Behind The Curtain: Funny Stories In Real Estate Sales With Davina PotratzYou’re going to want to pay attention to this one. We have a very special guest. Bob, do you want to do the intro?
Our guest is Davina Potratz, star of the TV show Selling Sunset, and also a longtime friend of mine and a business associate with Valerie as well. If you just know her from the TV show, you probably don’t know what an incredible background she has. She is super highly skilled. Her and I have done probably a least 12 to 20 different transactions. She is one of the most accomplished and knowledgeable real estate agents in terms of marketing and running the sales of major developments for penthouses and luxury condominiums.
What an intro. Thank you so much, Bob and Valerie.
This show is about behind the curtain, all the funny stuff that people don’t even know about that happens in our daily lives. What would be one of the funniest things that has happened to you during a showing or with a buyer?
Off the top of my head, one of the things that happened to me at a showing was at a high-rise development in Los Angeles. I won’t name where. We were walking through a pretty large condo and it’s a couple room. We were walking through the place and I was showing them the living room. I looked at a U-shaped building. I looked across the way from the window and saw this couple having sex. They were both naked and were leaning against the window. They were going at it. I was like, “This is awkward because they’re in full view.” The clients that I was with were talking about the floor plan and whatnot. They turned around and were like, “Oh my God.” That was pretty awkward. We all had a laugh. What else are you going to do in that?
It was like, “Here’s the view.”
That was pretty funny. That occurs that you have no control over it. We had it in another place as well that you and I worked at together. That happened there one time. You can move on and go to a different room. You have to laugh. What can you do? There are more elaborate stories. For example, one buyer at a property at Terranea. Me and the other sales agents there thought this was a couple, but it turned out that they were both cheating spouses.
We only found out through escrow when they were taking the title. We didn’t ask any questions and say anything. We respect their privacy. It was a little uncomfortable. You don’t want get into any details there. That happened and then we found out, “This must be their lovebird getaway.” I don’t want to speculate, but it was a lot. I’ve had buyers show up. They were married and I had met their wives. They showed up with someone that looked like maybe a date and you’re like, “This is?” It’s not for me to judge or ask questions, but it’s a little uncomfortable. You pretend not to notice and don’t ask any questions. Certainly, it has been a little weird that way.
One high-profile businessman showed up with hookers. That was also a little weird. He was a fabulous client. I don’t know what he wanted to do. I have no idea, but it was a little odd. He had a translator as well. He was speaking Japanese and his translator was a Mormon. He trusted him. He went to Japan for the Mormon mission and learned Japanese. That was always his sidekick. He could translate for him. He had these ladies dressed in revealing clothes as his dates. We were like, “Whatever floats your boat,” and some stories there.
You never know what to expect. That’s why you have to try. You have to see what you can do.I remember there was a guy that had a house up to the East of The Bird Streets. Every time he goes and show the house, finally, I realized what he did for a living. He produced porn videos. He’d have, “No, you can’t go into this room or that room when you go to the house.” The door was left open and the full-on disclosure was right there disclosed of what was going on. It’s interesting we’re peeking inside of people’s lives, whether we’re showing them as a buyer or we’re showing them a property that we have listed and all their little personal nuances.
You and I have discussed this before, Valerie. You have to bob and weave and go with the situation because we do walk into very unusual and often embarrassing circumstances. You have to roll with it. It’s funny I once had a property up on Tower Grove. They used it to do the pre-shoots for women that were trying to be Playmates. I didn’t know what days they were shooting and they weren’t shooting.
A number of times, I would show up with a client and there would be some nectar woman roaming around topless. What are you going to do? They’re going to show the property and then they go cover up or they go in the backyard. Davina has mentioned the guy that shows up with the hookers. Some of that is not their wife or vice versa. We’re not there to judge them. We’re there to make a sale. You roll with it.
I was showing a famous actor. He is super famous now and was then as well. We were walking into a house and he said, “Val, how much is this house?” At that time, it was $8 or $9 million, which would be double right now. He said, “What? Where’s the listing agent?” I had her come over and she has got this funny, whiny way about her. He put his arms around her. He said, “Let’s go upstairs and see if we can drop the price a mil.” He was like, “Here’s the living room,” right after that.
