If you love watching reality TV, mostly because real estate runs rampant on the screen and in your heart, stay tuned to Real Tea. Inman’s Dani Vanderboegh sits down with your favorite celeb agents to get the scoop on the newest releases, go behind the scenes, and spill the tea on all your burning questions from last season.
Selling the OC dropped on Netflix on Aug. 24, 2022, marking the introduction of the Oppenheim Group’s newest luxe brokerage in Orange County, where the heels are high, the fashion is good and the competition is fierce.
Between all the drama with all the agents named Alex (Alexandra Rose, Alex Hall, Alexandra Jarvis) and proverbial pissing contests in Season 1, Gio Helou, the self-described “fucking rockstar” and “top dog” of the Oppenheim Group’s Newport Beach office, had some sweet moments with his mom, Lisa Helou. Lisa Helou, who’s been an agent since 1976, according to her bio, also hangs her license at the Oppenheim Group.
She started in LA but has been selling in the OC for a long time, Gio says. “Priding herself on her old-school approach and tactics,” she was quick to offer mentorship to Gio and his castmates.
While there’s no official launch date from Netflix on Season 2 as of yet, Season 3 is currently being filmed, “like right now,” Gio Helou said.
Get the Real Tea on growing up with mom and fellow agent at the Oppenheim Group Lisa Helou, working with Jason Oppenheim and staying competitive in today’s market. What follows is Inman’s conversation with Gio Helou, which has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get into real estate?
It’s kind of an in-the-blood sort of thing. My dad is a builder. I actually started working with him. And it was really great learning the building side of things and understanding how much things cost for clients if they want to remodel or build their dream home from scratch. So it was great to be able to bring that to the sales side when I joined my mom about four years ago.
Since then, she’s taught me almost everything I know about real estate sales. We’re very different in that we both have very different styles. And I think that plays [in] our favor. I’m definitely not a carbon copy of her, and I think she loves and appreciates that I’ve grown into my own, so to speak, but it was a family business. Still is, and I just naturally fell into their footsteps and never looked back.
That happens a lot in real estate, and I love the family stories.
With that, though, there also come the challenges of family, that we all know and love. I mean it’s hard when you’re in work mode during the day and then, let’s say you’re at a family dinner, that doesn’t shut off. That work convo continues … My wife looks at me sometimes at [family dinners], and she’s like, ‘Really? We’re still talking about that listing?’ … It doesn’t ever end!
There’s a cute scene where your mom compliments a colleague on door-knocking and then goes into how, back in the day, her broker used to drop her off in the neighborhood to door-knock. They didn’t have a choice. And you compare it to the walking uphill both ways in 6 feet of snow with no shoes trope that parents love to tell. Are there any other momisms she offers regularly?
Anything under $3 million … it’s a very small sale [to me], and she’s like, “Back in my day … $3 million would have been like a $30 million sale now,” and I’m just shaking my head all the time to that.
No, the door-knocking one is kind of unique. She just doesn’t let up on that. Just because I don’t like to do it.
I was going to ask that next. Is door-knocking part of your business?
It was when I started. The first couple of years, I did quite a bit of it. And it’s very humbling … it’s a lot of doors thrown in your face. There is something valuable to it that I miss, and I think sticking to the fundamentals is always good.
It’s funny, I was talking to my wife about this, and I was like, “You know, given the market now, maybe it’s time to go back to those fundamentals and just start doing things like door-knocking again.”
That’s what you see with some of the best top-producing agents. They don’t stop on the fundamentals, and I’ve gotten a little lazy, to be honest. The show doesn’t help because it is very time-consuming, and it does monopolize (when we’re in production mode) all of my hours. So that’s been a challenge … But at the end of the day, despite the drama, despite all that fun part of the show, it’s a real estate show.
You still have to get listings and have to make sales. And if you start falling short in that arena, you’re gonna lose your respect and [storylines]. So that’s the heart of it.
Your castmates kind of give you a little bit of the business about growing up in Newport. What do you say to that?
I think if any of them could trade places with me, they would have. Because growing up in Newport was just amazing. So I think, it comes out of maybe a little bit of jealousy.
