NEW YORK – Being on a real estate reality TV show can be a great way to gin up business, but it can have its downsides, too.

  • Real estate reality TV shows make being a real estate agent more attractive to young people.
  • Agents on TV will see consequences from increased visibility, like potential stalkers and a heavy rise in inquiries.
  • Reality TV production companies will edit their footage in ways out of agents' control.

NEW YORK — Being on a real estate reality TV show can be a great way to gin up business, but it can have its downsides, too.

Real estate broker Herman Chan caught the attention of a stalker after a stint on House Hunters on HGTV. Chan went to the police, but they said they couldn’t go after the guy because he hadn’t done anything to Chan yet.

Herman Chan

“You can’t arrest him until I’m Herman Chan sushi? Arghhhhhh! ” the broker quipped on the “Is Reality TV Bad for Real Estate?” panel today at the Inman Connect New York conference.

Fellow broker Samantha DeBianchi even had someone come to her house. But she recognized that that’s a risk real estate professionals take when they make themselves visible, TV or no TV.

“I have nine bus benches that I have my face and information on,” she said.

And they’ve worked well for her. People remember her from Million Dollar Listing Miami on Bravo, but they don’t realize she’s local until they see the bench ads.

“I am all about old-school stuff, because that’s the stuff that works,” she said.

Not that a season on a reality TV show hurts. In fact, DeBianchi’s biggest tip to agents on television was to be prepared for the business that will come.

Samantha DeBianchi

“The power of television and exposure, it’s priceless. Visibility is priceless,” she said.

“Set up that CRM [customer relationship management system]. Get ready to man those phones, because the phone calls will come. The emails will come.”

Prepare your agents to prequalify those people, because they’ll claim they can “suddenly afford a $10 million house,” she said.

And make sure you respond immediately to phone calls and emails, she added.

“Because if not, people will think, ‘She’s too busy on TV, he’s too busy on TV, to service us appropriately,'” she said.

“You have to be a real person.”

Justin Fichelson, an agent who was on Million Dollar Listing San Francisco, found that the people who reached out to him liked and trusted him from seeing him on TV.

Justin Fichelson

“[They] felt like they knew me in a weird way,” he said.

Before being on TV, he was a pretty new agent, he added. “Now the bulk of my business is related to being on TV,” he said.

For him, any publicity is good publicity.

“I think [reality TV has] popularized real estate as an industry,” he said.

“People going to college now want to become real estate agents and I think that’s a good thing.”

How they broke in

Fichelson said someone suggested him to Million Dollar Listing San Francisco‘s casting company.

Chan was discovered through his blog, ‘Habitat for Hermanity.’

DeBianchi took a proactive approach.

“I knew I wanted to be on television, specifically on Million Dollar Listing, even before I had a real estate license,” she said.

She tried out. “I was told I wasn’t good enough, and they only wanted three guys because, ‘that’s what works,'” she said.

So she put together a PowerPoint presentation, which she thought was “serious” but the casting company deemed “hilarious.”

The company hired her and from there went looking for her two co-stars.

‘Always on’

For his part, Chan said he wouldn’t be able to do another show “because everyone is always on.” Back when he was on House Hunters nearly a decade ago, he was “wide-eyed and naive,” he said.

Now everyone is on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram Stories, he said.

“It’s really important to be on social media,” Fichelson said.

It helps him keep up momentum after being in the national spotlight. “I’ll post a listing on [Instagram] and it gets global exposure,” he said.

He, like DeBianchi, also frequently offers commentary on news channels such as CNBC and Fox, and speaks at conferences to keep his name out there.

DeBianchi is also working on a book and has a weekly real estate advice column in South Florida’s Sun Sentinel.

“Just be in the press as much as you can,” Chan advised.

Be yourself

Another downside: Reality TV production companies will edit their footage in ways out of agents’ control.

“In some of these shows we roll out of bed, do a deal and then go to the spa. We all know that’s not reality,” DeBianchi said.

Viewers want “the two Es,” Chan said: entertainment and education. “You can’t deliver things straightforward anymore,” he said.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, that’s why Donald Trump was elected,” he added.

“It used to be who was the most qualified, then it was who do I like [and] who can I have a beer with, and now it’s who can entertain me.”

Nonetheless, the real estate pros advised attendees to be themselves when they’re in limelight.

“Agents come in all different stripes … some buttoned up, some in jeans,” Fichelson said.

DeBianchi hired a media trainer to learn about what to do and not do in front of a camera. She advised anyone who wants to be on TV to do this to learn how to “answer the questions that you want versus what you’re being asked.”

Her particular worry was her habit of using her hands when she talked.

But the trainer encouraged her to embrace her animated way of talking, she said.

Now DeBianchi runs her own real estate coaching platform, offering “real-talk advice.”

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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