‘List­ing’ mines S.F.’s real es­tate gold rush

San Francisco Chronicle - - DATEBOOK - DAVID WIE­GAND

When peo­ple ask me why I don’t watch a lot of re­al­ity shows, I tell them life is a re­al­ity show, but with­out a script.

I don’t know how much of a script there is with the new “Mil­lion Dol­lar List­ing” fran­chise, but the show, pre­mier­ing-Wed­nes­day on Bravo, fits the tem­plate for so many re­al­ity shows: It’s both hideous and ad­dict­ing.

“Mil­lion Dol­lar List­ing San Fran­cisco,” the fourth in­stall­ment in the highly suc­cess­ful se­ries, couldn’t be bet­ter timed, since lit­tle ca­ble cars aren’t the only ones climb­ing half­way to the stars in San Fran­cisco: Real es­tate prices are climb­ing even higher, and much faster. You could leave

your heart here as well as your life sav­ings, look­ing for a place to live.

En­ter three sali­vat­ing real es­tate agents ready to move mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar prop­er­ties to the ar­riv­iste geeks known as techies. These are pri­mar­ily nerds who couldn’t get dates, but have cleaned up nicely, thanks to a sud­den in­flux of cash, if not ac­tual class.

An­drew Green­well, Justin Fichel­son and Roh Habibi come from dif­fer­ent worlds and seem to have lit­tle in com­mon as far as their off-work lives are con­cerned. Then again, it’s hard to de­fine “off-work” for any of them be­cause they al­most live and breathe real es­tate night and day.

Habibi, the child of Afghan im­mi­grants, par­tied a lot in his 20s, but now, as a mar­ried man with an in­fant daugh­ter, has cleaned up his act, be­come a de­voutMus­lim and be­lieves the best way he can ac­knowl­edge the sac­ri­fices his par­ents made on his be­half is to be­come the top real es­tate agent in the San Fran­cisco mar­ket.

Justin Fichel­son was born and raised in San Fran­cisco, has an enor­mous li­brary of so­cial media con­tacts and has a some­what an­noy­ing gig­gling laugh that doesn’t seem to put off po­ten­tial clients.

An­drew Green­well, a na­tive of Florida, is gay, lives with his Nor­we­gian part­ner, and is un­apolo­get­i­cally ruth­less. He doesn’t even know how to feign hu­mil­ity, much less seem to pos­sess that qual­ity. For no real rea­son other than to mess with the heads of his com­peti­tors, he has bought do­main names with Fichel­son and Habibi’s names.

You’ll look at this guy with his smug non-smile and think you wouldn’t want to spend five min­utes in his com­pany. And you could be right ... un­less you were selling or buy­ing prop­erty. Do you want an an­gel fish ne­go­ti­at­ing prop­erty costs for you, or a shark?

The show’s first episode re­veals a lot about the chang­ing na­ture of both the San Fran­cisco mar­ket­place and its pop­u­la­tion. Green­well is re­tained to sell an ex­quis­ite year-old min­i­mal­ist man­sion in what we’re told is the red-hot Alamo mar­ket. The own­ers are the ar­chi­tect of the sleek mod­ern struc­ture built into a hill­side, and his in­te­rior de­signer wife.

Habibi teams up with vet­eran Bay Area real es­tate mae­stro Joel Goodrich to sell a huge man­sion in the tra­di­tion­ally tony St. Fran­cisWood area of the city. In­stead of go­ing to old San Fran­cisco money, Habibi tar­gets those techie ar­riv­istes, try­ing to con­vince them about how cool the man­sion will be for af­ter-par­ties, even if it isn’t di­rectly across the street from a Star­bucks or the Cal­train de­pot to Sil­i­con Val­ley.

Fichel­son works a re­cently ren­o­vated home in the al­ways hot Noe Val­ley sec­tion of San Fran­cisco. He’s hired by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the own­ers who in­sists that the house be put on the mar­ket for $4 mil­lion. Fichel­son ar­gues in vain that the price is too high. Fichel­son gets a de­cent of­fer, but it’s not enough. The back and forth gets tech­ni­cal and in­side-real-es­tate, but you come to un­der­stand that set­ting hous­ing prices, even in a seem­ingly open-ceil­ing mar­ket, is com­pli­cated and can­not be done with­out in­formed aware­ness of the mi­cro-mar­ket around the prop­erty.

Fichel­son throws a party, us­ing his so­cial media net­work to reach out to rich techies, one of whom loves the view, but won­ders whether a tow­er­ing pine tree in a nearby yard could be re­moved.

Clearly, she hasn’t lived in San Fran­cisco very long.

“Mil­lion Dol­lar List­ing” is tele­vi­sion’s ver­sion of real es­tate porn and, as such, is quite ef­fec­tive. Re­sis­tance is fu­tile, as the say­ing goes.

Spoiler alert: The St. Fran­cis Wood shack sold in­March for $6.5 mil­lion. Ah, yes, but did Habibi make the sale? And did it go to a rich techie? Tune in to “Mil­lion Dol­lar List­ing San Fran­cisco” to find out.

Kim White / Bravo Media

Real es­tate agents An­drew Green­well (left) and Roh Habibi com­pete in “Mil­lion Dol­lar List­ing San Fran­cisco.”

Mil­lion Dol­lar List­ing

San Fran­cisco: Re­al­ity show. 10 p.m. Wed­nes­day, July 8, on Bravo.

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