Take Bethenny Frankel from "The Real Housewives of New York City," pair her up with real estate agent Fredrik Eklund of "Million Dollar Listing New York," and what do you get? A new reality TV show, "Bethenny & Fredrik," which promises plenty of fireworks between these two powerhouses who have personality to spare.
This Bravo series, which premieres on Tuesday, follows the longtime friends and brand-new business partners as they invest their own money to renovate homes in Manhattan to flip for a profit. And if the show's teasers are any indication, these two aren't afraid to bare their flaws—and fangs—as they navigate one of the priciest markets in the country.
Yet for all the drama, these two clearly know real estate, so realtor.com®sat down with them to hear what they've learned—and get some advice they'd give others on buying, selling, and renovating homes, and even trends they're sick to death of seeing.
Q: We heard you shut down production for a few weeks due to fighting. What happened?
Frankel: Our holistic partnership wasn’t going the way either of us thought it would. It got emotional. And once you get on the emotional train, it’s hard to get off. Things have been said, and then you're focusing on the things that have been said. With any relationship, you have to figure out how to communicate and work through it. And frankly, it was good that we took a breather.
Eklund: It was intense.
Q: What's the biggest mistake homeowners make when renovating?
Frankel: People focus on the big items—like changing the wood floors—but it’s the small details that add up. You know, a window lock doesn’t work and that can be $500 [to fix], or you need to add a security system no one thought of until the end. Towel holders will somehow get to $1,000. When you’re done, those little things are annoying because you thought you were out of the woods. Partner with someone who is very detail-oriented and think about everything from beginning to end.
Eklund: And also add 10% to the budget so you have something to run with if you go over.
Q: What are some design trends you’re sick of seeing?
Eklund: The most obvious one is the super-minimalist trend that was going on for many years—and the white, white, white! Sleek, sleek, sleek! I think now what’s going on is [designers are] taking some uptown traditional elements and putting them downtown. I also love layers. So mix some glass with some wood with some stone. Don't just have all stone.
Frankel: People just go to white. They think it's going to be safe and are afraid to use black—they think black is some weird '80s thing. But a black detail can make something look really industrial and really rich. I also recommend getting creative with floors. The floors that Fredrik chose [for one apartment recently] have a chevron [pattern], which makes it different.
Q: What's the most important thing a seller needs to think about?
Frankel: Staging! Staging is the new normal. I don’t think the average person thinks about setting themselves up for success in selling. They don’t realize if you want to sell your house—whether it’s $50,000 or $5,000,000—you have to stage, which you can do yourself. Think about what makes your ceilings look higher and what makes your place look bigger. And when making initial design choices, don’t choose something that only you like. If there are three choices, pick the thing that you like and most other people will like as well. Have your flair be in removable things like a cheetah rug.
Eklund: And when you're showing a home, remove things that are specific to you, like pets or religious items.
Q: What is your top real estate tip for scoring a deal?
Frankel: When you're looking at pictures online, if there are bad pictures and you have a good eye, you can see through them. Everybody else will pass them by. You end up showing up and getting something that no one even wanted to see. This just happened with my apartment that I bought. It could be a four-bedroom, but the sellers only listed it as a two-bedroom. So I ended up getting an over 4,000-square-foot apartment for a steal, because most people who have kids are looking for a three- or four-bedroom and never saw it.
Eklund: She added another bedroom.
Frankel: I did the zoning and made it three. I think the guy had a hard time selling it. You can find good deals by knowing how to look at something. And when you're in the space doing the numbers, you have to have an internal cash calculator going as you're looking. Fredrik and I both do that. Rip that down, it’ll cost $5,000 but translate into $100,000 on the sales price.
Q: What is the advice you always give buyers?
Eklund: When you buy, I always say, and maybe I’m overly focused on it because I’m tall, but look at the ceiling height. There are certain things in a home you can change easily, but there are also things you cannot change like the lines, the ceiling, and the windows.
Frankel: You need to understand a layout. It’s a flow, it’s a feng shui thing, it’s how you are going to feel every day. And even if you are buying for yourself, it doesn’t hurt to think of it as an investment. Why not?