It’s been a couple of months since Moreton Bay Realty appeared in our lounge rooms as stars of Channel Seven’s The Mentor. The family-owned agency sat down with Elite Agent to discuss the impact of the show on their business, and how they survived reality TV editing.
It’s hard to escape the unblinking eye of reality TV in Australia; our evening lineup is stuffed full of dates gone wrong, cooks slicing their fingers off and the occasional celebrity jumping out of a plane.
And we love it. The launch episodes of these shows regularly open to over a million viewers, and if you play your cards right as a reality star you can turn your appearance into a lucrative career.
Improvement is a common theme in reality TV. Whether it’s a house (The Block, House Rules), a skill (Masterchef, X Factor) or a love life (the entire rose-wielding Bachelor franchise), Aussies are hankering to watch people undergo complete transformation in front of the cameras.
It’s a concept Mark Bouris is already well acquainted with; he starred in our own version of The Apprentice back in 2009.
The Mentor opened to just under 500,000 viewers when it hit our screens in April, with an opening episode focused on the family-owned Ubiquitous Realty, now Moreton Bay Realty. It was daughter Stephanie who initially signed them up for the show.
“I saw it on Facebook and so I thought, ‘What the heck? The business isn’t doing amazing, it’s not doing terribly, we should probably give it a crack’,” says Stephanie.
After completing the rigorous online application, which involved ‘a million and one’ questions, the family had to submit a video entry. After the process Stephanie found out her mum Sharon Lisch had also completed the entry, but stopped at this point.
“I did the video, didn’t tell the family. Then [Channel Seven] called me and said, ‘We’re really interested in speaking to you guys, but we need the whole family in the video’. So I had to confess.”
Not only was Moreton Bay Realty chosen for the show, they were selected for the debut episode. The family underwent eight solid days of filming, with cameras in their faces the whole time.
“You’re constantly wearing a mic, constantly have cameras in your face; there’s no moment of privacy. You have no say about it and it easily would have been 12-hour days,” says Stephanie.
There were also tasks the family were asked to complete, including a ‘bogan’ video which put them in the worst possible light. Cue Mark Bouris’ entry.
“They wanted us to shoot a really stupid, bogan property video in our backyard. So we were doing that, and then Mark all of a sudden waltzed in. It was something that was totally out of context, that we would never do. It wasn’t a property video; it was a promotional video on Deception Bay where we were dressed as bogans talking about the area. It was terrible, but that’s what they said they wanted from us,” says Stephanie.
Their contact with the Yellow Brick Road boss was to be fleeting. Apart from scenes filmed with him, Sharon says there was no chance for them to get to know Mark, or for him to know them. However, there was one great relationship to come out of the experience, and that was with Ray White New Farm principal Matt Lancashire. Matt was brought onto the show as a mentor and training partner for the family, a connection which has continued long after the cameras left.
“It’s been awesome. We go to Ray White every Monday. They invite us to the normal training that they do, and it’s always varied and different. They’re always talking to you about a different topic, whether that’s auctions or open homes or dealing with buyers,” says Sharon.
“Matt’s been awesome. He’s really opened up his arms, and his team, to us and he’s adopted us to an extent. He’s really helpful and a very, very warm character. That’s definitely the best thing that we got out of the show, that connection with Matt.”
So was reality TV the magic band-aid to save Moreton Bay Realty? Unfortunately not, say the family. In fact, the press associated with the show, and the long process of recovering from a rebrand, has actually pushed them back slightly.
“We have rebranded, and the new, professional look and attitude is definitely there, but yeah, in a lot of ways it’s hurt us more than helped us,” says Stephanie.
“You have to rebuild your reputation, you have to get back out in the community. So, in a sense, that actually put us backwards. The show didn’t actually leverage anything for our business in terms of people going, ‘Oh wow! Moreton Bay Realty. They’re in my area. I’m gonna call them for an appraisal.’ We’ve had nothing in terms of that.”
Sharon says the marketing of the show (the banner ads proudly proclaiming the team may be ‘Australia’s Worst Agents’) has given the team something to fight against.
“When the ads first came out, we’re like, ‘Wasn’t this supposed to be helping our business? And yet they’re calling us the worst real estate agency in Australia’,” says Sharon.
“[In our area] other agencies are leading their appraisals with clients with that. We’ve had clients that we’ve signed on who’ve had agents come in and say, ‘Why are you listing with them? They’re the ones who look like idiots on national TV. Why would you use them?’ And we’ve had clients who didn’t sign on with us because other agents were saying this sort of rubbish as well,” says Stephanie.
The family say the chip on their shoulder is only causing them to push harder and prove those other agents, and the editing team at The Mentor, wrong.
“That just means we’ve gotta keep our game up, so it’s keeping us in line. We’re just gonna work hard and keep those relationships going. The challenges are out there, and yeah, we’re up for it.”
There have been plenty of reality show stars who have had their futures torn apart by editing (just ask anyone on The Bachelor who got the ‘villain edit’), but if they could do it all again the family say they wouldn’t hesitate.
“The whole experience, even though it was taxing, it was enjoyable. It’s made us go out and look for more assistance. It’s made us reach out to other families that have been in the other shows, and reach out to other professionals as well,” says Stephanie.
The family agrees that the experience has highlighted the lack of shortcuts in real estate. If anything was likely to give your business a boost and secure more listings it should be appearing on national television, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
“Everyone will say that in real estate. There are no shortcuts, there are no quick fixes, there’s not one way to get a listing; it’s just a time and effort thing. That’s real estate in a nutshell. There is no magic wand in real estate. Not even television and fame and being out there in the public’s eye is necessarily going to do anything spectacular for real estate,” says Sharon.
“You really have to build relationships and build trust and be out there in the community and have your feet on the pavement. That’s it.”