Harry and Meghan rumours have ritzy Santa Barbara suburb panicked

When locals in the secluded California enclave of Hope Ranch heard that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle might be keen on leaving nearby Montecito to buy a home in the exclusive suburb, they didn’t roll out the welcome mat.

A Hope Ranch realtor told The New York Post that months after the rumours were reported by the Santa Barbara News-Press, their office continues to field calls from concerned longtime residents who fear the couple and their security team will disturb the peace in the quiet community where houses go for as much as $22.5m (AU$33.2m) and seclusion is the ultimate amenity.

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“The people that made the calls to me don’t want change and they don’t want all the hoopla,” the realtor, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Post.

Months after rumours circulated that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle might be looking at houses in ritzy Hope Ranch, near Santa Barbara, locals are still rattled. Picture: Getty Images

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Picture: Getty

“People are not happy, that’s the word around town. They want them to stay in Montecito and not be drawing that kind of attention to Hope Ranch,” another realtor and Santa Barbara native confirmed to The Post.

Neighbours swear they’ve seen Markle on the town’s private beach.

“Locals are worried” that Harry and Meghan coming to town could turn their community into “an extension of Montecito,” the second realtor added of Meghan and Harry’s current celebrity-studded suburb, where A-listers like Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom, Adam Levine, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston and Ellen DeGeneres own property.

There’s also concern about what Hope Ranch residents have heard from their neighbours in Montecito, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex purchased a $14.65m mansion in 2021.

One Montecito shop employee claimed to The Post that Harry and Meghan’s security team had shut down streets and blocked hiking trails.

Neighbours said they spotted Meghan Markle on the private beach in Hope Ranch. Picture: Getty

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“It is really not right for streets to be closed down and things to be closed down. And that’s been very disruptive to a small beach community that’s used to being private,” the employee said. “People pay a lot of money to live here.”

A source close to Harry and Meghan, however, denied this, asking how private security could close a public road.

“Introducing some very high-profile people [like Harry and Meghan] would totally change the area. That’s definitely not something that [locals] want and I think [the homeowners’ association] would fight hard against it,” said someone who lived in Hope Ranch until recently.

Harry and Meghan purchased their home in nearby Montecito in 2020 for $14.5m (AU$21m). Picture: Google Maps

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“The heads of the HOA are careful about keeping it that way and preserving privacy — that’s the number one appeal of Hope Ranch. We’re the only ones in the area with a private beach,” the former resident said.

Bryan Neyer, a Beverly Hills-based global luxury real estate specialist for Coldwell Banker Realty, told The Post that estates in Hope Ranch rarely come on the market and sellers can be selective about who they sell to.

“It’s more of a small and very affluent community where properties do not come on the market very often because of that. It’s a lot of old money. Old generational wealth. These properties just get passed from one generation to the next,” Neyer told The Post.

The UK’s Express reported this week that Harry and Meghan were “secretly” looking for houses in Malibu.

But the second realtor insists that the couple have “been considering moving to Hope Ranch for a long time …. People are up in arms about it,” she said.

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This story first appeared in The Post and was republished with permission.

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