It’s like as if he didn’t notice. He just keeps moving.
I have a question because I’m sure people do wonder about this. It’s apropos because I know Davina was a Ford runway model. Valerie, you were a model too before you segued into Ford. You’re both very attractive. That’s a double-edged sword in certain respects because you need to divide the professional from the personal. I’m sure the readers would be more curious than me because I already know the answer to this. What situations have occurred and how have you been able to deal with it effectively? If there’s an interesting or funny story, I would love to hear it.
For me, I try to focus on the job and keep things very professional but also be warm, engaging and relatable to them. I connect with them, but I keep it professional. Also, I try to dress professional. I don’t want to show too much skin. I want to keep the attire more on the professional edge to make sure they understand like, “This is a job situation.” I’m here to sell real estate and assist you in any way I can, but there’s not a personal relationship so much. If they have a partner, then I love talking to the wife, making her feel comfortable, listening to her, and showing some things with her. I try to bond with her as well.
Otherwise, if you keep the distance, not only are you not listening to both parties, especially because a woman usually has a lot of influence on the ultimate decision if they’re going to buy or not. You don’t want them to feel threatened at all for you. You want them to feel like, “I trust this person. She is here to do a job. She is not here to sell her body.” I’m also tall. I don’t usually wear a lot of heels. For the show, we dress it up. We go above and beyond for the TV show. Every day, I don’t want to be so focused on the sexuality part and try to be a lot more like, “I’ll be here to do a job and show you the property.” I want to make this as easy as possible for everyone.
Valerie, what have you experienced?
It’s a guy who wants to buy a house. I was talking to him about the markets, what he can buy, how far his money can go, where he would go and sent him some ideas. He sent me back an email and he said, “I looked you up. Will you marry me?” I laughed and put a smiley face and sent a message back saying, “Can we meet first?” I was joking. He is on this whole thing of, “Our honeymoon is going to be in Maldives. I’m ready to go. I’m waiting for you to say yes.” It’s one thing after another and I responded, “I have no more responses to give.”
I want to steer him back to the real estate conversation. I laughed it off. I would go, “Ah,” or something like that. Usually, it’s for me to deflect people, especially if they go, “Let’s have lunch.” Let’s have dinner is the killer one. I can keep them talking about themselves. Men love to talk about themselves. If you keep them talking about themselves, then by the end of the lunch, they think they’ve had this great conversation with you, but it has been all about them.
It’s interesting because you guys have both analyzed this. You’re both businesspeople transcending the looks thing. I remember a prime example of the opposite and the stupidity of someone that did the wrong thing. I was showing one of my very best clients. They’re good friends, a major celebrity, him and his fiancé at the time, a property in the flats of Beverly Hills. We walked into this house and one of the co-listing agents was there.
She was all decked out, full miniskirt, and very voluptuous. She was flirting with the guy. You should have seen the expression. I’m friends with both of them, too, the guy and his fiancé. She looked at me and she goes, “Bob, we’re not buying this goddamn house.” That person literally cost them a potential sale. At that time, it was probably a $7 million or $8 million house in the flat. You have to be cognizant of how to do what you guys are talking about doing.
It also happens in reverse where I’ve seen guys because now it seems like everybody thinks they’re a movie star in our business. These young guys with their pants at their ankles. They got the walk, the strut, the hair, and the whole look. I’ve had them flirt with the women I’ve shown. You go, “There’s only about a 20 or 30-year age difference here,” but they’re flirting with them like, “Do you like to cook? Come over here,” suggestive moves. I’m like, “I’ve got to steer this away from this.”
The lack of professionalism in this business to a high order is directly relatable a lot of the times to some of the TV shows. It gives an unrealistic view of the business. Davina, you’re on this TV show. I’ve called Davina from out of the country before when I was working on a project to say, “What do you think about some of the marketing that will be done in this project in Panama?” Davina, you’re legit, which people that watch that show have no idea in terms of the depth of your expertise. In working on the show, what part of it that you’re dealing with is a real one? What part has nothing to do with real estate?
