As a reader of AG for Real Estate, we know you may be a real estate practitioner, but you’re also a likely homeowner (or have endless clientele that could benefit from the following information, so enjoy)!
In this housing market, no matter what you’re looking for – be it a studio-style tiny home or a 13-bed mansion with a guest house – you’re going to pay top dollar. That was the case for Mary Kay Seery (not to be confused with the MLM) and her husband, Billy Seery, when they moved from the prominent East Village in New York City to a Victorian-style home in Brooklyn.
Their friends heavily questioned the decision, but with Mary being a life-long real-estate broker, she knew the underestimated value – especially when it came to staging it for use in movies or television shows as a side hustle. Their home has starred in Girls on HBO, Mysteries of Laura on NBC, The Affair Season 3 on Showtime, and many more.
“I’m sure we’ve made over $500,000 so far.” The home was purchased for $490,000.
“While state film commissions have increasingly brokered relationships between property owners and filmmakers and location agencies will shop your property for a fee, many – if not most – production companies do it the old-fashioned way. You don’t find them. They find you.”
For example, an anonymous flyer was dropped into the mail slot of a Chicago home in June 2019. The owners, Rian Akey and Shaun Kane, responded immediately to the scout but did not hear back for filming until September that same year. Turns out, the crew wanted to transform the living room of their 1885 Queen Anne home into the Smutny Funeral Home for the FX crime drama Fargo Season 4.
Once agreed, the crew quickly transformed the heart of their home, adding tobacco-stained wallpaper, a swinging entrance door, folding chairs, and flower stands, and last but not least…the casket.
“We had a coffin in our living room for almost a year.”
Due to NDAs, which are standard between homeowners and the location manager, Kane and Akey could not disclose the payment they received for the whole 11-month ordeal. What we do know is that the upfront cost for using the location is relative to labor union fees, production size, the renovation before and after, and how long the shoot will last.
Other stories follow suit all over the US. Carroll Belser, who resides in Sunnyside Plantation in Edisto Island, SC has seen her inherited 1875 family home transform for The Notebook, L.L. Bean photoshoots, Short Term Rental TV Pilot, and more. In Prospect Park South, New York City, Ms. McFeely has allowed her home to be the filming location for A Price Above Rubies, Half Nelson, The Groomsman, and The Great Gilly Hopkins.
Homeowners do warn that there can be mishaps during the filming process. Floors tend to become heavily worn from foot traffic, the crew may want to shoot in a room not originally specified, or filming could get extended for a longer period of time than originally agreed.
However, Ms. Seery says that the follow-up repairs usually whip things right back into shape, but to “make sure you have a good relationship with the location manager,” and to ask for extra payment if necessary.
Still interested in the side hustle and willing to offer up your humble abode to be part of the magic of filmmaking? Contact your local government’s film and TV office to register your home as production-friendly. You can also use online databases to list your home similar to Airbnb, like LocationsHub, Reel to Reel locations, or Set Scouter. You may also just get lucky and have a location scout reach out to with interest in using your home.
All of that to say, using your home for movies or television can be “lucrative, but also disruptive.” Be prepared to renovate your floors, be put up in a hotel, and for film fans to take photos on your front porch for years to follow. Lastly, you should be able to watch the film or show back to see someone “die” in the corner of your living room or take a pregnancy test in your bathroom.
If you can handle all of that, let the cast, crew, and CASH roll in!