From Selling Sunset to Luxe Listings Sydney, real estate reality shows aren’t going anywhere soon

From Selling Sunset to Luxe Listings Sydney, real estate reality shows aren’t going anywhere soon
  • PublishedJune 3, 2024

Do you walk around your house wondering how you would present it to a prospective buyer? Or maybe you just know what “in escrow” actually means? 

If so, you’re probably a fan of real estate reality shows like Selling Sunset, the Netflix program that combines palatial real estate and drama in one neat and glamorous package. 

The show, which premiered in 2019, follows the Oppenheim Real Estate group — a Californian brokerage which specialises in luxury residential properties. 

It’s been a huge hit for Netflix, with season eight on its way and several spin-offs being launched since including Selling The OC and Buying London.

A real estate reality boom

It’s been over six years since Selling Sunset premiered, and since then an explosion of real estate reality television shows have popped up on streaming platforms.  

While its success could be chalked up to timing — the COVID-19 pandemic caused worldwide lockdowns which were perfect conditions to be wrapped up in a new genre of reality television — it has managed to maintain its presence in popular culture. 

For those who don’t subscribe to the romance, arguments and scandals of other hit reality TV shows like Married at First Sight (MAFS), real estate reality TV offers something broader. 

Just look at Luxe Listings Sydney — an original Australian real estate reality show commissioned by Prime Video AU and NZ that premiered in 2021. 

A group of real estate agents in a glam room smile at the camera
Luxe Listings Sydney has been reported to be one of the biggest hits for Prime Video in Australia. (Amazon Prime Video )

Tyler Bern, head of content for Prime Video Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, told Variety Australia after the first season that the show had been a “massive success”. 

“I know we don’t disclose our viewership metrics, but I can tell you that it’s one of our top performers, not just out of our Australian shows, but out of our global shows too,” he says. 

So, what makes this genre different for viewers from other styles of reality television on offer? 

Let’s find out. 

What’s the appeal?

Melbourne comedian and self-described “reality TV tragic” Rose Callaghan is a bigger fan of Luxe Listings Sydney because, as she says, they focus on what matters — Sydney waterfront views and making bank — AKA: a good commission. 

A woman in her 30s with dark brown hair and red lip, print top and black blazer, has both hands on hips and looks serious
Rose Callaghan loves judging real estate reality shows from the comfort of her rental. (Instagram @operation_rosie)

“Selling Sunset, for me, is too much about the drama and not enough about the properties,” she says. 

“[Luxe Listings] is a great show for showcasing Sydney, which is just ridiculous, some of the homes are on the harbour looking out to the ocean and everything.” 

And for Callaghan, the real-life agents make the show. 

“I feel like real estate agents were born to be reality TV stars … they’re the ultimate show people.”

“The guys have their tailored suits and fancy watches, your typical sales bros, and D’Leanne and Monica Tu have strong girl boss energy, which I really enjoy watching,” she adds. 

The appeal of this genre can be explained by looking at the state of Australia and the world today says Phoebe Macrossan, a lecturer in screen media at the University of the Sunshine Coast. 

“Reality television genres are particularly influenced by the period they are in,” she says. 

“This popularity of real estate-related shows can be connected to the housing crisis … prices are up around the world, so seeing expensive real estate becomes even more aspirational.” 

Both Selling Sunset and Luxe Listings Sydney also reflect the agent’s workplaces — with scenes often filmed in the office and featuring something many of can relate to: office politics. 

A scene from reality tv show Selling Sunset of real estate agent Chrishell Stause sitting at a desk in an office
Selling Sunset premiered in 2019 and became a global reality television hit, making stars out of agents like Chrishell Stause. (Netflix)

It’s Australia’s obsession with property ownership, and the relatability of working in office environments, that provide audiences with reality television content they can see themselves in, Macrossan says. 

“Australia is a real estate obsessed country.” 

We love to judge

For many, a show you can watch while also being distracted provides an easy escape. 

The perverse nature of being able to peek into wealthy homes — often previously owned by celebrities like Harry Styles which was the case in an episode of Selling Sunset — provides audiences with a voyeurism that Macrossan says is bound to hook a broader demographic.

While the satisfaction of peeking inside homes many of us will never get to in real life is appealing, for fan Meg Mackey the ability to tune out while watching these shows also keeps her coming back for more. 

“There’s not a huge storyline. So if you do have to do a few things you’re not going to miss the whole plot … it’s nice to not feel committed to it,” she says. 

For Mackey, who has purchased and renovated a home with her husband, watching the process of buying property from the perspective of both the buyer and the agent also adds to the genre’s appeal. 

“Anyone that has bought a house knows that there’s a whole process to it, whether it’s for a house that is $600,000 or it’s worth millions, it’s the same process at the end of the day — and you can relate to that.” 

How much is too much?

Like all products of popular culture, there is often a saturation point. 

So will audiences tire of the genre anytime soon?

Macrossan says it will likely happen soon, but she believes that the longevity of the genre will continue to be dictated by what’s going on in the world. 

“When it comes to Selling Sunset, it had many factors to make it a global hit,” she says.

“It was aspirational real estate, aspirational lifestyles and office politics. But it also combined the glossy drama of Real Housewives into a real estate context.”

The combination of real estate voyeurism and drama are the elements that broaden the show’s appeal, and for fans like Callagahan and Mackey, the ability to pass judgements from the comfort of their homes about expensive properties continues to make viewing enjoyable. 

“It’s fun to judge them, or be like ‘that’s gauche, I wouldn’t have done it that way’,” says Callagahan. 

A blonde woman in her 30s, smiling, wearing a blazer
Dr Phoebe Macrossan says there are various elements to the real estate reality television genre that make it appealing to a broad audience. (Supplied)

While romance-related shows like MAFS continue to be popular here in Australia, real estate reality provides Mackey with an escape that doesn’t feel exploitative. 

“I think that they’ll always be able to surprise us with new versions of real estate reality TV,” she says.

“Whereas I think shows like MAFS are the ones that really bother me now, because how much more can you exploit human connection?”

“I feel like I can’t watch those kinds of shows anymore.”

While the genre will no doubt experience more iterations in its future, for the moment, our need to peek behind the door isn’t going away anytime soon. 


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