As a New York City resident, the prospect of owning a home (or a sizable apartment, for that matter) often feels like a pipe dream. The country simply doesn’t have enough affordable homes to keep up with growing demand, especially in competitive urban markets like New York. During the pandemic, housing prices across the US soared even in smaller, less-populated regions, while the rate of homeownership began to decline. In the Southern California suburb where I grew up, the median home price recently reached $1 million, a baffling sum of money for anyone who earns less than six figures and has little to no intergenerational wealth.
I don’t expect to buy a home anytime soon. I do, however, spend a fair amount of time scoping out the real estate landscape on Zillow and watching aspirational home-related content, such as Architectural Digest’s celebrity house tours and reality television shows like Selling Sunset, Luxe Listings Sydney, and The Parisian Agency, which has been my favorite of the genre.
There’s a scopophilic aspect to assessing the multimillion-dollar homes presented to wealthy clients, who have such sky-high budgets that they can afford to nitpick at every disapproving detail. These properties come furnished, with aesthetic decisions made by the architects and interior designers. It’s a stark departure from the market realities of middle-class buyers, who are trying to outbid competitors, sometimes with all-cash offers.
Due to their proximity to wealth, these luxury agents treat swanky homes like trading cards — properties to be acquired, shuffled around, and tactfully presented to the best clients. Such content allows the viewer to forget about their own living circumstances and dwell in the out-of-touch mindset of the elite mansion-buying class, who are always on the search for something bigger and better. Dream homes are easy to come by if you have the money.
I watch these shows for the visual opulence of the homes, less so for the rivalry between the agents. Many people delight in Selling Sunset’s absurdist Barbie office drama and revel in Luxe Listings’s egoistic circlejerk, but after a season or so, I begin to tire of the interpersonal conflict. I don’t care for the catfights, which seem overwrought and unbelievable. I want less smack-talking confessionals and more indulgent, sweeping camera pans of the luxury properties. (Yes, I’ve already watched both seasons of The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes.)
The Parisian Agency, or L’Agence in French, fulfills this voyeuristic urge, while also introducing viewers to the very successful, very affable Kretzes, the French family behind the eponymous luxury real estate business. Streaming on Netflix, the show — and the agency — is a family affair, so the drama is low-stakes and the spats virtually nonexistent. Think: The Great British Bake Off in terms of its light-hearted and wholesome tone, but with a touch of European glamour and the occasional Kardashian-like aphorisms about hard work.
The Kretzes aren’t motivated to compete against one another. When one member closes a deal, they ring a gong to celebrate the group’s success. A sale for one is a sale for all, an ethos reflected in their giant 1930s home-office space in Boulogne Billancourt, a wealthy Parisian neighborhood. Still, there is a hierarchy of sorts. CEO Olivier Kretz and his wife Sandrine are the real-estate power couple behind the agency, establishing it in 2007 and later incorporating their sons Martin, Valentin, and Louis into the business, in order of age. Raphael, the youngest of the four, is 17 and still in high school, but makes occasional cameos declaring his excitement to one day work with his brothers.
Besides the lavish properties, the primary appeal of the show is the distinctive and generally likable personalities of each family member. This is, of course, beneficial when negotiating deals with clients, and it also makes for pleasant television. The Kretzes give off the air of a tight-knit French host family, who are all too happy to split a bottle of champagne with you at one of their country homes. Yet, the Netflix producers have managed to key in on the more “normal” aspects of the Kretz family life: shared breakfast croissants, casual sibling snark, occasional bonding activities (e.g., kitesurfing and a team-building ice bath), and their cool, ever-present grandmother Majo, who the boys are trying to set up on a date.
The Kretzes are just like us, the show appears to say, even though they’re able to jet-set to Ibiza at a moment’s notice and mingle with members of haute société. Martin, like any eldest sibling, is bearably arrogant but possesses some self-awareness to rein in his ego. Valentin is earnest and level-headed, seen always with a smile on his face. Louis, the second youngest, is in the shadows of his brothers’ spotlights, but even he gets an episode-long arc to flex his skills as an apprentice agent.
While Martin and Valentin may be the most visible agents out in the field (it helps that they’re tall, incredibly good-looking French men), there’s no mistake that the parents are in charge, even though they’re mostly depicted holding the fort at home. Olivier is the stern patriarch who always seems mildly concerned about his sons’ shenanigans. Sandrine is a shrewd businesswoman and proud girlboss. She sports a “Girls Can Do Anything” shirt in her season one confessionals, an allusion to how she’s the only working woman in the clan.
The first season lingers on these family dynamics and features the occasional client stress test. In one episode, Martin and Valentin scramble to find a last-minute Ibiza estate that would fit the scrupulous tastes of their clients, who traveled to the island specifically for the viewings.
The second season leans further into the extravagance of French real estate, as the Kretzes make a literal land grab for more. The Kretzes are at the top of the game in Paris, but Olivier is eager to expand their reach. They bring on Jeanne, a new agent who Martin grills on a walk-through tour. The apple of Olivier’s eye, however, is Daniel Daggers, a British luxury realtor who has managed more than $4 billion in sales and refers to himself as “Mr. Super Prime.” To court Daggers and convince him to partner with the family, Olivier and his sons give a tour of a literal 32,000-square-foot castle with 30 rooms.
The effort casts a slight will-they, won’t-they pall on the close of the second season. Daggers’s co-sign would be valuable for the Kretzes, as they set their sights beyond France. Still, their international reputation will only rise. The show cements their status as Paris’s preeminent realtor family: a mom-and-pop business with enough ambition and big-name clients to strike gold. A Netflix show is probably a better marketing strategy than a glowing profile in any major European newspaper, even if the Kretzes don’t seem particularly interested in ascending the ladder of D-list celebritydom. In this lifetime, I probably won’t be buying a million-dollar property in Paris. But if I ever land the Powerball jackpot, I’ll know exactly who to call.