It’s a show that’s truly made for entertainment. We are all licensed agents. We all work at a brokerage and we do sell real estate. That’s all true, but I in order to make a fun and entertaining show, the production has to focus on some storylines that are going to be interesting. They have arcs and lows. It’s like a roller coaster. This is our real life, but they do have to focus more on the interpersonal dynamics of the different agents in the show. Everyone is so different. Everyone has a very different background.
I have fifteen years of experience and then other people are maybe brand new to the business. Some people are from other countries and cities. It’s all kinds of different people. Our personalities are all different, too. They focus more on the personal aspect of it. We’ve had two babies now on the show and a divorce. There’s a lot of personal storyline that is featured in our lives as a real estate agent at The Oppenheim Group.
The television is supposed to be entertaining. There’s an entertaining factor when people can follow your story, your life, and how you react to each other, even though it may seem like you hate each other during an episode.
As an easy example, in between filming, it has been a year and a half from the last season to beginning filming season four. A lot has happened, but the audience doesn’t see all that. All they know is what happened in season three and then they’re waiting for season four, but there’s a year and a half that happened in there that no one saw. There’s real life that’s in between there, too. Maybe they have to edit the show to make it entertaining and also fit into the format of a 45-minute window.
Sometimes you have to try it because they might actually buy it.In fairness to production, they can’t show hours of us eating lunch. One event might be a five-hour event. For example, a wedding is going to be five hours. They can’t show a five-hour wedding on a show. They got to edit it to be a fifteen-minute segment. You were on a reality show, too, Valerie. You know how it works. They do focus more a little bit on the personal storylines, real estate as our job and the office that we work in, but it’s not only real estate.
It’s funny because that’s true. There’s nothing more boring than viewing and walking through houses. I don’t watch the show, but I don’t watch a lot of TV anyway. My sister is a big shot at Morgan Stanley and she is brilliant. She will text me and she goes, “What’s the story with so-and-so?” I go, “I don’t watch the show. That’s a TV show.” It isn’t like you’re watching the Twilight zone and then someone texts and you go, “Did the Martians take over the White House?” It’s for entertainment. It’s based on certain realities that you guys deal with, but it would be boring if it was straight about real estate.
One thing I wanted to ask you about, Davina, because Valerie and I have talked about this before, some of the unique things we’ve done in terms of either getting listings or in the course of marketing, our listings. I know you guys were both models. You probably did a lot of traveling during the course of that part of the career. What have you done as far as overseas? Valerie was talking about she was in Dubai working on some stuff. You did some overseas stuff as well back in the day.
When I worked for Ritz-Carlton Residences at LA Live, we went to the Dubai Property Show, which is one of the premier property shows in there. There are thousands of exhibitors and visitors as well. It’s one of the largest shows. Part of the job was to be there all day at this booth, representing their condos for potential buyers and investors from the Middle East. We met wonderful and great people. It was a fabulous experience. We also went to Qatar, Bahrain, and Jordan. We saw all kinds of different real estate developments. They have elaborate real estate developments there. One was called The Pearl in Qatar that was out of this world. It was a Sotheby’s office that had the layout of development in a big, massive 3D map that you could tour.
They had incredible stuff, but some of the people in there were like, “Can we give you twenty camels for one of the condos? My son is going to school at USC.” I was like, “We only take US dollars.” They were in all seriousness, trying to barter maybe goats. They were from Saudi and were dead serious. It wasn’t a joke. They were completely serious. I was like, “This is new for us, but realistically, it’s such a long trip to go from the Middle East to LA.” It only makes sense if they have kids going to school here as an investment property.
They were looking for return on investment, “How much can you get per month?” They were looking for a guaranteed return on there, like if you were to rent their unit out, which we can’t guarantee that as agents because we’re not working in the stock market, but you can give a range of what they might get. They were looking for those kinds of numbers. Also, in the Middle East, at that time, you could negotiate the HOAs on buildings which they were hoping to do, which was a little new for us.
Culturally, it’s interesting because that has occurred here as well. I’m not sure if we talked about this before, Val. I was presenting an offer on one of Valerie’s listings on Doheny in Beverly Hills. I was helping out one of my agents, who was a Middle Eastern guy. He started negotiating and trying to offer Persian rugs as part of the deal. That’s like what you’re saying. People don’t understand that the fact is, they want some creative things in terms of what they’re trying to offer, which are outrageous.
