I found my dream home while watching season three of “Selling Sunset.” The luxurious five-bedroom, six-bathroom mansion — known affectionately as the “Versace house” — sold for $8.95 million in 2021. For me, the most memorable piece of the home wasn’t the golden Versace accents on every surface or even the lush views of the surrounding countryside. Instead, it was a statue affixed as a centerpiece in the backyard: a replica of one of the most recognizable works of art in history, “The Rape of the Sabine Women” by Italian sculptor Giambologna.
I distinctly remember Giambologna’s original taking my breath away during a study-abroad semester in Italy. I had walked past that statue almost every day for four months on the way home to my tiny apartment in the center of Florence. Seeing that masterpiece shining in the sun — in the backyard of someone’s home — reminded me why I enjoy watching shows like “Selling Sunset” in the first place. They transport me to far-off places, showcase luxurious architecture, and allow me to imagine a lifestyle I may never have.
But I don’t remember having the same dreams and fantasies while watching season four, though the drama certainly kept fans like me on our toes. Realtors Vanessa Villela and Emma Hernan join the Oppenheim Group, and Hernan’s arrival, in particular, causes quite a stir. Friendships between Christine Quinn and fellow agents Mary Fitzgerald, Heather Rae El Moussa, and Chrishell Stause become increasingly strained. And fans were on the edges of their seats, waiting to see the development they’d known about for months: a burgeoning relationship between Stause and brokerage owner Jason Oppenheim. But as all that drama loomed, one of the show’s most compelling focuses — the allure of luxury real estate — takes a backseat. With season five set to release on April 22, Netflix producers need to once again showcase those homes, or they risk losing an audience who love gazing at them just as much as they love the drama surrounding the cast.
Don’t get me wrong. “Selling Sunset” still features some of the most luxurious, expensive homes in California. In season four, fans get to see the inside of the home Stause bought following her divorce from actor Justin Hartley. Villela tries to sell a million-dollar beach house in Malibu, which was new territory for the O Group. And when “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” actor Simu Liu is looking to buy a new home in Los Angeles, Stause tours him through multiple properties to help him find the perfect one. But throughout the season, the realtors allude to the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their careers and real estate as a whole. Yet the show never explores that further, nor does it offer the same cinematic, jaw-dropping home tours that audiences had come to expect from the earlier seasons.
There are plenty of reasons that may have been the case. “Selling Sunset” season four was filmed in the summer of 2021, and while the earlier restrictions on showings and open houses had been lifted, groups like the National Association of Realtors have continued to encourage agents to do virtual showings when possible and limit in-person interactions during the pandemic. To further complicate matters, by July, California was heading into a surge caused by the Delta variant. And with more people staying at home, the real-estate market (in California and elsewhere) was as frenetic as it’s ever been. Listings in places like LA were quickly met with multiple offers. A 2021 report from the Federal Reserve found that the tightness of the real-estate market was due to a surge in demand with little change in supply. It’s reasonable to think that homes were going on and off the market so quickly that shooting may have become a challenge.
These changes to the market and the realities of producing a show in the midst of a pandemic may very well have had an impact on the final product. While we know that, based on the timeline of Stause and Oppenheim’s relationship, filming for season five would have had to have begun soon after season four, one can hope climbing vaccination rates meant that some of these issues had begun to resolve, allowing the producers an opportunity to bring back the focus on luxury homes. At its core, a reality show like “Selling Sunset” is about both the drama and the real estate, though it hasn’t always stayed true to its origins. In 2019, during talks between creator Adam DiVello and the O Group, Oppenheim was reportedly worried that the show would end up being all about the drama instead of the business. “He didn’t want to be on one of those salacious types of Bravo shows,” DiVello told Variety. “So he took the meeting with me, and I convinced them that we wanted to really do something different and didn’t want it to be just nothing but catty and fighting.”
Season five promises more details on Stause and Oppenheim’s relationship, the arrival of a new agent at the O Group, and, of course, more drama between Quinn and her fellow agents. But while I know I’ll enjoy watching the real-life relationships unfold between these coworkers, I’m still hoping for more visions and dreams like that gorgeous Versace house. The very future of the series might depend on it.