“Selling Sunset” will release Season 6 on May 19. Look for an upcoming Real Tea with brand new castmember Bre Tiesi next week.
On fashion, dressing for success and staying competitive
The fashion on your show, well, both the Selling Sunset shows, is next-level. It has to be a lot to keep up with.
It is, and I had no idea. I mean, I’m a guy so it’s much less involved, and no one really cares nearly as much as they do about what the girls wear, and rightfully so, but even for me it is extremely time-consuming because people expect you to present yourself a certain way on these shows, and it’s part of the fun, but geez, I see what my female castmates go through, and it’s a lot.
I mean, I have to bring three or four wardrobe options to set every time we film just in case, you know, they’re clashing with each other or something like that. And that’s a full-time job just in and of itself.
Do you feel like the expectation is different on reality TV than it is just being an agent in your market?
Not for me, but I consider myself an exception to the rule there … That’s something my mom taught me. From Day 1. You want to look fucking amazing every day. You don’t want your wardrobe to deter any possible lead or listing or sale. So when I suit up every day, it’s the same exact thing that I would wear on camera. There is no difference. It is pretty seamless.
And I think that is a huge oversight on so many agents: They don’t give how they present themselves enough time and enough attention … I think people not only will respect you more, sadly, based on how you appear, but also it gives me an extra boost of confidence, and it allows me to really own everything that I’m talking about.
Not that I wouldn’t without the clothes, but you want every little edge when it’s so competitive. You need everything going in your favor that you can control, like wardrobe.
I totally understand. You did kind of give me a little giggle when you said the clothes give you confidence though. You didn’t strike me as somebody who is lacking confidence.
No, and I take pride in that. And it’s not that I ever want to be cocky or anything like that, but I think this business requires a certain level of arrogance because you’re dealing with not only out-of-this-world properties but clients who have achieved the peak of success in their fields.
So you have to match them on their level … They want to know you know your shit and you know exactly how you’re going to sell their house or exactly how you’re going to find the right house for them to buy. So arrogance, in my opinion, is part of the job description.
“That’s something my mom taught me. From Day 1. You want to look fucking amazing every day. You don’t want your wardrobe to deter any possible lead or listing or sale.” – Gio Helou
On Season 1
How has your business changed (if at all) since the show aired?
In real estate, you are your own brand, so the show has exponentially increased my personal brand as a luxury Realtor, and that exposure has allowed me to walk in many breathtaking doors that would have otherwise been closed.
It’s also been an opportunity to have some levity with potential clients who may have preconceived notions of how I am off-camera / in real life.
Coming out of Season 1, were you happy with how you were portrayed? Was it what you expected?
You know, when I signed up for this, I knew that I had zero control on how I was going to be portrayed and how the edit would go. So I went in with as open of a mind as I could. And I think, for that reason, I was on cloud nine once I saw Season 1 … Yeah, they may have exaggerated some aspects of my personality, but I didn’t mind.
It’s a TV show. It is entertainment as well, at the end of the day, so I was thrilled about the edit. I know that some of my castmates were feeling the opposite. And you know, I felt badly about that.
But we all know what we signed up for. We’re all big boys and girls, so I don’t think it was really fair for some of them to complain as much as they did. At least internally, that was the buzz.
What’s your pit and peak of the season?
You know I think my broker choice was probably my peak. I love that scene, and I love that property. It is so incredible, as good as it looked on camera, in person, it’s even more spectacular. Pit? I guess … when me and Alex Hall kind of had our moment at the beach. I think that would probably be my pit. It was even more dramatic off-camera than on, so I think that would probably get a low point for me.
What did we miss off-camera?
Just more of the same. It was more of the same.
On working with Jason Oppenheim
What’s it like working with Jason?
Best business decision I’ve ever made. He runs his office unlike any other office that I’ve been a part of, and I was at two other brokerages before the Oppenheim Group. And what I was so drawn to was how Jason not only is, where I learned a lot about how necessary arrogance is in his business, but also how you treat your fellow agents. He runs his office like a family. And he says it, but he actually means it and he acts on that intention.
