In the past couple of years the cable television networks have released a slew of shows devoted to the real estate business. Among them: House Hunters, What You Get for the Money, Buy Me, Flip This House and Designed to Sell, all on HGTV. Then there's Location, Location, Location on BBC America, Flip That House on TLC and Double Agents on Discovery Home Channel. None that I've seen have really created compelling television. The other night, however, I happened to sit down with a reviewer's copy of Million Dollar Listing which debuts Tuesday, August 29 at 9 p.m. on Bravo. This show, which focuses on the trials and tribulations of a handful of high-end brokers in Los Angeles and Malibu, has it all, drama, backstabbing, cliff hangers and a pretty good dose of real estate education. In one episode, LA broker Ray Schuldenfrei has to tell a client that his house would sell better if they removed his furniture. "Is my stuff that awful," the shocked client replies. It's an exchange that later prompts even the goodnatured Ray to say, "The best time to sell a house is when the owner's dead." I wasn't surprised when I saw during the credits that the show was created by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, the production team behind such well-received documentaries as The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Inside Deep Throat. They've got a remarkable ability to capture quirky people and pop culture.
Among the real estate lessons learned: The average seller meets with three listing agents before choosing the one that gets the home. The number one reason houses fail to sell is that they're overpriced. Serious buyers often drop in during the broker open houses before the homes officially get listed. Buyers who take photos of homes during the open houses have 60% better recall of the properties. The buyers who complain about the house the most during tours are typically the ones who make offers. Some clever buyers offer more than the asking price and then ask for all of it back during inspections. Nearly one in five deals falls appart during that process. Verbal agreements carry no weight in the court of law.