26 Secrets ‘Selling Sunset’ Star Emma Hernan Says Home Buyers Need to Know

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If you watch Selling Sunset for the homes and not the juicy drama, then you are 1) a lot more mature than most of us and 2) in for a REAL treat. I sat down with real estate extraordinaire and empanada expert Emma Hernan to get her very best home buying tips and tricks. While the reality TV star is used to selling houses to the rich and famous in Los Angeles for millions (Zedd is her latest client!!!), she knows plenty about smaller markets, too.

So whether you’re thinking about making the jump from renting to buying or are curious about the dos and don’ts of open houses, read on. But don’t blame me if your Zillow addiction gets worse after this. Oh, and for all you Selling Sunset superfans, I included everything she had to say about the rest of The Oppenheim Group gang too. Spoiler: She’s known Jason for longer than you think and made over a celebrity’s home with him! I know, I know—I’m totally getting ahead of myself. Like I said, read on.

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First, let’s start with a little background on Emma.

Although Emma joined the Selling Sunset cast in season 4, she’s been with The Oppenheim Group since 2018. She got her start in real estate when she was looking for her own property with some help from Brett and Jason Oppenheim.

Going to open houses with them was like getting a crash course by some of the best in the business. “I really enjoyed looking at properties and I was picking up a lot of knowledge,” she says. “Everyone said ‘You should get your license too!'” And that’s exactly what she did.

She gives her all to her clients.

One of her current clients, Zedd, is one of her favorites yet. Tbd on whether or not the DJ will appear on season 6 of Selling Sunset, but Emma says he’s been “super easy going” to work with—especially when it came to the “mini-makeover” she and Jason Oppenheim gave his property. “We had to get it staged, fix all the little cracks, and repaint the whole property,” she reveals.

Now, here’s how to land your dream property—start by saving.

Have some extra money? Head to the bank, not the mall. Emma’s a huge believer in saving and started putting away her own money at a really young age. Why? Because she had a clear vision of what she wanted and where she wanted to be at this point in her life.

“Do you really need that bag? Do you really need these things? I know they’re pretty and I know they’re shiny and they’re sparkly, but at the end of the day, you can buy five of them if you just start saving now,” she says.

The stock market might sound ~complicated~, but even just starting with the basics can help you out financially in the long run. “Prioritizing where you put your money and where you spend your money, I think that’s a really important tip for especially the younger generation out there,” she says.

Stop renting and buy as early as possible.

Since the process of buying a home can take a bit of time, you miiight wanna start thinking about it, like, right now. “It’s not as easy as you’d think. It’s not just, ‘Snap my fingers, I’m going to stop renting. I’m going to buy!”

Talk to a mortgage broker wayyyy in advance.

They can tell you what you can afford now and when you’ll be able to afford the kind of home you have your sights set on. Don’t be afraid to schedule a meeting even a couple of years before you plan to buy! That way, Emma says, when you’re ready, you’ll know you’re good to go.

Get your home loan pre-approved before looking at properties.

To get pre-approved, you’ll have to show the bank that you’ve had a steady income for a certain number of years. “Literally go to the bank now!” Emma urges.

When you’re stressed, remember: buying > renting, always.

I know, it’s scary! But as Emma puts it, buying will always “pay out in the long run,” since it’s an investment. With an investment comes the possibility of making serious money down the line—something renting doesn’t offer!

Next, figure out where you want to live.

You decided you wanna buy a home. Great, but where?? “Location, location, location is key,” she says. “You need to figure out where you want to live, first and foremost.”

Make sure the neighborhood has solid appreciation rates.

Appreciation is how much value your house gains over time. If you want to eventually make your money back (or more!) when you sell your home, it’s important to think about where you’re buying. “You want to pick an area to buy a property where they’re having really good appreciation year over year,” she says.

Go to as many open houses as you can—even before you’re ready to buy.

Each one will be a great learning experience, whether you put in an offer or not. “It’s almost like dipping your feet in the water,” she says. “People don’t realize how much you learn by going through these different properties.”

Be skeptical if you see an empty open house.

