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EVEN STARS' HOMES DON'T SHINE IN SLUGGISH MARKET

Not just the middle class is struggling to sell their homes in Southern California. The faltering real estate market has affected some famous properties as well.

The multimillion-dollar estates of the late Lucille Ball and Sammy Davis Jr., for example, are still on the market long after their deaths. The asking price for Ball's Beverly Hills home has been cut nearly in half, to $4.25 million.Such homes usually bring top dollar, and sellers hope the allure will increase now that the housing industry is recovering.

"Many people live boring lives, and the fact they can live in a celebrity house gives them some stature," said real estate agent Mike Silverman. "It also gives us a little more public relations jazz to help the sale.

"When they don't sell, it's because they are either overpriced or the market is bad."

Ball's 7,000-square-foot home on nearly 1 acre - Jimmy Stewart is a neighbor - was listed at $7.8 million after the comedian died in April 1989. The price dropped to $6.3 million last year and now is down to $4.25 million, real estate agent Thelma Orloff said.

"She was so high initially. It was way out of line," said real estate agent Jon Douglas, adding that the market "has dramatically gotten better" in the past three months.

Many industry analysts say the recession bottomed out last January. The National Association of Realtors announced sales of existing homes increased 3.4 percent in April, the third straight monthly jump.

In California, the median price of a home is more than $200,000, double the national median. The median means half of the homes cost more, half less.

But stars' homes fetch far more.

Davis' estate remains at its original $4.25 million asking price, said his former manager, Shirley Rhodes.

Silverman recently listed Lee Majors' Malibu Colony beach home for $4.9 million and Sylvester Stallone's mountain ranch for $6.7 million.

"I've gotten a lot of calls because they belong to star people. Reaction has been quite good, but the market is quite down," said Silverman.

Even with a slow market, he said Ball's home is now a bargain at $4.25 million.

"It's almost an acre and it's north of Sunset Boulevard, which is considered prime. If the market was better, it probably would have sold.

"I've got a house listed one block from Lucy's, a fixer-upper for $3.95 million. It could be a tear down. When the market was better, speculators bought these tear downs."

Despite the slow market, some stars aren't willing to come down on their price.

Zsa Zsa Gabor has had her Bel Air estate - previously owned by Howard Hughes and Elvis Presley - on the market for years at $15 million.

"It will be for sale for 25 more years (at that price)," says Silverman, who has the listing.