“Renting” New York: Rapid Realty tries its hand at reality television

Rental brokerage is pitching networks on a show for “the 99 percent”
By Hayley Kaplan | January 28, 2013 06:00PM

Rapid Realty, the massive Brooklyn-based franchise rental brokerage, is aiming to get into the reality television game, with a series about real estate for “the 99 percent” and the agents who work with them.

Where other realty reality offerings focus on multi-million dollar listings and ultra-wealthy clientele, the Rapid show will examine “what it’s like for a customer to come to New York, deal with the shell shock, approval process and all the melee that goes into actually getting a decent apartment in New York,” Anthony Lolli, the firm’s founder and CEO, told The Real Deal.

Although Rapid has not yet secured a network for the series, the show is being produced by Leopard Films, the producer of HGTV’s “House Hunters International,” “Hidden Potential,” and other real estate-themed programs.

Rapid signed the deal with Leopard about six months ago after negotiating with three other production companies, Lolli said. He declined to disclose the deal’s terms, except to say that Leopard was funding the series. So far, three episodes have been filmed.

Lolli has pitched the show to three networks, which he declined to name, and is waiting for a response. The show does not yet have a name, although one working title is “Work Hard Play Hard.”

Each episode features a new agent and apartment seeker. The show will also go behind the scenes, looking at how new agents struggle to pay the rent by making deals, and how Lolli, Chief Operating Officer Carlos Angelucci and the dozens of individuals who own Rapid franchises across New York City run the business.

“[Lolli’s] always on the go, works 20 hours a day, travels a lot,” Gabriel Chapman, Rapid Realty’s media director, said. “He’s a young guy that didn’t come from money and made himself. It’s like seeing Richard Branson before [he] became a billionaire.”

However, Deborah Lupard, a broker at Warburg Realty who has appeared on HGTV’s “Selling New York,” was skeptical that a brokerage could manage both the business and a show.

“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” she said. “Either you’re a firm that sells apartments or you’re a reality show.”

Though some of Rapid’s agents were concerned about their privacy, about 300 others auditioned at a casting call. The producers looked for cast members that viewers could “root for or root against” who would be prepared for the increased exposure, Lolli said.

“We wanted to make sure that we picked somebody that was okay with stardom and okay with endorsements and [could] go along with the ride in the long haul,” he said.

The team ultimately chose about 110 individuals to appear on the show or in the background. Participants will get a share of the profits from Lolli’s production company, Lolli Brand Entertainment.

“We knew that they might turn into superstars and we wanted to reward their efforts and ourselves at the same time,” Lolli said.

Chapman, who lives in part of Lolli’s home that’s been converted into a studio and often organizes brokerage parties at their house, got involved in the show after attending the casting call. “I’m just kind of along for the ride because it’s fun,” he said. “I try not to be cast in a bad light.”

The agency’s reality show plans began when a producer at MTV approached Lolli about making the show. The producer eventually moved to “House Hunters International” and Leopard Films, which expressed interest in the idea.

Still, the show joins an increasingly crowded pool of programs that focus on New York real estate, such as “Selling New York,” which stars brokers from Warburg, Core and Kleier Residential, and Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Listing New York,” which stars Douglas Elliman’s Fredrik Eklund and Nest Seekers International’s Ryan Serhant. (Cast member Michael Lorber, of Elliman, left the show after the first season.)

But Lupard said the new show would not face stiff competition. “There’s room for more of anything,” she said.

Leopard Films did not respond to requests for comment.