When it comes to real estate TV, the public loves nothing more than expensive houses and high-flying agents. Celebrity agents like Million Dollar Listing‘s Ryan Serhant and Fredrik Eklund each have over a million followers on Instagram and a TV audience that follows their every move as they meet with buyers and sell homes.
But as is often pointed out by critics of popular real estate shows like Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing, HGTV’s Property Brothers and Fixer Upper, the line between performing and practicing real estate can get blurry. We asked a few celebrity real estate agents to dish about how they got into the show business industry and how the show side of things affects their business.
“I had to either get a survival job or move home or figure something out,” Serhant told Inman. “So I figured something out. I got my real estate license.”
After struggling to sell homes during the housing crisis, Serhant eventually secured the sale of an $8.5 million property and launched the Serhant Team, which closed more than $838 million in Manhattan real estate in 2017. He has been starring on Million Dollar Listing New York since 2010 — the show, which premiered Season 8 Thursday, tracks his team as they fight for deals on luxury apartments.
Serhant said that publicity from the show plays into the business side of things. The show’s popularity brings worldwide exposure to the team’s properties.
“The more people who know what you’re selling, the better,” Serhant said. “It’s lead gen. Some people have to buy leads, I have a television show that gets watched by 25 million people around the world. I am super lucky.”
This spring, a new luxury real estate show launched on Netflix — Selling Sunset follows broker Jason Oppenheim and his all-female team of agents through their work selling high-end homes around Los Angeles.
Oppenheim told Inman that the agency he owns with his twin brother Brett, The Oppenheim Group, got approached about a potential real estate show. He said that, even though they were not immediately interested, they warmed to the idea after realizing the potential marketing opportunities it could offer.
“It’s a nice way to start a conversation about real estate,” Oppenheim said, adding that the biggest stress came from having to work more hours every day due to filming schedules.
When asked about whether the show provides a glamorized or “acted” perspective into real estate work, Oppenheim said that any show needs to be quickened and edited to the most interesting parts of the business but that the agents featured on them are “some of the most successful in the country.”
One half of the two-person British agent team from Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, David Parnes said that he and his agent partner James Harris moved to L.A. for real estate work when they got approached by the show’s casting crew.
“We thought it was a joke, to be honest with you, but it wasn’t, and we ended up on TV,” Parnes told Inman. Like Serhant, Parnes said that the show has done wonders for publicity and advertising his properties.
“As agents, we are all about marketing,” he said. “When we have a listing, we want as many people to see it and to have the biggest exposure possible. The show has really enabled an exposure that money can’t buy.”