HGTV in the House
Among the popular network’s newest shows, “Selling the Big Easy” stars local luxury residential Realtor Brittany Picolo-Ramos
New Orleans is the setting for yet another TV show — this time one that highlights the city’s luxury housing market. On September 11, HGTV debuted the first few episodes of “Selling the Big Easy,” which follows New Orleans native and high-end realtor Brittany Picolo-Ramos and her team at Godwyn & Stone Real Estate as they assist buyers in finding their dream home and help sellers stage their homes for top dollar.
Picolo-Ramos said her shot at small screen fame came about by chance while was doing what she does best, being her true self with a client.
“I was just showing a property to a client and talking about my family, about my grandmother working at Royal Sonesta, lots of stories,” Picolo-Ramos said. “[The client] said, ‘You really love this city.’ She said, ‘You are hilarious,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, yes I am.’ She said I should have my own show. She had a production company and she put things into works. It has been a two-year process.”
Thirteen episodes of the show have been filmed, all of which will be available on demand on HGTV Go. For Picolo-Ramos, it was important that “Selling the Big Easy” showed HGTV’s millions of viewers — the network reaches over 75 million households — more than just the typical sights of the French Quarter and Garden District. Viewers will see homes and neighborhoods from throughout the region, including Metairie, the Westbank and the Northshore.
For Picolo-Ramos, being in front of the camera came naturally, while her real estate career was slower in development in the beginning.
“My sister is a real estate agent in Nashville. I have ‘little sister syndrome,’ and as a little sister didn’t want to be anything like her, since I was always being compared to her,” she said. “I thought it was all about wearing a blazer or a suit. I had a picture in my head. I like to make people laugh. I didn’t think I fit the mold. I was working at a telecommunication company when I hurt my back. I was standing on my feet for 8 to 10 hours a day. A relative with a real estate agency called, and I asked if I could work with her.”
After delving into the real estate business in 2013, Picolo-Ramos swiftly become a top selling agent with a dedicated client list. She teamed up in business with her husband, Marco, in 2015 and the pair quickly garnered more than $14 million in sales their first year. The two branched out in 2019 and created Godwyn & Stone Real Estate.
Godwyn & Stone currently has a team of 11 agents and three full-time administrators, with more new hires soon to be added.
In each episode, Picolo-Ramos, along with members from her team, present a selection of homes within the client’s budget, with the viewer getting the chance to follow along with the selection process, and while also getting glimpses into the unique homes and personality of the city of New Orleans.
With “Selling the Big Easy,” and other shows like it, HGTV programming is taking advantage of an unexpectedly booming market both locally and nationally. According to a recent report from Realtor.com, lower mortgage rates are making homeownership more affordable, as buyers are drawn to the idea of getting more bang for their buck. Mortgages at a 30-year fixed interest rate averaged 3.57% in the first quarter of 2020, down from 4.62% in 2019.
According to Picolo-Ramos, those national rates have also been reflected in home buying and selling in New Orleans as well.
“With the interest rates, we have seen a huge boom right now, which was unexpected,” she said. “March, April and May are usually busy, except for this year. But since then, we have had record months in July and August. The market is awesome. People can afford to get more for their money.”
While COVID-19 has had a negative impact on many businesses, the real estate industry has evolved and adapted to the pandemic, with agents employing all of the recommended safety guidelines, and taking advantage of virtual tours and social media.
“We are very conscious,” Picolo-Ramos said. “We use gloves, masks, social distancing and offer virtual tours. Social media is huge with real estate. It allows the real estate agent to connect direct to the consumer and allows [the client] to get to know the agent personally. You can see what their interests are, and if you have something in common. [Buying a home is] very personal.”
In addition to making a personal connection, Picolo-Ramos noted that her job is to be more than just an agent in order to find out what home is the right fit for her clients. She said she has to do a lot of hand-holding, sees a lot of emotion, gives hugs freely (before COVID-19) and sometimes has to act as an impromptu therapist.
“I do very well in New Orleans; I don’t think I would be successful in maybe another place,” she said. “In New Orleans we want people to be real. We have been through a lot. We want real people with real solutions. I’ve felt a temptation to be more ‘professional,’ but I want people to meet the real me. Buying and selling properties is one of the most vulnerable things. If they see me as a real person, I can open them up and find out what they really need and solve the problem. In the end, I’m an advocate for the people and I have to be honest.”
According to Picolo-Ramos, New Orleans buyers most often buy according to their own personal affection for their neighborhood and are willing to overlook any small imperfections, while out-of-town buyers are often looking for amenities that are trickier to find in historic homes.
“[Finding the right fit] depends on the neighborhood and the buyers,” she said. “In the Bywater they want color, high ceilings, walkability. In Uptown it’s more classic, historic, grandiose. In Metairie it’s more suburban, with an open kitchen and living room. Every little area within an area has its own little funky vibe. People that grew up here have more forgiveness than people from out of town. If there’s a creak in the floor, it’s OK. If they’re from out-of-town, they might say, ‘I like the vibe, but I want a more open concept.’ Well, it’s a historic property built 100 years ago — you can’t always have an open concept. But, people are still moving to New Orleans. It’s shocking in a good way. The cool thing about New Orleans is it’s not going anywhere. We’ve been here forever. We are always going to preserve it and fight for it.”
While “Selling the Big Easy” is still in its first season, Picolo-Ramos hopes for a second and an opportunity to showcase more of the city, more unique properties and all that New Orleans has to offer.
“It’s up to the network, of course,” she said. “But I hope that it is going to evolve. I hope people interact and tell us what they want and what they want to see.”
According to Realtor.com
Mortgage rates – Average 3.2% throughout the year, 2.9% by end of year
Existing Home Median Sales Price Appreciation
New Orleans, Metairie July 2020 Housing Trends:
Median days on market
Median listing price