It’s alien to us, but it’s a real thing that they’re offering.
I took a similar to what this experience Davina had when I took the Four Seasons Development to Dubai and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I went to Riyadh and I had to wear the abaya, long gown, head wrap, the full thing. Women can’t drive and you have to have permission from the government. I went into the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh. It’s a beautiful and very modern hotel. I walked into this room and it was all men. I went, “I like it here.”
I went to sit down and then the guy, comes and gets me out. He goes, “Madam, women don’t mix with men because men can’t be in the same room with women. Unless you’re married, you’re separated all the time.” I was going to do my presentation. They showed me this room and there was a big curtain down the middle of it. I go, “Where am I going to stand?” They said, “Over there.” I said, “I can’t see them. I have to see people in the face when I do a presentation. I have a video and floor plans. When I’m doing a whole thing, I have to see them.” They said, “Madam, they’re not allowed to sit together. You have to be all covered up.”
We ended up going upstairs into the King Khalid Suite so that I didn’t have to wear the abaya and I could do my presentation, but it’s the same thing. They had jewels. “Would you take jewels?” They asked me the same thing about the rents, the return, and the whole thing. It’s very similar things that we want to exchange for American assets. It was quite an experience to take one of these projects to go to the Middle East.
It was a great experience. It was an honor. I was so glad I got to go. It was wild and unexpected. We didn’t know what to expect. That’s why you got to try. You have to see what you can do. We were so lucky both of us that we could work for these wonderful brands. They had the marketing budgets to send teams over there to try to explore that potential. That’s cool.
That’s the nature of our business, though. You never know what to expect. Every day is different and a new thing happens. No two days are alike.
That’s also the exciting part, I feel like because you can be very creative.
One thing I wanted to ask you, Davina, is because of the whole dynamic of the television show and the fact is because it is fueled by entertainment, they create characters that are beyond what the people are individually as agents. Do you find that you have to unring that bell when people have a perception of what your life from the show, when in fact that isn’t maybe not exactly what you’re like when you’re dealing with a real client?
To be fair, the show doesn’t define me or anyone of us. For anyone to assume that they know who we are, who I am or anyone on the show, to be honest, whether you love or hate them, you don’t know someone based on a TV show. It’s not the case. That goes for any show, but especially our show. People assume I’m mean or I’m cold. They do think like, “You have a lot of experience.” They might think I’m a little cold, but a lot of people are also like, “It’s just a TV show.” They understand that it was 10% of who you might be or something that you said. Everyone can have a highlight reel of their life to show all the bad or good moments. You would look like a completely different person in each video. It depends.
There’s no shortage of ignorance. People that do believe that what they see on TV, whether it be your show or anything else, is reality.
I have a question for both of you. What length did you go to get a listing? We’ve all done the Car and Driver. I’ve done a helicopter and a plane. I’ve gone to concerts. Is there anything that stands out in your mind that you had to do in order to get a listing?
Davina, go ahead.
It was the same Japanese gentleman I dealt with in downtown LA Live. We did the helicopter ride for him and then he met the mayor of LA. He met Kobe Bryant at that time. We went all out. We took him to the Grammys because they were at Staples. We got him a membership at Hyde. I was talking to the CEO of the company, who was making all this happen and possible. He was putting on me, “What if I make all this happen? The guy better buy the place.” I was like, “He is going to.” It was a yearlong of courting this guy. I would always email and call. I was like, “He is real, but I don’t know.”
To make a fun, entertaining show, production really has to focus on some storylines that are going to be interesting to the audience.He was a collector of Ritz-Carlton. He had multiple Ritz-Carlton properties. He was very qualified. I just wasn’t sure if he was ready to buy. I kept following up with him and I was like, “I feel like he is going to do it.” We went above and beyond. Sure enough, he did buy and it was a record sale. That was great, but it was a lot of pressure because my CEO was like, “Davina, if I open all these doors, he is going to meet Kobe, get a basketball sign, get a membership, get a helicopter, and a dinner by Chef Katsuya. He better buy.” I was like, “I think so, but please don’t chop my head off if not. I’m doing everything I can.”
