‘Selling Sunset’ takes property porn to a whole new level

Badass women and spiked stiletto heels make for hideously compulsive viewing.

If you are distraught because the Kardashians have announced you will no longer be able to keep up with them on TV, relax, there is an alternative. If boob jobs, botox parties and banal conversation is your thing, then ‘Selling Sunset’, the Netflix reality show about female realtors (estate agents) battling it out in Hollywood is the fix you are looking for.

Behind all the air-kissing and eye candy – supermodel estate agents, shiny mansions, sun-drenched swimming pools – ‘Selling Sunset’ depicts Los Angeles real estate as a cutthroat world where the commissions are as big as the fake fingernails.

But why are Brits obsessed with this show, which has been trending in Netflix UK’s top ten? Well, property reality TV is nothing new. ‘Changing Rooms’, Great Interior Design Challenge’, Grand Designs’, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces’; the list is endless. ‘Location, Location, Location’ is actually celebrating its twentieth year, but ‘Selling Sunset’ is more Barbie and Ken than Phil and Kirstie.

Phil and Kirstie’s genial banter about say, a semi-detached in Tunbridge Wells makes for nice comfort TV, but it is not quite as bingeworthy as watching Playboy bunny lookalikes trying to steal each other’s $75 million listing in Beverly Hills.

One enormous difference between British and US estate agents is the pay. “In the US, every agent selling is an independent contractor – they do not have a salary and live 100 per cent on commission, so they’re brands in themselves,” explains Jason Mansfield, an American expat agent who now works in London.

“Selling yourself is seen as brash and ostentatious in the UK and is frowned upon. In the US they eat what they kill. In California, if you sold a $10 million house, the commission might get the individual agent $600,000, or the lion’s share of that.”

By comparison, in the UK, the firm that employed the agent would only get 1-3 per cent commission, and the individual agent would receive only 10-25 per cent of that.

It is undeniable that much of Selling Sunset’s allure is the property porn backdrop: swooping HD walkthroughs of multi-million-dollar homes, the kind where people park Ferraris inside them and have infinity pools with views over the glowing city below.

The real meat, though, is the fake friendships and real beefs of the women who work there.

Chrishell, the All-American, wholesome, wounded lead. Christine, a Cruella de Vil/Katherine Heigl crossover who is TV’s perfect villain. Heather and Mary, on the surface too nice for this but, by the sheer fact that they are there, proving that there is something dark lying within them. Davina, a quiet agent of chaos. Maya, far too straight-shooting and normal for this sort of thing. The chemistry between them – hot, cold, licked teeth behind forced smiles – is close to alchemy.

Are these good people? No. Are they likable in any way? Rarely. Are viewers so captivated they cannot look away, like footage of surgery, or the aftermath of a fall? Yes. Watching Selling Sunset is like smoking a cigarette: you know it’s poison, damaging your insides for ever. But does it feel good to resist it? Or does it feel good to give in?