Brokerlebrities: Reality TV’s New Stars

Ryan Serhant, Nest Seekers International | Michael Lorber, Prudential Douglas Elliman | Fredrik Eklund, Prudential Douglas Elliman
Ryan Serhant, Nest Seekers International | Michael Lorber, Prudential Douglas Elliman | Fredrik Eklund, Prudential Douglas Elliman Image Source: BravoTV

The newest reality TV show about high-end brokers, Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York,” premieres March 7th and chronicles three high-end brokers in Manhattan. The original “Million Dollar Listing,” is now in its fifth season in Los Angeles, having averaged 1.2 million viewers a week last year, and then there’s also HGTV’s series “Selling New York,” that follows agents from three real estate companies, now in its fourth season.

Real estate reality shows give viewers the same voyeuristic pleasure of peeking inside spectacular homes and letting them imagine, “What if that were me?” as “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” did in 1984.  But there is something more emotionally charged about the buying and selling of real estate — especially in the stratospherically priced Manhattan market — that goes far beyond simple video tours of palatial homes. The heat of the deal can bring out the worst in people, and compared with a lot of the reality shows that feel less than real, the sight of people digging in their heels on deals can often make for don’t-touch-that-remote television.

In the show’s premiere, realtor Fredrik Eklund (of Prudential Douglas Elliman) is informed by his client that he wants to be paid $2.2 million for his apartment, followed by the warning, “I don’t want you to [expletive] this up.” Mr. Eklund frowns.  In Episode 2, Mr. Eklund reaches an impasse with a client when she stubbornly refuses to drop the price of her converted textile factory to under $7 million. “It is worth that and every penny more because of the detail that we have put into this,” she says. “I am not being thick-headed.”  Another agent, Michael Lorber of Prudential Douglas Elliman, loses a deal for an eager Newport socialite when he waits too long over the weekend to submit her offer. She is shaking and visibly upset with him.

Ryan Serhant, Managing Director at Nest Seekers International
Ryan Serhant, Managing Director at Nest Seekers International Image Source: Facebook

The show’s third broker, Ryan Serhant of Nest Seekers, charms an Asian heiress into hiring a professional organizer to deal with a bedroom stuffed with 800 pairs of shoes and dozens of high-priced jackets and gowns (the room is locked so that only she can enter by using a thumb-print entry pad). She is crestfallen when he explains that buyers are unimpressed by the white Carrera marble and hidden plasma television, and that the price needs to be dropped from the original $4.4 million listing.  In a later episode, Mr. Serhant told me, he copes with a buyer looking for a home for him and his pet wallaby. “Some people might think that was too weird,” Mr. Serhant said. “But I strapped that wallaby to my chest and figured out how I could make it work.”

Bravo’s production team searched high and low and found three agents who are young, single and all seemingly on the rise (certainly they will be after their star turns— that the television exposure will be good for business seems all but assured.). Mr. Eklund is a 34-year-old Swede who starred as Tag Eriksson in gay adult films back home before becoming an agent. On the show he calls himself “the closer, and the listing machine.”  He has a friendly rivalry with Mr. Serhant, a former hand model and short-lived soap star whose character on “As the World Turns” was a biochemist gone bad.  They are tall, perfectly groomed and dressed in pricey tailored suits, and there are plenty of shirtless scenes where Mr. Eklund and Mr. Serhant show off their lean bodies.  Mr. Lorber, the third agent, is “5-foot-8 on a good day,” and is the son of Howard Lorber, the chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman.  At 32, he dyes his graying hair on the show and admits his tailored wardrobe is more “60-year-old man.”

They lead a fast-paced life. Mr. Eklund and Mr. Serhant are up at 5 a.m. and in the gym by 5:30. Mr. Eklund can’t put down his BlackBerry, even in the whirlpool.  Mr. Serhant shaves his arms in the shower and brags about a recent conquest to his unimpressed female assistant.  There are confrontations, like when Mr. Eklund tries to steal a potential client from Mr. Serhant at a restaurant, but there are also moments intended to balance the ruthless dealmaking, like when the camera crew followed Mr. Eklund to Stockholm, where he owns a real estate agency. He gives his mother money and his father tells his son he needs more life balance.

“Million Dollar Listing New York” promises a look into Manhattan’s most exquisite real estate, the properties’ eccentric and demanding owners, and pretty, successful men with competing egos.  In short, great reality TV.   Check out a preview video here.

Source: The New York Times

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