Tuesday, March 10, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Two women drive to a small Las Vegas retail plaza, get out of their car and peer through the locked doors of real estate firm Goliath Co., trying to catch a glimpse of reality TV stars Scott and Amie Yancey.
Scott is in a conference room not far from the entrance, but normally he’s tucked in the back in his mirrored office, invisible to tourists who flock to meet the married couple who got famous renovating and selling dumpy homes on A&E's "Flipping Vegas."
His office sells Goliath T-shirts and hats so visitors don’t leave upset and empty-handed. But when Scott has to work, he’d rather be left alone — so he locks the doors, hides, and takes visitors by appointment only.
“My wife won’t come here anymore,” he said. “We just can’t get anything done if we leave the doors open.”
Las Vegas has been a major player in reality television for years, with shows about pawn shops, tattoo artists, hot rods, casinos, cage fighters, limo drivers, gigolos and polygamists. Now another industry, synonymous with Las Vegas’ wild growth and economic collapse, is gaining more of the spotlight: real estate.
Shows about house-flipping, renovations, mega-mansions and property scams have been produced or are being pitched in Las Vegas. Real estate programs draw big audiences, and the valley is a cheaper place to film than, say, New York or Los Angeles, insiders say.
And Las Vegas’ real estate market, with its wild swings, colorful investors and cheaper prices, intrigues viewers who dream of sun-soaked lifestyles or don’t realize that people live in this popular tourist and party town — all while famous casinos dot the landscape on screen.
“Most people around the globe know Vegas,” reality star Drew Scott, of HGTV’s “Property Brothers,” said.
The Yanceys have been on A&E since 2010 and are eyeing other possible shows, including one that would follow them as they design and build their dream home — a 10,000-square-foot concrete-and-steel mansion in the Ridges with outdoor tandoori and pizza ovens, a 10-car garage, a “man cave” with a bar, pool table and shuffleboard, and a vault of sorts with Scott’s gun collection lining the walls.
Canadian twins Jonathan and Drew Scott had a four-part series last fall on HGTV called “Property Brothers at Home,” in which they renovated their Las Vegas house in time for a family reunion. They are filming season three of “Brother vs. Brother” in Las Vegas, featuring a house-flipping competition between them, with the proceeds earmarked for donation.
The twins are considering other shows for the area as well, some real estate-related, some not.
Spike TV's "Catch a Contractor," starring comedian Adam Carolla, filmed its first two seasons in Southern California but is looking to film part of its third season in Las Vegas. Casting company Metal Flowers Media has been scouring the valley for months for people who have been burned by contractors and want to tell their story on TV, casting director Dorian Velinov said.
Fox News producers in New York have discussed plans to launch a locally focused real estate program — described as part reality show and part news-focused — hosted by lion-haired Las Vegas Valley attorney and Fox analyst Bob Massi, author of the book “People Get Screwed All the Time.”
(Disclosure: After being approached by Fox, this reporter agreed to appear in the series as an outside analyst. No compensation is involved.)
Meanwhile, luxury-home broker Zar Zanganeh is working with production companies on shows about opulent Las Vegas penthouses and mansions packed with car collections, massive swimming pools, backyard dirt-biking and other perks.
And broker Tony Keep of 24/7 Real Estate is working to launch a show focused on scams and scandals, such as con artists who break into vacant homes, change the locks and try to rent them out.
Despite the stated concept, reality shows often follow scripts, industry pros say. But fake story lines aren’t needed in Las Vegas.
In just the past decade, the valley has had white-hot construction, widespread foreclosures, huge price swings and mothballed condo buildings, malls and casinos.
“You don’t even have to make stuff up,” said Keep, who was once approached by a buyer with a suitcase full of cash.
TV producers are no strangers to Las Vegas. In 2013, 150 reality TV episodes or entire seasons were filmed here, up from about 90 in 2012, according to Variety magazine.
A&E, History Channel, CNBC, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, truTV, mun2, Syfy, TLC and Spike TV have produced reality shows in town, Variety reported.
Programs include “Bad Ink,” a self-described “buddy comedy” with Dirk Vermin, owner of the Pussykat Tattoo parlor near UNLV, who goes around improving bad tattoos; “Pawn Stars,” an inside look at Gold & Silver Pawn Shop north of the Strip; and “Tanked,” which “follows the antics” of two brothers-in-law who run a custom-aquarium business.
Anyone can concoct a reality TV concept, but most people don’t realize they need to film seven to eight hours of content for a 30-minute show, said Jason Miller, chief operating officer of Silver State Production Services, a Las Vegas-based film production company.
But Las Vegas has advantages over other cities, and Miller’s company gets contacted regularly to produce reality programs.
“Vegas has a cast of characters,” he said. “It’s great.”
So far, real estate-focused shows to get on TV have been a big success, participants say.
The 36-year-old Scott twins, known for helping people buy and renovate homes on camera, bought a foreclosed Las Vegas house during the recession for about $400,000, a steep discount from the boom years. They renovated it for “Property Brothers at Home,” in which they took on “their most difficult clients — themselves.”
The program was the Scotts’ fourth top-rated series on HGTV. The one-hour premiere, on Nov. 26, drew more than 3.6 million viewers and was the highest-rated series opener on HGTV since 2009.
“Everybody loves Vegas; they love the vibe,” Jonathan Scott said.
Scott Yancey, after buying and selling land for years in California and Utah, started doing deals in Las Vegas after the bubble burst, buying trashed and abandoned low-priced homes to flip for profit.
He launched “Flipping Vegas” almost five years ago, starring himself and his budget-busting interior-designer wife. He said it’s been the top-rated daytime program on A&E.
He’s also built a seminar business that draws 250,000 attendees per year, many of whom also buy renovated rental homes from their teacher with money they borrow from him.
Yancey said he and his partners sell about 175-300 homes, in 14 cities, each month to seminar students, and he lends money to help them do it.
The 45-year-old Southern California native has built a personal brand of a tough-talking, hotshot investor who drives sports cars and always makes money. An ad for his “wealth-building” events shows a person driving a speed boat and a passenger lying out, soaking up sun.
“Scott’s never been one for the passenger seat,” his show’s website says. “Whether he’s driving a high-performance car out at the racetrack or driving a smart investment forward, he’s always most comfortable with his hands on the steering wheel.”
He started working on the show after telling friends in Los Angeles about the ups and downs of post-bubble Las Vegas. The friends worked in TV and film production and suggested doing a reality show.
Yancey filmed a “sizzle reel,” or two-minute pitch, with them, and they shopped it around.
“It wasn’t hard to get a show,” Yancey said. “It’s who you know, I guess.”