[5 September 2006]
Million Dollar Listing is set in those Los Angeles neighbourhoods where even a cardboard box under the freeway is going to cost you an arm, a leg, and a million dollars cash. With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a beautiful two-bedroom house with a view and a pool in the Hollywood Hills was struggling to sell for a mere $2.4M, and that a four-acre hilltop home in Malibu was listing for only $3M and change.
Of course, I’m still several million dollars short of moving to L.A., especially since I’m very much attached to my limbs. But when a show is this bad, you have to find the good news where you can. And all you really need to know about Million Dollar Listing is that it’s brought to you by the same people who conceived Showbiz Moms & Dads and Showdog Moms & Dads.
Actually, taken on those terms, MDL is no worse than you might expect. So long as you’re a glass-half-empty kinda viewer. But if ever there was a show to make you appreciate HGTV’s mild-mannered real estate programming, MDL is the one. Based on the premiere and the previews, there’s not one character here you could remotely care about.
The first episode focused on realtors Madison Hildebrand and Shannon McLeod. Madison, male and probably not a merman, looks like a refugee from a boy band or, perhaps, modeling school. He’s been selling real estate for six months. He already earns more than you or me. And yet MDL portrays him as some sort of underdog, even though his Malibu listing sold with a minimum of drama and looked to be netting him more than 50 of the easiest K he’ll ever see.
By contrast, Shannon is a stereotypical blonde of a certain age (carbon dating might be called for), and she’s been selling houses for more than four years. Although she struggles to sell the lovely bachelor pad in the hills, Shannon still succeeds in teaching us many useful real estate lessons.
Lesson One: If you’re planning an Open House, it pays to advertise it. Unless, of course, you want to spend the entire evening drinking champagne with your client, who is also your former fiancé.
Lesson Two: Never, ever, mix business with romance. And avoid using the sale of your ex-fiancé‘s home as a way of trying to get back with him. Especially when it was your plan to move into said house that caused him to dump you in the first place.
Lesson Three: If you really must take your irritating lapdog to a meeting at your vendor’s property, always remember to take it with you when you leave. Particularly if the camera is going to focus on the forlorn forgotten pooch while you’re driving away, happily telling the cameras how well you and your ex are dealing with the separation.
Lesson Four: Even if California allows a realtor to represent both vendor and purchaser, it really isn’t a good idea. Shannon certainly appeared to allow the carrot of a double commission to influence her representation of her ex (whose name is Jeff), advising him to drop his price by over 100K in order to earn herself an extra 50. However, I’m reliably informed that both parties to the transaction have to agree in writing to dual agency, so perhaps Million Dollar Listing was being less than honest with us in its portrayal of Shannon.
Lesson Five: Don’t keep telling the cameras that your ex is going to find it hard to part with his house because of all the magical memories it holds. Everyone watching can tell you’re really saying he made a mistake when he dumped you. And so can your irritating little lapdog.
Lesson Six: When you’re running an Open House, you should engage with the visitors and maybe show a few of them around. A caption explained that prospective house-buyers report a more satisfactory experience when an agent takes the trouble to guide them around the home and (hey, wacky idea) tries to sell it to them. During her second Open House, Shannon only stopped working on her nails when a younger, hunkier version of Jeff wandered in off the street. He got the full tour, including a stop in a bathroom where she touched up her lips, rearranged her breasts, and flipped her hair just so. She got his number.
Lesson Seven: Every house has something for everyone. For one couple who arrived at Shannon’s unadvertised twilight Open House, it was Jeff’s bordello red bedroom. I’m fairly sure I heard the pony-tailed man tell his companion (a younger version of Shannon, with a super-sized boob job and the dress sense of a stripper) that it would make a great set for their website!
Lesson Eight: If it looks like you’re going to lose a 100K commission because the two parties can’t agree on some truly minimal repair work, perhaps you should offer to reduce your commission to cover the cost. That or give up the game and start your own website.
As far as I can tell, MDL has no continuing storyline. Perhaps the makers assume that realtors, like lawyers, are beyond our sympathy or admiration. So all that’s left are the cheap laughs, the great views, the David Hockney swimming pools, and the chance for an occasional peek at a house you could never afford. I’m not prepared to give up another hour of my life for so small a reward, but you can make up your own minds.
For what very little it’s worth, in the end, Shannon lost out. Her ex had a few words to say about her double commission and took his house off the market. The cameras left the estranged pair consoling each other over yet another glass of champagne, freezing their faces at a moment when it looked like Jeff was about to sweep Shannon off her feet and carry her through to his pornoriffic boudoir. Yeah, and if you believe that, Madison Hildebrand has a particularly pleasing piece of waterfront property in Arizona to show you. He could probably do with the commission. Rumour has it that his Malibu deal fell apart and the hilltop home remains unsold today.