The Times UKby Martina Lees
Sept. 5, 2020
A property salesman who has made a fortune from mansions and reality TV melodrama is bringing Hollywood-style selling techniques to Britain.
Eddie Shapiro, 45, is seeking estate agents with the X factor to sell houses in what he believes will be a “game-changer” for the British property market.
The American businessman has built Nest Seekers into an agency with 1,000 brokers, based on its fame from a television programme.
His agency has starred in 22 series of the Bravo network’s Million Dollar Listing and appeared in the Netflix hit Selling Sunset. The series shows the battles among estate agents as they sell luxury homes in Hollywood.
Mr Shapiro has hired Daniel McPeake, his first British-based broker, after a relentless campaign. Mr McPeake, born in Essex, said that he became hooked on the New York series of Million Dollar Listing. Having quietly adapted the American model for British tastes, he is recruiting.
“We believe [the new approach] will be a game-changer in the way the system works,” Mr Shapiro says.
Instead of marketing a home to the buyers on their books and on property websites, their method is to invite the best local agents to view. “They’re going to bring their buyers round,” Mr McPeake, 45, said. “Then buyers are going to see each other and all of a sudden there’s competition, there’s a fear of loss.”
For anyone selling their home, it means viewings by vetted buyers on the books of all the best local estate agents. Mr McPeake said that sellers could get a faster sale for a higher price. “They don’t have to stick it on Rightmove and wait like a carp fisherman by a lake for six months.”
At the heart of the difference is money. The average British agent earns a basic salary of £25,000. Of the 2 per cent commission a branch typically would charge on a property’s sale price, the agent would get 10 per cent. On a £1 million sale, that’s £2,000.
Mr Shapiro said: “Their fees are so low they can’t share it with other agents. In the US, it’s all performance. It’s all commission.”
Nest Seekers brokers have no salary but get as much as 70 per cent of the agency’s fee, which is about 6 per cent in America and 3 per cent in Britain. A £1 million sale would pay up to £21,000 — enough to work together and spread the rewards. Mr McPeake explained: “You co-broke or go broke.”
When homes such as a mansion featured in one episode of Million Dollar Listing, dubbed the “Taj Mahal of Hamptons property” for $40 million (£30 million), it meant sharing $1.2 million (£900,000) in potential commission. That’s why on Million Dollar Beach House James Giugliano, 31, spends $30,000 on a party to showcase a house with his rivals. “It’s a lot of money to risk,” he says. “But I need to get eyes on the property to get this sold.”
In Los Angeles, Nest Seekers had Chris Martin, of Coldplay, and the rapper Snoop Dogg perform to sell an estate. Mr Shapiro said: “Yesterday we brought in a helicopter . . . and shot a video. We shot a property with a Van Dutch [yacht] in it because there was a bay front. It’s part of the experience.”
On this side of the Atlantic, Mr McPeake’s fledgling team has been less ostentatious. One of his new brokers in Surrey printed 250 agency-branded frisbees to throw to fellow dog walkers. In Kent, they have left Nest Seekers tote bags filled with asparagus on the doorsteps of sellers listed with rival agencies.
Mr McPeake, who was a door-to-door salesman before joining an estate agency 25 years ago, said that he was looking for recruits with an “entrepreneurial flair”. He asked: “Can they think for themselves, even if they’re wrong?”
The lucky recruit might even become a star of the screen. Mr Shapiro said that Nest Seekers was working with networks on several programmes. He said: “This show may showcase some UK elements in season two and three.”
How it works
Selling your house US-style does not mean hosting burgers and botox parties, as American estate agents on Netflix have done.
When you list your house with a British agent you get access to only their buyers, In the US they partner with others who bring all serious buyers to view; instead of five or six serious buyers you have access to 30 or 40. Your broker shares half their commission with the buyer’s agent. This comes at a price: 6 per cent commission on the sale price in America or 2 per cent in Britain. Perhaps conscious of price, Nest Seekers, the agency behind Netflix’s Million Dollar Beach House, charges 3 per cent on British sales.
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