‘Luxe Listings Sydney’: Amazon’s new reality TV series promises pure excess, when even ordinary property feels out of reach

  • “Luxe Listings Sydney”, a new reality TV show from Amazon Prime Video, follows elite Sydney realtors and agents as they negotiate one of the world’s hottest property markets.
  • The series promises viewers access to some of Australia’s most valuable properties, at a moment when everyday homes are reaching unbelievable prices.
  • “It’s the hottest market I’ve ever seen, ever,” star D’Leanne Lewis told Business Insider Australia.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The first thing you should know about “Luxe Listings Sydney”, the new reality TV spectacle from Amazon Prime Video, is that it makes good on the name.

There’s a moment early in the series where a realtor spars with a prospective buyer’s agent over pricing. The realtor says their asset is worth a cool million dollars. The agent demurs. He checked the market that morning, he says, and the value couldn’t possibly crack $450,000.

They’re not talking about a home. They are debating the value of the copper in a single Point Piper mansion, and the price of a ceiling festooned with thousands of glimmering metal tiles.

“Luxe Listings Sydney”, which premieres this Friday, is full of these dizzying moments, exposing how Australia’s richest property owners live their lives.

And as one instance of extreme extravagance folds into the next, it’s hard not to feel some quiet sense of concern: not about the tastes of Sydney’s uber rich, but for the everyday Australians whose dreams of homeownership feel as ridiculous as a million-dollar ceiling.

Welcome to the neighbourhood

The show tracks Sydney realtors Gavin Rubinstein and D’Leanne Lewis, and buyers agent Simon Cohen, whose intertwining careers have resulted in billions of dollars in property sales across the city’s most prestigious postcodes.

Rubinstein, who commands an eponymous group within the Ray White empire, is portrayed as a hungry and hard-bargaining workaholic desperate to best Lewis, a fabulously successful agent with 30 years of experience. Between them is Cohen, whose clients entrust him to snag properties before they even hit the market, attempting to scrape millions off the asking price in the process.

As reality TV logic would dictate, “Luxe Listings Sydney” tracks each star as they outdo and outdeal each other, backdropped by infinity pools, renovated embassies, and ungodly views of Sydney Harbour. The opening episode features one use of ‘girlboss’, three of ‘Turkish marble’, and what cannot be the only yacht party held to celebrate the gang’s own triumphs.

Like “Selling Sunset”, one of several American reality TV shows dedicated to luxury real estate and those who sell it, “Luxe Listings Sydney” is itself a slick product. Rubinstein, Lewis, and Cohen are engaging personalities, ready-made for reality TV stardom.

And for viewers less inclined to enjoy confected drama between glitzy realtors, the houses provide plenty to gawk at. Inhabiting a $55 million home with postcard views of the Opera House, even through a screen, is a minor thrill, the next best thing to trespassing; for the vast majority of viewers, actually stepping foot in a Point Piper mansion seems likely to invoke a swift intervention from some private paramilitary unit.

This voyeuristic effect is heightened when considering the idea all real estate is becoming luxury real estate. As house prices continue to outstrip wage growth, buying a home, any home, has become an abstract goal for countless working Australians. The show’s younger viewers may be able to stump up for an Amazon Prime membership, but monthly mortgage repayments? Perhaps not so much.

What “Luxe Listings Sydney” is, then, is pure wish fulfilment, not for prestige home ownership, but home ownership at all.

Seeking shelter in the “perfect storm”

The market has risen higher still in the months since filming wrapped, the show’s stars say.

“It’s the hottest market I’ve ever seen, ever,” Lewis told Business Insider Australia, pointing to the potent combination of factors which have made Sydney one of the most expensive cities on Earth.

“You’ve got a high level of emotion,” she said.

“People emotionally want to come back to Sydney from overseas, or expats wanting to come back. Money’s never been cheaper. There’s a shortage of supply, it’s almost like the perfect storm.”

It’s been a wonderful few months for those tasked with selling Australia’s priciest homes, but there are some early signs Australia’s property market might cool off.

Speaking on Tuesday after the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision to keep the cash rate at 0.10% for just a while longer, Governor Philip Lowe indicated that regulators might intervene if the debt burden continues to outpace wage growth.

Well-off foreign buyers now report feeling the crush of Sydney real estate prices.

And a majority of New South Wales economists who participated in a recent survey believe property prices will peak in 2021, after spiking by 15% over the financial year.

As money pours into Australia’s $8.1 trillion housing sector, the stars of “Luxe Listings Sydney” recognise something has to give.

Maybe.

“I think if interest rates were to skyrocket, I think the market will soften,” Cohen said. “How likely or unlikely that is, and what happens alongside that? I don’t know, you might have to ask someone a lot smarter than me.”

“There’s never been one up and stayed up and never had one down and stay down,” Lewis added. “That’s what life is all about.”

But there’s an uneasy tension between that caution and their belief property ownership is still the way to build wealth in Australia.

Speaking to some of the nation’s most elite real estate agents, it feels that questioning market orthodoxy, even as Australian mortgage lending explodes to record levels, ignores some kind of fundamental truth.

“There’s never been a time in my career — and I started in the GFC — that someone sat down in front of me and said, ‘You know what, I’m so happy I waited to buy until now,’” Cohen said.

“Everyone has always said ‘I should have bought last year. And I should have bought the year before that, I should have bought the year before that,’ because it just continually keeps climbing.”

And even for buyers who’d never dream of a bayside views or million-dollar ceilings, these complex problems seem to have one very simple solution: spending more money.

“With the climate the way it is, if you like the property, you like the home, the less games the better right now,” Rubinstein said, “because there’s going to be someone right behind you [who] is going to be willing to pay the number you are, and or more.

“If you can stretch yourself as well, within the realms of not causing any harm, do it, because in the short to medium, even long term, it’s gonna pay a dividend.”

“What’s expensive today might seem cheap tomorrow,” Lewis added.

“Luxe Listings Sydney” premieres on Amazon Prime Video Friday July 9.

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