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July 23, 2015

“Million Dollar Listing SF”: Fun Foray Into Unreality TV


I’ve been enjoying Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing San Francisco. The show is a kick, even if it’s all fake and bears little resemblance to the way the real estate business is done in our city. Who cares? We get to see attractive shots of various San Francisco icons and neighborhood streets, and sexy properties—and the show is way easier to follow than season two of “True Detective.”

Sometimes we get to see actual successful agents dropping in, like Joel Goodrich and Dona Crowder. Otherwise, we’re treated to the scripted antics of three agents named Andrew, Roh and Justin who are playing the roles of “top agents.”

But the writers take a wrong turn on the credibility road in this week’s episode. Out-of-area agent Andrew is tasked with handling a newly renovated, south-of-Cortland Bernal Heights listing at 535 Gates. (The house was actually listed by Amanda Jones at Sotheby’s for $1,595,000 earlier this year, with Roh representing the buyer for a sale price of $1.9M.)

Bernal is not Alamo in the East Bay, where Andrew’s last listing was in episode 2. It’s one of the hottest neighborhoods in San Francisco, but Andrew isn’t aware of that.

His driver (yes, his driver) takes him to to Gates, a couple blocks south of the heart of coveted Cortland Avenue, and it’s as if they’re cruising through East L.A. The script calls for major Bernal bashing, with Andrew’s co-worker labeling it a “crap neighborhood,” and close-ups of sheets hanging in the window of a nearby house.

In one scene, Andrew has to stand in the rain on the northeast corner of Dolores and 30th Street in Noe Valley—literally across from the tech shuttle stop on the other side of Dolores—waiting unsuccessfully to see an actual tech bus pull up so he can tell prospective buyers that there’s a stop nearby. Someone overlooks the fact that many South Bay-commuting tech buyers typically give their agent a map of the shuttle stops for reference purposes so they can better streamline their search.

Andrew’s plan to market Gates to top agents and keep things exclusive so buyers will pay more doesn’t quite work out, so he hightails it to the MLS so the property can get the exposure it needs. So much for the off-market strategy that’s sweeping across San Francisco real estate these days.

The writers also seem to think that the centerpiece of every Realtor’s marketing plan is a big party paid for by the agent— and that properties go into contract right after a tech buyer sips some champagne and flops on to the bed. This week’s episode is no different. Alan Mark of The Mark Company grants Roh an 8 Octavia penthouse listing. Alan apparently has no one else on the sales office staff to handle this penthouse, and finds it necessary to pay a listing commission to an agent at another company in order to sell the unit.

Alan is convinced that Roh is the man for the job after hearing about the agent’s unique plan to—what else?—have a party. Roh promises to get the building’s architect, Stanley Saitowitz, to appear at the party. Stanley indeed shows up, but the episode ends without an offer on the penthouse.

Justin’s Mission listing seems to go well, with the developer of the newly renovated 376 San Carlos house verbally accepting an all-cash offer for $3.5M. I’ve never actually seen anyone on the show sign a contract; “deals” are made with hand shakes and phone calls, or in meetings behind weird, secret walls in hushed, cigar-drenched conversations.

But this is television, and watching people sign contracts is boring. 376 San Carlos—technically a two-unit building masquerading as a single-family house, originally sold by my company, Zephyr, last year as a fixer for $1,252,500—was withdrawn from the market this week with a list price of $3,250,000. No word yet on whether Justin will have to fork over the $25,000 for staging.

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