'Million Dollar Listing' Twins Dish on Real Estate
"We were raised on real estate," says Julianna. "Our mom and stepdad are partners in real estate like we are partners now. We saw our mom putting people in homes since we were six years old."
When the twins graduated from the University of Southern California in 2008 with bachelor degrees in broadcast journalism, it was in "the worse economy ever" for that business, Julianna says she felt; so she and her sister, whom she says she has always worked well with, decided to become real estate partners. (See more photos of the Million Dollar Listing twins in our photo gallery.)
"We started out under [our parents'] brokerage (Tarbell) outside of Los Angeles and Orange County," says Marissa, who also put her broadcast skills to use making video tours for homes. "We never worked as their assistants, but we did go out with our mom on some of her showings; we'd have them stop by our open houses to give us pointers."
Their parents specialized in REO listings, those foreclosures that had reverted to bank ownership. REO listing agents are not suppose to also represent the buyers, so Marissa and Julianna would handle that aspect. "We started learning the REO industry, which is a major part of the market right now," says Marissa.
With just over a year of that experience under their belt, they decided to move over to Keller Williams in the city of Los Angeles and work that market, where they both reside on the west side.
They like to work with builders and new construction, but will also list older homes such as a 1967-built, but remodeled, five-bedroom, three-bath home in Upland, Calif., that they just inked a contract to list for $575,000. The home has an amazing stone pool and spa, complete with water falls and slide. (Pictured; See more photos in our gallery.)
Hooking Up with Josh Flagg
When the 25-year-old twins learned their friend and fellow Keller Williams colleague Josh Flagg was throwing an open house party in Beverly Hills, they decided to catch up with him to get some pointers about that market. Before they knew it they were being interviewed by Flagg and Bravo TV to become his unpaid assistants. (See video below.)
Of course, "unpaid" is a little misconceiving. Not many agents collect a salary, as they work on commission. And the twins were no exception. They continued recruiting their own clients in order to pay the bills. The difference: They didn't make a commission on properties they helped Flagg market.
"I don't know that he was necessarily looking for assistants; he needed some help on his younger, hipper listings in Beverly Hills," says Julianna. "And [the Bravo producers] really wanted us to be on the show."
The Drama Is Real
Although some circumstances on the show are more the doings of the producers, if you ever wondered if all the drama between the sellers and the agents, or even between the agents, such as Hilton & Hyland agent Josh Altman's clashes with Coldwell Banker agent Madison Hildebrand are real or staged, it's all real, the twins say.
"The drama you see on the show is actually real," says Marissa. "People quickly forget there are TV cameras rolling. I think at the end of the day, with the people clashes, [viewers] appreciate seeing us in our real element." After all, as we reported previously, the Million Dollar Listing agents are just like us, sort of.
"Definitely," agrees Julianna. "On Million Dollar Listing you see sellers clashing with their Realtor. That's a real life thing. Real estate can be like a tennis match. You are going back and forth, back and forth going after a ball, but you should think of your Realtor as your team mate, in a game of doubles on the same side of the court. You want to be talking strategy, how to put your best foot forward. You don't necessarily want to be playing hardball with your Realtor."
You Get What You Pay For
So is there a good time to play hardball with your Realtor? Well, it doesn't hurt to ask your agent to negotiate his or her commission, the twins say.
"What I always say to sellers is you don't want to hire someone if they can't negotiate their own commission," says Marissa. "How are they going to negotiate the price of your home if they can't negotiate their commission?"
Now this reporter doesn't know if that means you're suppose to lose in a battle over an agent's commission, because why would you want one who'd give in to the rate you set? What would that say about what the agent might do when negotiating the price of your home? (However, I am in favor of negotiating it.)
But in the end, says Marissa, "You do get what you pay for."
They say if you're selling a home, look for an agent who will give a greater percentage of the total commission to the buyer's agent, so that the buyer's agent has an incentive to sell your home.
Establish Good Rapport With Your Agent
Also when choosing an agent, find one who will take your call all hours of the day, even if through an assistant. "Few of us are licensed as therapists, but we know that real estate can be emotional, and we are there for [clients] almost like friends," says Marissa. "If you find a Realtor you can talk with and express how you're feeling and you know understands you, that is best."
She says establish your expectations of the agent from the get-go. How much marketing do you expect? How frequently do you want updates? How quickly would you like to sell your home? How long is too long? And what's your bottom line sale price. Your agent should address your expectations before getting started so that you're on an even playing field and disappointments are lessened.
But in the end, remember it's a difficult market for selling right now, she says. "Be patient and not frustrated. There is light at the end of the tunnel."
A Clean House Sells Well
And do your part to help your house sell, says Julianna. "Don't have too much clutter, nor too much furniture. Smaller, and less furniture helps a space look bigger."
Marissa agrees, saying, "a buyer may deduct $10,000 because a box of Kleenex was on the counter. Items on the counter will distract them from envisioning their possessions in the home. Unless [you're targeting] an investor, try to keep everything in place and out of the way, and depersonalize so that they can see themselves in the home." (Like AOL Real Estate thinks Melissa Gilbert should have done before putting her Tarzana, Calif home on the market.)
The Stoap twins have this 5-bedroom listing. See interior photos of this home.
Josh Flagg and the Stoap twins.See more photos of the twins.
Sheree R. Curry, who has an older sister who is not a twin, is a three-time award-winning journalist who has covered real estate for six years. During her 20-year career, her articles have appeared regularly in the Wall Street Journal, TV Week, and Fortune. She's been writing for AOL Real Estate since 2009 from a Minneapolis-area rental. She seeks a book publisher -- or at least a lender who'll give a reasonable mortgage rate to a self-employed mom.