How real estate’s reality TV stars turn air time into dollars

Some MDLNY stars have shot to the top of TRD's latest residential broker ranking

Jun.June 05, 2018 12:00 PM

From left: Fredrik Eklund, Ryan Serhant and Steve Gold

When the Corcoran Group hired “Million Dollar Listing New York” co-star Steve Gold in April, it broke its own (unwritten) rule that banned its agents from appearing on reality TV. But Gold — who was at Town Residential before it collapsed — was apparently a big enough get to overlook the TV cameras.
For agents (and their firms), international TV exposure can be a game changer.

“It’s my hard work that got me there, and why they wanted me on the show,” said Gold. “But [the added exposure] is a tool in my toolbox.”

It’s hard to quantify the impact that appearing on TV actually has. But it has bumped a few to the upper reaches of the residential brokerage business.

Serhant, for example, ranked No. 15 on TRD’s top agents list in 2012 — the year “MDLNY” debuted. This year, he clocked in at No. 1 for Manhattan closed sales.

Meanwhile, Eklund and business partner John Gomes have ranked in the top five since 2014 — including twice in the No. 1 spot.

“It’s phenomenal exposure,” said one top agent. “You’re exposed to several hundred million [viewers]; you do the math.”

See TRD’s full ranking of top agents
by closed sales here and listings here

But some have groused about how these celebrity agents have seen their careers fast-tracked.

Others asked whether they even have time to sell real estate. Then there are those who say reality TV overdramatizes brokerage and sometimes portrays the industry in a negative light.

“It feels wrong to me that my friends and relatives say, ‘Oh my God, I saw this show and this guy slammed the phone and screwed his client,’” said one agent.

Elliman’s Michael Graves said appearing on reality shows comes with risks and rewards. Graves, who appeared on HGTV’s “Selling New York,” said he’s since turned down other opportunities because he thinks some shows take people and stories out of context.

“It depends on who your clients are. Do they work with you because you are entertaining or because you are a fantastic practitioner who knows your craft well?” he said.

Having just completed one season on the show, Gold said it’s too early to get a full sense of what it will ultimately mean for his business. But last year, he did grow his team to seven members from three to support an initial bump — and to free him up for filming.

“That also allowed me to take on more clients,” he said. “When it was just me, you only have 24 hours in the day.”

Elliman’s Mickey Conlon, who also starred on “Selling New York” from 2010 and 2014, said he and his husband/business partner, Tom Postilio, have also turned down other shows. But he said it’s hard to deny that reality TV is great for business.

“On a recent flight to L.A., the passenger in front of us stood up at the end of the flight, turned and looked at us and excitedly exclaimed, ‘Holy shit! You guys are those ‘Million Dollar Real Estate’ fuckers!,’” he said. “How do you respond to that? With a selfie, of course.”

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