perfectly legal, but at the same time deceptive practice, is to attach the name of a chic address to a business or development which is, in fact, many miles from the actual neighborhood. For instance, the elite borough of Princeton, N.J., thrives on its Ivy League name which leads to "Princeton" shopping centers, car dealerships and residential developments in towns far removed, like Trenton and New Brunswick.

"It's very misleading," complains Mark Freda, president of the Princeton Borough Council. "When people go out to buy a home in Princeton, if they aren't paying attention they may discover they've purchased in a different town altogether."

Case in point is a developer who has built two housing developments, Princeton Crossing and Princeton Ridings, neither of which have a Princeton address. A company spokesman defended the practice by stating, "A builder will use whatever asset he has."

Communities sometimes change their names to feed off the reputation of a ritzier neighbor. And it is a gimmick which can really pay off. A few years ago, a middle-class town called East Detroit formally changed its name to East Pointe, to play off its proximity to Michigan's swank Grosse Pointes, home to some of the area's great automotive families. Property values shot up in both cases.

Grosse Pointe Farms broker and appraiser Forman Johnston says, "I don't think values would have gone up nearly as much if they hadn't changed their names."

Al Becker bought a home in Fairfax Station, VA. He was horrified when he found out he would not have a coveted "Fairfax" address, but his mail would be sent to Lorton, a name synonymous with a maximum security prison and a noxious landfill. Property values are significantly lower in Lorton, even though it is basically only the other side of the street.

"Social factors do affect value," says appraiser Charles A. Moore, who notes that modest homes in a celebrity-rich areas are often worth more than grander manses in Brand X Beltway suburbs. "Everyone wants to live near a Kennedy."

Not everyone deems a prestige address as the ultimate key to success.

Paul was a man who seemed never to have more than a tent which he built with his own hands, or a place he rented while under house address, but he bragged about another address, "a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

Abraham left the most prestigious address of his day, Ur of the Chaldees, and without benefit of a real estate agent, "looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God."

Looking for a zip code better than 90210? Heaven is the place, and a place has been prepared for you by Jesus of Nazareth, God's Son. He paid the price, but your mansion will remain vacant if you refuse to move in.

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Published in the Augusta Chronicle 7/12/97

Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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