Having the president of the United States live in your community boosts property values, brings in tourists and makes your town a household name — often long after the leader has left office. “President George W. Bush definitely drew attention to this area as a great place to own and invest in property,” says Texas real estate agent Doug Eastland, who sells homes in the Waco suburb of Crawford, where the former commander in chief owns a ranch. “Before Bush, I doubt many people outside the Waco area had heard of Crawford.”
Eastland and agents in other communities where America’s four surviving ex-presidents live say house hunters almost always want to drive by the former leader’s home.”Our buyers ask where the Clintons live all the time,” says Debra Doern, who runs a real estate firm in Bill and Hillary Clinton’s adopted hometown of Chappaqua, N.Y. Locals also like to catch an occasion glimpse of an ex-president.
Kevin Robert, who manages Coldwell Banker’s office in former President George H.W. Bush’s hometown of Kennebunkport, Maine, says residents often see the former leader dining in local restaurants or attending charitable events.”There is great appreciation by townspeople for the president and his family,” Robert says.Here’s a Presidents Day Weekend look at real estate in Kennebunkport and other communities that America’s ex-leaders now call home:
Former president: George W. Bush
Hometown: Crawford, Texas
With less than 800 residents, Crawford was just a small rural suburb 20 miles west of Waco until Bush became president in 2001. But Eastland, who works for local firm Magnolia Realty, says souvenir stores “popped up overnight” after Bush’s inauguration — followed by gawkers, journalists, protesters and the president’s entourage. “It was always exciting to see the Marine helicopters fly over on their way to the ranch, the jets circling the entire area as well as the parade of black SUVs,” he says. “Although security was tight when Bush was in town, I think the vast majority of people were proud to have him as a neighbor and accommodated the press, the lookers and his security as best as they could. “Of course, things have calmed down since Bush left office in 2009. “You can still see President Bush on rare occasion — obviously not as much as when he was in office — but I believe the true locals appreciate his privacy,” Eastland says. As for Crawford’s housing market, the town offers a mix of farms, ranches, older properties and upscale homes that are popular with executives who work in Waco but prefer living in a rural environment.
Former president: Bill Clinton
Hometown: Chappaqua, N.Y./Harlem, N.Y. (office)
The Clintons opted to move to New York rather than return to Arkansas after the White House, paving the way for former First Lady Hillary Clinton to become one of the Empire State’s U.S. senators.Bill Clinton originally planned to open his post-White House office in Midtown Manhattan, but switched to Harlem after critics complained about his first choice’s high rent (the U.S. government would have picked up the tab).Real estate agent John McGuinness says Clinton’s decision to locate the office along the neighborhood’s struggling 125th Street helped boost the neighborhood’s image. “I don’t think the average New York business owner would have considered 125th Street as a viable office location,” McGuinness says. “However, after Clinton’s big move and all of the publicity that it got, I think perceptions started to change. “As for housing, the Clintons moved to the toney suburb of Chappaqua some 30 miles northeast of Manhattan. “Having the former president in town has absolutely helped to make Chappaqua a more recognizable and desirable place to live,” says Houlihan Lawrence’s Doern.
Former president: George H.W. Bush
Hometown: Kennebunkport, Maine
The coastal Maine resort community of Kennebunkport often hosts not one ex-president, but two. George H.W. Bush has long lived in town, while son George W. Bush visits frequently. “Obviously, having two former presidents associated with Kennebunkport attracts formidable interest from around the world — and many people like to be the Bush family’s neighbors,” says Kevin Robert, the Coldwell Banker broker. Having two former leaders in town, though, merely adds to a desirability Kennebunkport has long had with buyers, Robert says. “Properties have been passed down from generation to generation and purchased by people from around the country and the world,” he says. “All of them appreciate Kennebunkport for what it offers besides the Bushes — four seasons of Maine beauty.
Former president: Jimmy Carter
Hometown: Plains, Ga.
Jimmy Carter put tiny Plains, Ga., on the map when he won the presidency in 1976.He and first lady Rosalynn Carter grew up in town, and returned to the rural community of some 700 people when they left the White House in 1981. “When President Carter first took office, the real estate market in Plains was booming,” says local broker Ronnie Greer. “Many buyers from out of town and even out of the country were buying up land in Plains. “More than 30 years later, Greer says the Carter family’s draw has mostly diminished. But some Carter fans still travel to Plains to meet the former president, who often teaches Sunday school at his church and greets well-wishers who attend services there. And while most homebuyers move to Plains for family reasons these days, some come to work for the Secret Service, the Carter-linked charity Habitat for Humanity or a museum the National Park Service operates at Carter’s boyhood home. Greer says all newcomers find the community, some 120 miles south of Atlanta, offers plenty of Southern charm. “Plains is a small rural town and is considered very friendly and safe,” Greer says. “All the people here look after each other, as do people in other small communities in the South.”