Parlay TV Fame brokers in real estate fortunes

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Tutor Tracy

Open-top buses roll east on the Sunset Strip, taking tourists past the famous rock clubs Whiskey a Go Go and Viper Room, then the beige offices of the Oppenheim group.

“Tour vans stop there now,” said Mary Fitzgerald, Oppenheim Group Inc. real estate agent and budding reality TV star, with a laugh.

Oppenheim Group is a high-end real estate brokerage firm at the center of Netflix Inc.’s “Selling Sunset” and its small office on Sunset Boulevard is a tourist draw these days. There are the tour vans and fans of the series walking by to take selfies.

The docusoap, which was developed and produced by Adam DiVello, creator of “The Hills,” follows the female agents of the Oppenheim group, cataloging the drama of their personal lives (whether real or staged) and their real estate listings. (ie, lustrous mansions perched in the hills).

Netflix isn’t divulging viewership numbers, but the show is so juicy that even mundane scenes of real estate agents working hard at their desks inspire viral tweets.

“Selling Sunset” debuted in March 2019 and aired for two seasons before taking off with viewers when the third season arrived in August.

“Season 3 is when everything changed, I think in part because of the pandemic,” Fitzgerald said. “Even though it wasn’t their jam, people still watched it, and they fell in love with it, and it blew up.”

His career too. Fitzgerald said its sales have grown 100% every year since the show started and now attracts customers from London, Dubai, Greece and Singapore.

As much as Bravo’s “Selling Sunset” and “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles” have shown the public the vanity, immaturity and pettiness of professionals managing multi-million dollar assets, they also reveal agents’ tenacity to close deals. and their ethical work and in-depth knowledge of the market.

The resulting intrinsic marketing value is unprecedented, the agents said.
“The exhibition is huge. How can this not be a game-changer? Said Josh Flagg, real estate agent and longtime Million Dollar Listing cast member.

“A phenomenal sales tool”

As “Selling Sunset” delves deep into the rocky friendships and romantic lives of its agents, the drama of “Million Dollar Listing” centers almost entirely on the sometimes friendly but above all fierce competition between its agents.

Bravo has always maintained that “Million Dollar Listing” is first and foremost a real estate show, said Douglas Elliman Beverly Hills real estate agent Tracy Tutor, who became the show’s only female agent and regular cast member when she joined in 2017 for season 10.

“We are not here to watch families fall apart and go on trips with girls,” she said.
“There is some credibility to our show because it is one of the longest shows on Bravo,” she added. “This translates to more business for us, as the public has watched our growth over the past few years as agents and as individuals. You get to know… our vulnerabilities, our strengths.

By the time Tutor joined the show, she said audiences had fully embraced unscripted television. She had seen this pay off for the male Million Dollar Listing agents and thought to herself, “Why shouldn’t I take this chance? “

Tutor grew up in Los Angeles and frequented USC, and said most of his business until “Million Dollar Listing” was generated by his network of friends and family, as well as referrals.

Now, she said she gets random phone calls and direct Instagram messages from potential customers looking for her because of the show. According to her estimate, around 50% are clients she could work with.

“You don’t have to pay for a sender when you’re on everyone’s TV set,” she said.

Flagg, who has appeared as a cast member in every season of “Million Dollar Listing” since Season 2, called the show a “phenomenal selling tool.”

“Agents will spend $ 1,000 to feature their properties in the LA Times,” he said.

“I mainly advertise my properties. I have to work really hard for this, but it doesn’t cost me any money.

The guardian did not talk about numbers but said agents were paid for their appearances.

“It’s not my main source of income,” she says. The real value is the ability to turn her fame into new business opportunities, like the book deal she said she landed as a result of “Million Dollar Listing”.

The book, “Fear is Just a Four Letter Word: How to Develop the Compelling Confidence to Own Any Room,” was published by Portfolio, a division of Penguin Random House, in July.

“I was writing it thinking, ‘Who the hell is going to read it? “… But there was an audience for it because of the show,” Tutor said.

Risk and reward

Million Dollar Listing agents said their names are so synonymous with the show, which has been on the air since 2006, that it would be impossible to estimate how much of their business results.

But the president of the Oppenheim group, Jason Oppenheim, is able to put some figures.
“A good 20%,” he said, is owed to “Sell Sunset”.

His brokerage, which employs 14 agents, reported 2020 revenue of $ 254 million, good for 43rd place on the Business Journal’s 2021 list of the best residential brokerages in LA County.

“My brother (Brett) and I had been approached for some time by different agents and producers interested in talking to us about the possibility of doing a show on the team and the office,” he said. “Being on Sunset Boulevard probably added a certain element. Or they had seen photos of the team.

“(But) we haven’t been interested for a long time. … We thought it was more risk than reward, and things were going so well (for us) already, ”said Oppenheim.

Then, at the end of 2016, they heard DiVello, and he changed his mind.

“We knew his history with ‘The Hills’ and ‘Laguna Beach’. His idea for the show was something I think we all felt comfortable with, ”said Fitzgerald. “He wanted to focus more on the beauty of Los Angeles and the homes and empowerment of women.”

“I was on board. Of course, like everyone else, I had slight fears and reservations. I wanted it to catapult my career. If I can get more clients and be successful even faster, then why not? But the downside was… we really had no idea (what the show was going to be about).

DiVello convinced them to do a sizzle reel, which Fitzgerald said several networks had refused.

“We all wanted Netflix but didn’t hear anything,” she said. “After a few months, I think we all gave up hope.”

Then Netflix gave them the green light, transforming their lives and careers.

“When Season 1 came up, we were all scared. We’re not actors. We didn’t know how they were going to portray us,” Fitzgerald said.

It was difficult to let go of creative control, Oppenheim said, and the show ended up becoming more interested in the personal lives of women than he and the other agents had anticipated. But he suspects that’s what helped make it a success.

“There are a lot of reviews in the public eye,” Oppenheim said. “For some women, it’s difficult. There will always be trolls and idiots. But overall it was a positive experience.

Oppenheim said his inbox was flooded with resumes from agents looking to join the team, and while he’s just opened an office in Corona del Mar, he’s not looking to expand the LA office.

“I like the team dynamic,” he said. “My goal is not to be a manager. It’s more about being an agent.

For Fitzgerald, “Selling Sunset”, for the most part, did exactly what she hoped.

“A lot more people know who I am. I don’t have to sell myself. I don’t need to have that many references, ”she said.

“I never wanted to be a celebrity,” Fitzgerald added. “The reason I agree with that is because we are doing the exact same things that we were doing before. I can spend time with my best friends in the world and do a job that I love.

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