What Netflix Real Estate Shows Get Wrong About the Career

Modern Luxury House With Private Swimming Pool At Dusk

Real estate shows are fun to binge-watch. Maybe you enjoy seeing people find their dream homes, watching flippers transform a space, or you can’t help but take in the heightened drama of bickering real estate agents. Netflix shows portray stylish properties and internal drama — but ultimately, it’s not a great reflection of what being a real estate agent or broker is actually like.

The most popular example by far is “Selling Sunset,” a real estate reality show on Netflix that’s taken the country by storm over its five seasons. It follows a luxury real estate company, The Oppenheim Group, as agents sell gorgeous high-end listings in Los Angeles. However, interpersonal drama takes up just as much screentime as multi-million dollar mansions.

Here are a few inaccuracies about the industry that it, and shows like it, showcase.

1. The Drama in the Office

The show keeps viewers hooked with storylines of catfights and relationship drama. In reality, most agents in the industry don’t have the inclination — or frankly, the time — to create fierce rivalries with other working professionals.

The bulk of interpersonal communication in real estate is interacting with clients and coordinating with other parties in deals, like the home inspector or buyer or seller’s agent. Leading with empathy, active listening, and a friendly demeanor will help win people over and build strong relationships that give you a good reputation in the community.

And even if you did engage in some drama, professional agents would never get in a fight at an open house or while staging a client’s home. The dramatic — but faked — staging for arguments in “Selling Sunset” adds tons of entertainment for the viewers, but wouldn’t be acceptable in a professional setting.

2. The Idea That the Home-Selling Process Is Simple

It’s completely fair that “Selling Sunset” invests more screentime on splashy outings and character drama than in explaining the minutiae of real estate deals. But this does mean viewers should not assume that what is filmed represents the actual work these agents are putting into their deals.

The show skips past the hours of negotiations between buyers and sellers, and often breezes over inspections, appraisals, and counter-offers. They also choose not to deal with closing documents — after all, we would all skip the episode that covers a few hours of paperwork and banking information.

We do see the more visually exciting elements of home selling, like staging a home to appeal to buyers or hosting an open house to meet potential buyers.

3. Emphasis on Luxury Homes

The stunning views and rooftop pools of multi-million dollar LA mansions are lovely to look at. However, not every agent works in a luxury market with the potential for millions in commissions on a single sale. The cast members of “Selling Sunset” work in a very specific and very unusual market niche.

This doesn’t mean real estate agents should feel discouraged. While there are lots of factors that affect income — like hours worked, experience, and niche — the average agent working 40-50 hours a week earns about $113K according to our survey data. With a few years of experience and a dedicated business, real estate agents can make a great income even without the massive mansions.

The emphasis on luxury homes also skips over the reality that real estate is a very diverse industry for professionals. Agents and brokers who specialize in niches like commercial properties or condos can really grow their income as they build their brand — infinity pools and famous actors not needed.

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4. Display of Designer Clothes

Many characters on the show sport trendy outfits, which can be just as eye-catching as the properties they list. The latest season of the show features agents in brands like Fendi, Versace, and Chanel, and towering heels, jewels, and whimsical looks are all staples. 

Most real estate agents balance professionalism with functionality, though there’s always the flexibility to establish some fashion flair if you love to serve good looks. Dressing in polished clothing can leave a good impression on clients and other professionals, but in an industry that might require a few hours on your feet, some more practical shoes might be welcome.

Ultimately, your personal professional style can vary by preference. But no worries — you won’t be expected to shell out for Versace to impress your clients. Good communication and your experience with the market will be the best assets for any agent.

5. Not Showing Data

Often, in the show, the agents will come up with price points for the properties. However, they often don’t display any data to back this up. 

One of the first steps agents often take is comparing other similar homes nearby. This helps see what other homes have sold for and get a better idea of the current market. They also look at:

  • Median sale prices
  • Price adjustments
  • Time on the market
  • Closed sales
  • Homes that never sold

Real estate agents also use tools and software to generate leads.

6. The Use of Extravagant Open Houses

The show is known to portray over-the-top open houses for their high-end clients. In one episode, agent Christine suggests a “Burger and Botox” theme. While it’s hilarious to watch on television, one obvious issue with this for most real estate agents is liability concerns. 

In reality, open houses can be useful tools for publicizing a property or getting to know more potential clients, but they don’t need to be flashy, curated events to get the job done. In fact, virtual showing and tours are also increasing in popularity after the pandemic, though they wouldn’t be as fun to feature on a reality soap.

The Inaccuracies of Netflix Real Estate Shows

While shows like “Selling Sunsets” depict the glamorous life of real estate, it’s often not the most accurate depiction. They usually skip through weeks of preparation and research to sell the homes.

Real estate agents are much more focused on serving clients, managing details, and growing experience in their field than on interpersonal drama. So, have no shame in keeping up with real estate reality TV, but just don’t let it impact your perception of the career.

About the Author: Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated, an online resource for the real estate market. Her freelance writing has been published by the National Association of REALTORS®, Insights for Professionals and other prominent industry magazines.


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