We took a lot of guests to the Grammys, for sure. We probably entertained at least ten people there when I went three times. It was a full VIP experience backstage. It’s fabulous. I’m not going to have fun. I’m going to take care of these clients and I’m at their backend because of how it is. They were great, but not everybody bought something. It was a lot of pressure on me because I was trying to always bring the conversation back to the condo, “Do you want to buy a place? When do you think you want to move forward? When do you think you might send the deposit?” I always bring it back to that, but you have to let them have fun, enjoy the experience, what it would be like to live down here and all the different things you can do here.
That’s pretty exciting, though. Not too many people go above and beyond like that. Bob, what have you got?
It’s funny. For me, it’s like the opposite side of the coin. This may sound self-serving, but it’s the truth. I represent a lot of properties that are outside of California and the United States as well. People would want me to see the property when I don’t often need to do that. What I’ll do is say, “I don’t need to see it unless it’s cool.” I have the region of Umbria in Italy that wanted to turn Umbria into the next Tuscany. They flew out to meet me. They had me and my international marketing director, who Davina knows, Michael Courtney, fly out to Italy.
Every day, for two weeks, we would see a castle in the morning and afternoon and then eat for three hours in between. It was amazing because we would see these properties that were in families for centuries. I’ll never forget one in Assisi. It was this cool, old guy. He did have a translator, but the guys we were with could speak Italian. He said, “Come look at this.” There was this doorway that led down subterranean. There were these Etruscan ruins. That was exciting. During that trip, I saw a lot of amazing properties. It was fun and then I’ve done a lot of that type of stuff.
One time I had a guy called me and he goes, “I was on a trip and I came back.” His assistant called me. She goes, “Why didn’t you return his call?” I said, “First of all, I just came back from a trip. I haven’t even looked at my mail.” She goes, “You need to talk to him. I’m going to send you the same package we sent you before,” which she did. It was about twenty pages, in this house he had at a desert. The point is the guy wanted me to come look at this property in Coeur d’Alene that he wanted me to sell. I said, “Can I?”
He sent a plane to come pick me up, fly me there and we went on his helicopter to land on the property. You guys have been on helicopters, I’m sure. They’re noisy. When they show people talking, when a helicopter is bogus, you can’t hear anything. He had a silent helicopter. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. We landed on his property. I’ve done some interesting things, but it’s almost always been at the point of which someone wanted me to go out of my area to go look at something. There’s a litany of those types of stories. As far as what I’ve done crazily to get listings, I would have to think about that because offhand, I can’t think of anything.
You had that big monster house that our real estate investor, a mutual guy that we knew had. Did you have to do crazy things for that house?
That was another guy. I was on a trip in Kauai. I get this email and he goes, “I know who you are. I have done my research. I have these two properties that you can sell.” I said, “All right, whatever.” I came back and flew out his private jet to this island that he had. He wanted to sell that for $105 million, which I reviewed this with him. He had this other one he tells me. It’s located in this location I never heard of. I had to google it because I wasn’t even sure. It was the number one on the Forbes list.
I did so many crazy things. He spent $8.5 million on his pond. We’re still in touch. Our paths have crossed a lot. He asked you about. He goes, “Do you know Val?” I go, “Yes, I know Val really well.” He was a trip man. The stuff I had to do for that house was insane. I must have done twenty different TV pieces for that show. It had a shooting range, you could shoot a 50-caliber rifle. It was crazy stuff.
You went fly-fishing on his property.
He spent $8.5 million. He had the people that did the aquarium at the Pacific in Long Beach to create this million-gallon trout pond. At 57 degrees, you can fly-fish. I showed that property and there was a bear in the pond, hunting for fish. Every client was Chinese at the Pacific Rim there. I was never sure because we had bear or something there. You could see deer and people were like, “There’s no bear. Should I go?” “I haven’t seen bears.” It was weird stuff.
I had one guy. He was all cash. He was very eager to close and we weren’t ready. He closed anyway because he was cash. The escrow didn’t find a problem with him. He wasn’t in any terrorist lists. He is from New York. He is in the meat-packing business. I was like, “I don’t want to know anymore. Just take the condo.” It was weird. He was a nice guy, but we don’t want to cross his bad side.
