The estate agents may look like they’ve just stepped off the Victoria’s Secret catwalk and the money involved is enough to make your head spin.
In fact, some people think all of Selling Sunset is fake. But the Netflix reality TV series has definitely captured people’s imagination — and there are certainly some things to learn when it comes to marketing even the simplest of British homes.
The Selling Sunset Look
The archetypal Selling Sunset home is a sprawling contemporary property, opulent yet open, surrounded by terraced gardens, a pool and a deck for outdoor dining. UK homeowners should note the emphasis on the quality of the outdoor space — which is key to selling a property now.
Smash hit: This home sold for $35.5million on the show. Inset, estate agent Heather Rae Young
Another vital element is these homes’ neutral decor, an elegant mix of white, grey and pale wood. It’s the colour combination that buyers in Beverley Hills and Britain want, providing payback for a modest outlay on paint.
In one episode, the Oppenheim realtors organise a $40,000 (£30,253) mini-makeover for a property, involving repainting and repairs, adding $240,000 (£181,520) to the $3.6million (£2.72million) price.
Eccentricity may repel buyers, as we learn during a scene between Heather Rae Young, an Oppenheim realtor, and the designer from a staging business who has given a Wild West look to a property, with a cowskin rug and stools with buffalo-shaped legs. Heather, a beautiful but formidable figure, orders that these be immediately replaced.
The staging of properties is routine in the U.S., even in the mid-range market. These specialists redecorate, reorganise and may temporarily replace furniture. But you can stage your own home, with ruthless tidying and the acquisition of bargain throws and mirrors at The Range, Wayfair or Dunelm.
If the garage or spare rooms are full of unwanted impedimenta, a business such as AnyJunk promises the sustainable disposal of items. Your aim should be to create space, but not a sense of emptiness. Michael McHale, of Harding Green (hardinggreen.com), a London agent, says: ‘Without furnishings, people underestimate a room’s potential. They need to see how a room functions, allowing them to visualise living and entertaining in the space.’
Ready for a close-up
The need to spruce up your home has become even greater following the move to initial virtual viewings in the UK. More than ever, you may not get a second chance to make a first impression.
People are now less willing to agree to a viewing of a property that looks poorly maintained, either in a video or in pictures on Rightmove and Zoopla.
Ensure that the photographs and video of your property are smart and well-lit and have maximum kerb-appeal — ask for approval before the images are posted.
You need to maintain these high standards until the deal is done. Even cupboards should be pristine in case someone looks inside. Before a viewing, an Oppenheim Group realtor arrives early to check that the property looks immaculate, beautiful enough to ensure that house-hunters shrug off shortcomings such as a location close to a busy road, or the difficult drive up a windy Los Angeles mountain road.
‘Property is about percentages: if you can look 10 per cent better, you’ll achieve 10 per cent more,’ says Mr McHale.
The price must be right
A recurring storyline in Selling Sunset is the $75million (£56.7million) house which remains unsold because the developer won’t lower his expectations.
Rival realtors consider that $50million (£44.62million) may be a more realistic figure for the 15,605 sq ft house, despite its ‘seamless indoor/outdoor flow for entertaining’. Agency owners Jason and Brett Oppenheim also see the price as excessive, fearing reputational risk from a property that will not sell (if only more British agents felt this way).
Appeal: A well-presented Cambridgeshire home, £1.25million with Strutt and Parker
The $75 million house remains an extreme illustration of the risks of overpricing any home because you have a set idea of what it is worth. Before taking on an agent, consult the estate agency comparison tool operated by Which? (which. co.uk).
Shortlist three agencies and ask each one to give a valuation, bearing in mind that the agency that gives the most optimistic figure may be desperate to obtain the listing but unable to deliver a buyer.
The asking price should reflect current local market conditions and prices achieved by comparable nearby homes. If the agent is confident of demand for a property, they may suggest setting a lower price to spark a bidding war.
On Selling Sunset, a property’s asking price is seen as the starting point for a negotiation. But this reflects the way American realtors operate. One member of the Oppenheim team may be acting for the buyer and another for the seller.
In either role, they are motivated by the high commission rates — 3 per cent of the price (against about 1.4 per cent in the UK).
In Selling Sunset, the wedding of Mary Fitzgerald, one of the Oppenheim team, is held at a $9.1million house on the agency’s books. Asked to show the property to a prospective buyer on the morning of her big day, Mary agrees — and sells it there and then. Hurray for Hollywood.