Best known for her captivating role as Dr. Jennifer Melfi, mobster Tony Soprano's psychotherapist, actress and real estate enthusiast Lorraine Bracco discusses the virtues of bricks-and-mortar investments over stocks, diamonds, and furs.
You own two homes outside New York and another in Hollywood, Fla. Real estate has helped secure your financial independence. What inspired you to buy your current homes?
Bracco: To me, real estate is tangible, understandable, and secure. I invest very, very little in the stock market.
The housing slowdown has shaken a lot of people's confidence. Has it altered your strategy?
Bracco: I always feel the stock market will go up, go down. Some people are very, very good at understanding that medium. The housing market will do the same thing, but for me it's worked out. I was lucky when I bought a loft in Tribeca in lower Manhattan and sold it in 1999. Normal girls shop for shoes. A friend and I bought in Florida. I needed a place to relax and vacation. It's a dream come true. A great location on the beach and a short [plane] ride from New York.
What else do you like about real estate?
Bracco: I've never had a bad experience with real estate or a real estate professional. I was always able to get properties I wanted, and they helped facilitate that.
Any plans to buy other properties since salespeople remind us that now is a great time to invest?
Bracco: You know, today, no. Tomorrow may bring a new opportunity. Who knows?
You've worked hard to achieve financial security. What advice can you share to help real estate practitioners who struggle?
Bracco: I'm a single mom, and there were times when it was a huge burden to pay the mortgage, property tax, and upkeep. I always felt the down payment was the hardest part, but if you're paying rent you're putting money into somebody else's pocket, so it was worth the struggle.
You're on the board of directors of Riverkeeper, an environmental organization that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. heads. Are your homes green?
Bracco: I would say my homes are 50 percent green, and I'm still working on it. It's not the easiest thing to do. I went from oil to gas, changed light bulbs, and bought energy-saving appliances. When my car dies, I'll get a hybrid. I'm involved with Riverkeeper because Bobby Kennedy said, You have a house on the Hudson River. You have to be on the board.
How'd you get into importing Italian wines under the Bracco Wines label?
Bracco: I spent 10 years in France and learned how to eat, drink, and speak French. As a celebrity, you're often offered all kinds of deals. Nothing appealed until somebody came to me with this idea. My father is Italian-American. It felt right. I go to Italy and different vintners. Last year, we sold between 10,000 and 13,000 cases. I haven't yet bought vineyards but I hope to.
You wrote in your memoir, On the Couch (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2006), that Prince Charming isn't coming. He isn't on the horizon. You're honestly not waiting for another prince?
Bracco: I'm not. I've achieved financial independence and have two great kids. I think today, with the 50 percent divorce rate, women need to learn to forgo the diamond and mink coat and get a strip mall. Things happen for reasons. Alone time is incredibly valuable.
Visit Bracco online at www.braccowines.com.