A little competition isn’t always a bad thing. But Emma warns that empty open houses are usually a red flag that the property is either overpriced or just not good.

Don’t be afraid to take it slow.

When you’re making such a big decision, taking your time is actually a good thing. In Emma’s experience, it could take anywhere from 30 to 45 days to find the right home.

If you see a house you like, go back more than once.

She recommends visiting it during different times of day, like the morning and night. See the traffic for yourself. There are so many factors that play a role in finding the perfect home, so don’t skimp on your research.

Don’t focus too much on style.

Your tastes can change! “Even for me, I feel like I’ve become a little bit more open to different styles that I never thought that I would,” Emma says.

If your budget is tight, don’t buy a fixer-upper.

It might seem like a better deal, but buying a newer home could end up being cheaper. Unless the fixer-upper is livable and you’re going to do the work down the road, Emma recommends skipping listings that are in need of serious work if you’re strapped for cash.

If you can do the renovations yourself, that’s different.

Sorry, being an HGTV stan isn’t enough. “It kind of depends on your background, and if you want to jump into that,” Emma says. “It’s a lot of work!” So, if you’re married to a project manager like Romain Bonnet, for instance, go for it!

You don’t have to go through with buying a house, even after giving a deposit.

Good news, all you indecisive buyers out there—changing your mind is allowed. Just because you put a deposit down, doesn’t mean you’re stuck, Emma says. “That’s the great thing about real estate. As a buyer, you’re definitely protected.”

Just make sure not to waive your contingency period.

If things come back on the inspection you don’t like, or you find out something wasn’t disclosed, you’re allowed to back out as long as you don’t give up this right. The only reason you’d waive it is if “you’re absolutely in love with the property,” Emma says.

If a house is in high demand, an escalation clause can “sweeten the deal.”

If you have wiggle room in your budget and you’re chasing a popular property, Emma and the Selling Sunset crew often use escalation clauses—a.k.a. offering a certain amount above the top offer to beat the competition. “That’s one of our little sneaky ways to get properties! A few of our agents at [The Oppenheim Group] actually got their property that way,” she reveals.

But if you’re looking for luxury, skip the escalation clause.

Luxury home buyers are better off without them. Why? You want to play it cool, according to Emma: “We’re not sweetening up the deal, we’re acting like, ‘Nope, this is it!'”

Listing prices aren’t always accurate.

Be prepared to pay a bit more than the original number. As Emma puts it, the seller is the one that faces consequences from overpricing their home. “You’re missing the people who are going to come in super excited about the property,” she says.

Now is not a great time to offer less than the asking price.

The market is currently considered “hot” (a.k.a. there are more buyers than houses available), which means chances are you won’t be getting a huge discount. “Technically, you could offer less. For years, it’s what we’ve been taught and told. But now, because the market’s so insane, we don’t have a choice.”

Staging a home is super important for sellers.

Part of the reason the homes on Selling Sunset are so gorgeous is because every property sold by the reality stars is staged to perfection. “When you walk into a property and it looks bad, it’s hard for buyers to picture it,” Emma says.

But as a buyer, you should try to look past the staging.

Instead, try to imagine what it’d look like if you were to move in with your furniture and belongings. If you usually have clothes strewn everywhere or if you own some funky furniture, Emma says that’s what you should imagine on your tour.

You could end up with a haunted house.

Yup, and Emma and her family learned this the hard way. “My parents’ house that now my brother lives in back in Boston, we are all convinced it’s haunted or that there’s ghosts in there…I think it’s a friendly ghost, so it’s totally fine!”

But it won’t be the agent’s fault!!

If you do end up living with Casper, don’t blame your realtor. Any deaths at a property have to be disclosed to buyers in advance. “Some people won’t buy the property because of that, and other people don’t care at all,” Emma says.

You might not get your dream home right away—and that’s totally okay! The first two properties Emma tried to purchase fell through, but she eventually found a home that she now feels even better about. “Everything has a way of working out. Don’t let setbacks have such a negative impact—it’s just pushing you down a different path,” she says.

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