So every other brokerage I’ve been with, and I’m not going to name them because I don’t want to put them down, but they’re big machines. And you know, they’re just pumping out, looking at the bottom line.
Where Jason really does care, and he treats each of us like equals. If any of us call him day or night, 1 in the morning or 1 in the afternoon, he answers, and he’s present … He’ll drop what he’s doing and just be there for you. So working for him has been a godsend. I mean, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how to communicate with clients.
I mean, the other big takeaway with Jason is: Be real. Don’t bullshit your clients, don’t try to inflate numbers or anything like that to get a listing. Be straight, and they’ll respect you for it because sellers all day long hear what they want to hear. So sometimes when you tell them the harsh truth, they obviously respect you for it.
Yes, I think you see that a lot with Jason on camera, especially when the topic of overpriced listings comes up.
He’s a straight shooter. And it’s so tempting in this business to try to do or say whatever it takes to get a listing, and I’ve learned over and over again, it’s not worth it. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about just getting the listing — it’s about getting it sold. And if you walk into an appointment with a bunch of funny numbers, and you get the listing and you don’t sell it, then what was the point?
Great point. But we need to know: What is it like to ring the bell?
It’s kind of an in-your-face moment to your fellow agents. I mean, frankly, that’s what it is. It’s “Hey everybody, look at me. I made a sale, and I want you all to lose your hearing for the rest of the afternoon because of it” … It’s a very satisfying feeling … There’s something about that deafening noise that motivates me on some weird level.
It’s a privilege, and it also makes sales … so much more fun, too. I mean, again, no other place I’ve been in do they celebrate every sale you get because every sale in this market is a big fucking deal … Every sale in coastal OC is worth celebrating, and ringing that bell kind of symbolizes, you know, climbing Mount Everest for that listing.
And that sounds like that little bit of gamification among the officemates really works.
Oh, yeah. When I hear someone else ringing that bell, Dani, it lights a fire in my belly. I mean, I’m happy for them, but at the same time, I am someone who is very — passive-aggressive has a very negative connotation, but when it comes to competition, I’m very passive-aggressive. I won’t outrightly say it, but I want nothing more than to ring the bell five times harder for a sale five times bigger the next time.
Who, when they ring the bell, does it drive you the most crazy? Like, who do you want to beat the most?
Frankly, they’re all equal. It’s all the same. Really, it’s not like I really want to say I’m competitive with one person in the office because, you know, I have the highest sales numbers already … My blood boils when I hear that bell ringing and I’m not the one under it. So it’s just, I think that’s what you need, though. You need to have that drive in this business. Otherwise, you’ll fizzle away.
You mentioned the drama earlier. Certainly, there’s plenty of drama, and there are a lot of opinions out there among different cast mates. But one thing it seems like everybody agrees on is that you throw a mean broker’s open. What is your secret?
You know, like everything else, you have to go all out. You can’t half-ass anything in this market. That includes broker’s open because your clients will judge you for every little decision you make.
If they feel like you’re going cheap for a broker’s open or you’re, you know, not really giving it your all for whatever, then you’re not going to get that listing extension if you need it … or they’re gonna, you know, talk to their neighbors about you not really giving it your all, so to speak.
So a broker’s open, just like ringing the bell, it’s a way to show off to your colleagues. I mean, like, that’s the point of a broker’s open.
“Hey, come look at this baller listing I got. Hey, if you can sell it, great, but in the meantime, let’s celebrate me … getting that signed listing agreement.”
So it’s a little bit of [nudge, nudge] “Look at what I got. So what do you have going on?” And when you add a little bit of pizzazz on top of it, like when I added the sushi thing in Season 1, that’s all the more like, “Geez, Gio’s killing it.”
On Season 2
What should we expect with Season 2?
It is going to be an amazing Season 2. It’s going to be better listings, better drama. It’s gonna be Season 1 on steroids in the best of ways … The real estate porn in Season 2 is going to be off the charts.
Will mom be back next season?
I hope so. I hope, fingers crossed!