Picture your home surrounded by a crew of 50 people, flanked by cameras and trailers. Picture the interior of your home resembling Home Depot’s paint aisle.
While most owners wouldn’t exactly welcome that sort of home invasion, others are finding it to be a lucrative side hustle.
Homeowners in Tinseltown are increasingly seeing the benefits of living (literally) with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood by offering up their properties to production crews. Some make as much as $36,000 a day doing so, The Real Deal found, as a separate location-scouter-slash-broker business blossoms around the transactions. Agents and owners also use a home’s on-camera debut for marketing materials when they ultimately list it for sale, hosting open houses and events in the theme of what has been filmed there.
Show me the money
Whether it’s for a a one-day commercial shoot or a weekslong production, homeowners willing to put their pads on screen can supplement their income in a major way.
Danny Gerardi, owner of the home at 11947 Iredell Street in Studio City — better known as the fake exterior of the “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” estate — said he’s received as much as $36,000 a day for a shoot. What’s more, the location was used on the show for seven out of its 10 years on air.
Gerardi’s home of twelve years — a 7,800-square-foot, seven-bedroom, ornate Italian Mediterranean residence on a 38,000-square-foot lot — has also been featured in “Chelsea Lately,” “True Blood,” “American Horror Story,” “Chuck,” and even a Victoria’s Secret commercial.
Gerardi, who said he initially feared the stressful nature of letting crews paint and rearrange his home, eventually got hooked with the business because the “money was good” and the crews turned out to be more respectful of his property than he expected.
“‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ turned out to be a pain in the butt, but it paid well,” Gerardi said.
Gerardi said his rates typically range from $10,000 to $30,000 per day, depending on the show and production. A portion of that goes to location scouting agencies, which can take up to 30 percent in commission. His home — which is listed for sale at $7.8 million — is used when a large luxury location is needed.
Homes in tony areas like Malibu and Beverly Hills are often chosen to show the sophisticated life, while homes in the Valley are increasingly sought by location scouts for their wide streets, parking accessibility and classic suburban look.
“[Scouts] like to find a house that can be anywhere U.S.A.,” said Brian Ofria, who has rented out his cul-de-sac home in Woodland Hills to crews from “Bones” and “Silicon Valley.” “They don’t like lots of palm trees — that just puts it into SoCal — it needs to be a generic-looking house.”
Ofria, who has been lending the for-sale, 7,400-square-foot home on Ostronic Drive in Woodland Hills to productions for more than 10 years, said he typically earns anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 a day, depending on the show and whether its an indoor or outdoor production.
Cindy Nelson Muller, who owns a Southern Colonial property at Franklin Avenue near Runyon Canyon with her husband, Michael Taverna, also made bank, but for the opposite reason: Her two-story home (also for sale) is sought after because it stands out.
The estate was featured in the iconic scene when James Dean’s character “Jim Stark” is seen passed out on the front lawn in “Rebel Without a Cause.” Scouts fancy it for its traditional facade and “old world, luxurious” charm, she said. Muller inherited the home with a framed still from that scene. Under her, its interior was used in a Revlon commercial featuring Emma Stone, where it appears to be a bedroom, despite it being the home’s actual foyer.
David Hatfield, who leads the agency Cast Locations, said his firm will often prioritize character over size when scouting a home. One of his most popular locations is the 1950s-built home of a 101-year-old woman in Tarzana, simply because “it looks like it hasn’t changed in 50 years, and that’s hard to get.”
The behind-the-scenes hustle
Pitching a home as a location is almost like looking for an acting gig — getting a big break isn’t a cakewalk. Ofria said he reached out to several agencies before landing a show. Despite Muller’s familiarity with the film industry (she and her husband run a film production company), she had to hire a photographer and build a website for the home before scoring screen time.
“I reached out to the film commission here in Los Angeles so it was listed there and I think I contacted five different location [agencies],” Muller said.
Gerardi, on the other hand, said a scout initially approached him. He’s now partnered up with five separate location agencies.
“It just boomerangs,” Gerardi said. “It’s like [how it happens for] actors — Steven Spielberg will call them and then another producer will call them. That’s what happened with this house.”
But once that boomerang is in motion, it seems to be the gift that keeps on giving.
Homeowners who crave this, however, should know what’s in store.
“As a homeowner if you want to do this, you have to be very flexible,” Ofria said. “Understand that they’re using your house and you can’t get upset.”
Regardless of the intrusion, it’s a “nice way to make some money from that house that’s always taking money from you,” Hatfield said.
Brokers who sell homes are increasingly pointing to the residence’s ability to generate profit as a key selling point.
Gerardi, who said he’s unsure whether the next owner will continue in his footsteps, said the buyer of his house has the potential of making $500,000 a year from it. “How do you turn down $22,000 a day?” he asked hypothetically.
Brandon Assanti of Rodeo Realty recently hosted an open house for Gerardi’s property, where he served Italian food to Kardashian fans and prospective owners. Out of those that showed up, almost half of them brought up the Kardashians, Assanti said.
“The biggest job for a real estate agent is to track down the buyer wherever they are in the world,” Assanti said. “When you’re lucky enough to have a house that’s already gorgeous and in all these amazing appearances and pop culture history, it just immediately expands your range in terms of how you can target and locate the potential buyer.”
History is also used as a selling point. Jeff Hyland’s brokerage Hilton & Hyland recently hosted an open house for an estate formerly owned by Elvis Presley. The provenance was zealously advertised on the open house’s invitation, which went out during the Inman Conference, when buyer’s brokers were in town from all over the world.
“That’s the nice thing about selling real estate here — so many of our high-end houses have [either] a pedigree, brand, name, or an architect that you can attach to the property,” Hyland said. “We may be the only place in the country [where] that is so common.”
The agency business
The profitable side hustle has led to the formation of a burgeoning industry.
Larchmont-based Cast Locations, one of many agencies that helps television shows find their real estate match, represents over 2,000 properties — mostly homes — in the SoCal area. The firm scouts for movies, television, commercials, print and even music videos throughout the 30-mile region. It recently secured homes used for “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “La La Land,” and “The Social Network.”
“We’re acting like an agent — we supervise the whole production and make sure that we do the contracts, protect the homeowner, collect insurance and make sure payment is made,” Hatfield said.
An average salary for a film location scout clocks in at about $71,000, according to job site Simply Hired. Glassdoor, another popular employment site, pegs the number at $54,000. But more than just the scouts are needed for the deal to run smoothly. On any given day, Cast Locations has anywhere from five to 10 people working for them.
“We hire a number of site reps that are independent contractors to supervise the shoots,” Hatfield said. “We have a pool that we call upon — about 20 or so people. We also have a photographer who photographs most of our locations, as well as people that help coordinate viewing appointments and bookings.”
In the third quarter alone, 9,455 on-location shoot days were logged by the nonprofit Film L.A., which works to “attract and retain film production in L.A.”
Feature films and commercials dominated the quarter, while reality and comedy TV slowed down. Despite quarterly declines, however, on-location filming has increased by 10 percent over the past five years.
The blossoming industry has even prompted one individual to start what he dubs “the Airbnb of Location Scouting,” according to a Curbed article. Wrapal, which launched in 2016, cuts location scouts out of the process by offering a website through which owners can submit their homes, availability, pricing and scheduling directly to productions. The startup launched in May with roughly 750 locations, and now has 1,200 locations in California and New York on its website.
Brian Tan, the startup’s co-founder, described it this way: “Think Airbnb and Uber for film.”