Real Estate Fantasies

Celebrity agents are selling a dream, as real homes get more out of reach.

There are few acts more optimistic than shopping for a home. You walk through its doors, run your fingertips along its appliances and see your face reflected in its windows and mirrors. You consider untapped versions of your life, imagining yourself waking up every day in that bedroom, cooking every day in that kitchen and letting the years unfold between those walls.

Real estate agents understand this allure. The good ones package it up, serving it to clients in the form of property tours that show off not only a house, but also the life that a house can offer. And the really good ones are so adept at spinning the fantasy that they’re building careers on television out of it.

For a new story for The Times’s real estate section, which published this morning, I spent time with agents from shows like “Million Dollar Listing” and “Buying Beverly Hills” to understand how they became stars in their own right, and what that tells us about the state of housing in the U.S.

Late last year, I flew to Los Angeles to attend an awards show for some of Hollywood’s most famous real estate agents. Seated in the backyard of a sprawling estate once owned by Madonna, I watched as Mauricio Umansky, who stars on Netflix’s “Buying Beverly Hills,” cracked jokes and presented awards like “Stratospheric Sale of the Year.” (The winner was Kurt Rappaport, who represented Beyoncé and Jay-Z in their purchase of a $190 million Malibu pad last May.)

“This is the Oscars of real estate,” Alexander Ali, a public relations official, told me that night. He runs a company, the Society Group, devoted solely to promoting celebrity agents and the houses that they list.

Millions of us are hooked on his clients’ content. The most recent season of “Selling Sunset” brought in about 3.2 million streaming viewers per episode, according to Nielsen Media Research; “Buying Beverly Hills” drew 1.7 million per episode in its first season.

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This post was originally published on NY Times

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