Real Estate

Real Estate Reality TV Is Like ‘My Life On Steroids,’ Celebrity Agents Say

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Lisa Simonsen

The life of a celebrity real estate agent isn’t as glamorous as it may seem, agents who have starred on some of real estate’s most popular reality TV shows told attendees at Inman Connect New York on Tuesday. In fact, the hours can be pretty brutal.

“I love what I do, so I wouldn’t say [it’s] working harder, but it’s definitely my life on steroids,” Lisa Simonsen of Douglas Elliman and upcoming star of Kendra Sells Hollywood Season 2 told the audience.

“The fact is, we have to work double hours, and the existing clients we service have high expectations,” said Ernie Carswell of Douglas Elliman, who will also be on the upcoming season of Kendra Sells Hollywood. “They want top service and we still have to deliver that.”

Ernie Carswell

When filming, Carswell explained, the cast typically ends up working 14-16-hour days in order to get it all done.

“We really want to drive that home that we care about the business, we care about our clients, and we care about our representation,” Carswell added.

Kirsten Jordan of Douglas Elliman, who was the first woman cast member on Million Dollar Listing New York, said when she first joined the show, she would text fellow cast member Ryan Serhant (who is now CEO of the eponymous brokerage Serhant.) to try and learn what the secret was to keeping his energy levels up all day between filming, working with her existing clients and having a family. And she said she realized that part of the reason she was so tired is that she felt like she had to keep up a certain appearance while filming, especially while under the pressure of being the first woman on a male-dominated show.

Kirsten Jordan

“I would come out of filming and be so tired because I was just trying to be that funny and intelligent and prove to people … that I was something,” Jordan said.

Meanwhile, Kelly Bensimon, who appeared on The Real Housewives of New York City for three seasons starting in 2009, admitted that her reality TV experience was likely much different than that of the other agents, as she started her real estate career following her previous careers in modeling, reality TV and fashion journalism.

“I’m so different,” she said. “I started working on television like in the Ice Age where it was a totally different environment than it is now… . Just having the connectivity in the real estate environment and [to] new agents is so exciting for me [today].”

Kelly Bensimon

All five of the speakers advised agents in the audience to not give up and to continue to persevere when it comes to working in this industry.

“You have to love what you’re doing and realize ‘no’ is part of the business,” Simonsen said. “Most deals don’t work, so you have to be very perseverant … . You also have to be absorbed with it, and I’m thinking about real estate more than I want to admit.”

Kendra Wilkinson, who was previously a model, also opened up about her experience working on Kendra Sells Hollywood and how challenging the transition into real estate has been for her.

“There’s a whole different story to it all,” she said. “And off-camera these last few months, Ernie and I have been working really hard to get my confidence up. And my advice is, don’t give up … . The moment I feel like giving up, I just push a little harder.”

Kendra Wilkinson

Carswell chimed in that failure is a huge part of being in real estate, and agents who feel defeated by their failures should understand that it’s just part of the process of becoming a great agent.

“[The public doesn’t] see how much failure we face on a daily basis,” Carswell said. “Losing and certain failures are part of what top agents deal with.”

Jordan’s advice was that agents should own their successes and not be afraid to share them with others. Earlier in her career, Jordan said she didn’t give herself enough credit, but now she puts herself out there on social media to show others that she’s an intelligent, capable real estate agent — and a real person with a family, which she also often shares on social.

“[At first] I thought, ‘Oh that’s really silly,” Jordan said, of sharing more of her personal life on social. “But the truth is, there’s so much you can do that shows you’re an expert.”

Bensimon encouraged the agents in the audience to embrace a spirit of teamwork and community with other agents across the industry, rather than operating as competitors.

“My big takeaway is one is more than zero, and you should really, really work with other people,” Bensimon said. “I think that’s super important for all of us to work together.”

In closing, Carswell noted that he strives to give an accurate representation of the real estate industry to television audiences, but that he hoped real estate agents who are not on TV would keep him and other agents who are on TV honest.

“Our responsibility up here is to all of you, and we owe it to you to give a fair representation,” Carswell said. “You should hold us accountable.”

Email Lillian Dickerson

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