As women, have you had any sketchy situations where you’ve shown a property and you were sketched out about it?
I haven’t been scared.
I haven’t been scared either, but if they’re there because they’re interested in you and not the property. For example, I had one guy. Bob, you know the story. I met him at an open house, in one of these beautiful $9 million or $10 million house. He was very young, 21. At first, you’re like, “I don’t know about this guy,” but then he showed me his bank account statements and pulled it up right there. He was like, “I have over $100 million. My aunt died and left me this money. She was involved in the dome in Israel like the defense.” I was like, “Okay.”
He had the money. He put me in touch with his wealth management people. He had three bodyguards and he always showed up in a Suburban. I was like, “He is a trust fund kid.” I don’t think he was interested in me romantically, but then I was like, “He wants to buy a place, but he also didn’t know what he was doing.” I was trying to educate him and showed him the property. We probably spent a total of maybe four months looking. There was at least five days in there that we looked at multiple houses a day. A lot of times, he would find them on Zillow or I would email him the options. He would be like, “I want to see this one.”
It kept going higher. It went from $10 million to $20 million and then we were upgrading to $38 million. It was the highest one we looked at. We found this beautiful property on Thrasher’s new construction. It was a brand-new listing and East-facing. It was always the sunrise but not the sunset, and he wakes up late, this kid. I was like, “You’re going to be in shadow all day at the pool, which is ideal for a $40 million.” I was driving around the construction sites to see who else lives there. It’s near Dr. Dre’s house.
We looked at all these properties and he was never creepy, but what was the point of that? Did he just want to see houses and take pictures for Instagram? I don’t know. That was a little weird. Finally, he disappeared when it came down to make a move, but I don’t think he was ready to buy. I’m not sure what his motivation was, but I was finally like, “I can’t waste my time anymore, but you never know. You have to try.”
He probably showed up being featured on American Grade.
He got to spend all that time with a pretty girl. Maybe he doesn’t get pretty girls very often.
We were in different cars. He drove with his cousin and bodyguards. I was in my car and I was like, “I’ll see you there.” We were looking at the house, but it wasn’t like, “Take a photo with me.” He was never inappropriate. I can’t complain about it. He never bought anything. He wasn’t creepy.
What about you, Val? Have you had anything where you’re like, “With this person, there is something off?”
Yes, many times. There are people that are a little bit off and then just I stare. You learn to keep your distance physically when you’re walking ahead of them or you have them walk in front of you. You can maneuver it around. When you’ve been doing this for a while, you get a sense of people. Sometimes I cut it short if it would get too intense or nerve-racking. I had one up in Beverly Park. Another major movie star bought this house with me. I sold it twice. There were a lot of these very questionable thugs that would show up that were in the music business.
It’s hard to say all that. I can’t say any of the names. Those people scared me because they’re overpowering. I would say, “You go ahead and take a walk around the house. I’ll wait out here.” That was in Beverly Park, which is where a lot of very wealthy people live. For the most part, I’ve had it pretty good but a lot of unusual situations. A lot of crazy, unusual things happen and bump into things. You see things because we’re inside people’s lives.
The thing is, someone could be a little off, but they could be legit and qualified. They have the money and they might buy the place. You have to try experiment a little bit. If it goes too weird, then you’re done. Sometimes, you have to try it because they might buy it. You just don’t want to get too involved in all their business. You’re like, “Here’s the place and let me know if you want to move forward.”
I showed a very famous singer some property and he had a whole entourage of people. Initially, they came to preview the property before. They were a little questionable, but it was real and he ended up moving forward. The crowd or the entourage was younger with a little bit of an attitude, but also, they didn’t seem the most sophisticated. I was like, “Are they just saying they work with this person?” They ended up being real. You never know.
Davina, we’re so happy and excited that you’ve been here with us to share your stories with us and our readers. Thank you so much for spending this time with us.
Thank you so much for having me. I had fun.
Maybe down the road, you’ll join us again for another great chat. Bob and I do this every week. We would love to have you back.
Thanks, Bob and Valerie.