Luxury real estate's new weapon: Celebrity brokers

By Jessi Joseph and Ray Parisi
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In the escalating arms race of luxury real estate, sellers have a new, not-so-secret weapon: Celebrity brokers.

CNBC's "Secret Lives of the Super Rich" asked three of the top celebrity brokers on the East and West coasts how they're using their fame to sell some of the most expensive listings in the U.S.

Ryan Serhant, who appears on Bravo's "Million Dollar Listing New York," leads one of the top-selling teams in the state. (Like CNBC, Bravo is a unit of Comcast's NBCUniversal.) Last year, a report by The Wall Street Journal/Real Trends ranked his team No. 1 in the state by volume.

Serhant credits part of his success to the brand he's built through the show. The actor-turned-real-estate-agent had only been in business for a year and a half when he auditioned for the series.

"I was staring at the phone and I was like, 'Come on phone, come on phone,'" he recalls.

"Five years later, do people call? Absolutely. I also use it to get in the door. Otherwise I would never be able to get with that buyer, that seller or developer."

$40,000,000 mansion at 200 Delfern Drive being marketed by David Parnes of MDLLA & The Agency Real Estate
Source: The Agency Real Estate

David Parnes, star of "Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles," agreed the show is a "huge marketing platform" to reach millions of people worldwide.

"Our business is all about exposure and it really doesn't get better than this," he said.

Parnes and his partner James Harris, who is also on the show, sold more than $165 million in real estate their first year in business. But Parnes said the show has taken the duo to the next level. The team aims to sell more than $300 million this year; Parnes' latest strategy includes casting himself and other reality stars in the marketing video of his $40 million Holmby Hills estate listing.

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Luis Ortiz, who appears on the New York edition of "Million Dollar Listing," said the show's exposure is so vast, "sellers reach out to take advantage of such value."

"I was once given a $19.5 million listing from a seller that is a fan of the show," he said.

Disclosure: Like CNBC, Bravo is a unit of Comcast's NBCUniversal.

"Secret Lives of the Super Rich" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET.