Luxe Listings is the latest offering in Australian real estate reality TV. Accuracies, inaccuracies and more

August 25th, 2021

This genre has been staple viewing since Maggie and Richard’s The Home Show in the early 1990’s and many other long-running shows in the meantime like Location, Location, Location, Grand Designs, Love It or List It, and The Block.

Have such shows impacted the perceptions of the real estate world?

If so, have they been helpful or harmful?

Do potential buyers and sellers get an accurate or inaccurate impression of or the oft-maligned real estate industry now aspiring to be a profession? Or both?

The answer to the first two questions is that while it might depend on the show’s format and target audience, the impacts are likely to have been “yes” but only slightly and fleeting at best.

Anecdotally, those answers might also explain why, in all the years since starting Sydney Buyers’ Agency, Curtis Associates in 2007, none of the prospective and actual property buyers with whom we have had countless conversations has ever mentioned any of these shows.

Nevertheless, it’s hard not to think that aspirant formats like Love it or List It and The Block must have at least indirectly encouraged some of its many viewers into both provident and improvident action.

However, more passive formats like Location, Location, Location focus more on the buyers’ reactions to properties than the agents’ contribution. They are unlikely to make lasting impressions on any but the most naive buyers.

In those benign formats viewers are excluded from the buyers’ agent’s processes with the more curious left wondering how the properties were found and as is also the case with Luxe Listings, why there never seems to be any pre-purchase due diligence or price negotiations; the latter of which, in reality, can sometimes take days or weeks.

In contrast, while more cerebral offerings such as Grand Designs and Kevin’s Grandest Designs are likely to inspire grand ideas, even its format can’t escape two inevitabilities underlying this entire genre which undermine its chance of having a lasting influence: 1. because every property and location is unique, the stories from these shows are not easily transferable or relevant to other properties and locations and 2. because property markets move in cycles, content that might be relevant one day can lose its currency the next.

As to the third question, the answer is “both accurate and inaccurate.”

So, what about Luxe Listings?

A travelogue designed to appeal to overseas buyers, Luxe Listings showcases some prime (and not so prime) mostly coastal Sydney eastern suburbs properties with seven to eight figure price tags.

The action revolves around escapades by our colleagues, the uber flash Gavin Rubinstein and the more conservative selling agent D’Leanne Lewis whose approach differs from Gavin’s: while Gavin insists on adding more high heel shoes to the walk in robe he is styling, D’Leanne is removing her own high heels to rake leaves from the front lawn of the property she is styling.

Completing the trio of stars is fellow (but far flashier than our Principal) local buyers’ agent, Simon Cohen.

Underlining D’Leanne’s and Gavin’s contrasting styles are cameo appearances by selling sage Michael Pallier whose auction segment shows that despite preferring cardigans to gold watches, a disarming politeness paired with his rapier like shrewdness is just as effective now in extracting money from buyers as it has been for many years.

With Beemers, beaches, bistros, boats, and buff bods in abundance, Luxe Listings tries keeping the cringe factor at bay with glimpses of the stars’ private and family lives, occasional losses, set backs and flashes of self deprecation.

As the first series has just finished and a second is coming, it is too soon to answer the first two questions for Luxe Listings.

However, the answer so far to the third question is already a definite “both accurate and inaccurate.”

Some of the accuracies:

On the sell side, by delving into the ‘what, how and why’ D’Leanne and Gavin do what they do for their clients, this series reveals the broad spectrum of local selling strategies and methods in the prestigious pockets of the eastern suburbs.

Simon’s friendship with the other two stars does reveal a shared awareness of and need to avoid potential conflicts of interest which their friendships might pose. Such discussions are more common now than in the past with education and training standards having lifted as part of the real estate industry’s efforts to become a profession.

On the buy side, both Simon and Gavin deliver plenty of accuracies including Gavin’s disdain for time wasters and from Simon that buying is a cut throat and 24/7 job; the importance of knowing how selling agents work; the futility of a selling agent over selling a property to a buyers’ agent;  avoiding auctions (especially in a hot market) and if an auction is inevitable, having the buying client on the ‘phone and not in attendance; the folly of showing a property to a client without the buyers’ agent having previously inspected it and the design ideas a buyers’ agent can provide.

Perhaps the most important accuracy for the consumer is the weight Simon correctly places on having access to off market properties. While Simon says this is “what really makes [his firm] stand out”, the reality is that all competent buyers’ agents have similar access via their own networks.

Some of the inaccuracies:

The series is shot at a time in Sydney’s prestige property cycle where, as Gavin’s remarks, the market is “f….n’ crazy.”

As mentioned, property markets are cyclical. Watching Luxe Listings, it is hard to believe for example, that in 2009, 2010 and in the last half of 2012 such properties languished for months in a buyers’ market that looked very different to the one depicted.

When those times return, as they will, the impressions created by Luxe Listings will bear little resemblance to then reality.

In addition to the close personal friendship that exists between Simon and Gavin’s being atypical of the relationships that exist between buyers’ agents and selling agents in Sydney, another inaccuracy is that the entire Sydney real estate industry is also uber flashy.

Not so. The pockets in Luxe Listings are different from other real estate regions to the north, south and west of Sydney Harbour Bridge where such flashiness would likely be seen, to use D’Leanne’s expression, as “wankerish.”

Most inaccuracies however, exist on the buy side and are caused by the show’s format where, unlike the treatment given to the selling agents, there isn’t another and more conservative buyers’ agent to provide a contrast to Simon’s approach and hardly any attention is given to the ‘what else, how and why’ Simon and his team presumably do what they do for their clients in real life.

As a result, the series gives the inaccurate and oversimplified impressions that Sydney buyers’ agents are only for the rich who just talk down properties before pitching low ball overs based only on “vibe” rather than thorough due diligence and research not only into individual property but many other built, natural, neighbourhood and regulatory risks.

Whatever might be Luxe Listings’ legacy, it has already established itself as a source of well produced property porn for its many viewers.

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