While chatting with Amanda Zuckerman, lead broker for MV Realty in Delray Beach, Fla., it quickly becomes obvious that she’s not the villain reality TV made her out to be. Zuckerman, best known for her stint on the controversial 15th season of Big Brother, is extremely down to earth and personable – the kind of person you’d want to throw back a beer or two with after your next closing. She’s passionate about real estate and about her new endeavor with MV Realty, touting the company’s tech-savvy new lead generation site Mad Valorem. She was also happy to dish about all the crazy antics from last year’s Big Brother season and what it felt like to be recorded by cameras 24/7 for more than two months.
And no, she’s not still dating that Minnesota pizza delivery boy.
Find out all the haps on Zuckerman’s new real estate adventure, what she misses the most (and least) about that crazy house, and whether or not she’d play Big Brother again.
Nick Caruso: How did you get into real estate?
Amanda Zuckerman: I’ve been in real estate for six years. I’m a third generation REALTOR®. My mom has been in the business for 11 years and my grandmother for over 30 years. It was bred into me.
NC: What do you like most about the region you work in?
AZ:I love the houses here. Doing real estate the way we do it, it’s easy for us to do business. I like the people, the architecture, and the environment.
NC: What demographics do you serve?
AZ: We’re open. We try to appeal to all different ages and kinds of people. Our company is technologically based, so I think we appeal more to a younger demographic. As we expand, people are realizing that the old school ways of doing real estate aren’t as efficient as they should be, but we’re hoping to capture an older demographic as well.
NC: How do you market your business?
AZ: We’re a real estate market lead generation company, and my two partners and I have our own lead generation site. We get tons of leads through that, as well as leads we buy on the main lead generation sites like Zillow and Trulia. We do all Internet marketing and no paper marketing. We’re a green type of company and we’re keeping everything on the Internet because 90 percent [of buyers] are starting home searches on the Internet. It’s a smarter and more efficient way to do it. We’re putting a lot of money into our Internet efforts and branding.
NC: How do you use social media to help secure listings or sell properties?
AZ: We are in the process of hiring someone specifically to do our social media. There are so many different outlets and we want to be on all of them. It’s really a full-time job. We want to utilize things from Pinterest to Instagram. I fortunately have a big social media following from the show, but it’s different for me to use that. People see me as ‘Amanda, the villain from Big Brother’ and not the real estate professional.
NC: Are there any current trends in your market right now?
AZ: A lot of investors are still looking for the best deals. If you were an investor in 2010, which was the best time to buy an investment property, banks were releasing foreclosures and short sales. But in South Florida, inventory was really low and not that many foreclosures or short sales had been snagged up. The market is going up, but it’s still in a certain price range and plateaued. Houses anywhere under $500,000 are staying the same and not going down. People are moving away from “I want to get the deal of the century,” to “I want to get a house” because there’s not that much out there.
NC: Let’s talk about your company. How new is your brokerage and was the company something you started yourself?
AZ: In late August, my partners created the site madvalorem.com but weren’t doing much with it. They knew I was a real estate agent in the area, and said, ‘Let’s throw your picture on Mad Valorem and see if you get any calls.’ My phone was ringing off the hook to the point where I couldn’t handle it myself. I was at a point with my prior company where I didn’t feel like I was getting what I could get. Real estate agents should be given leads; when you sign with a brokerage, you shouldn’t have to worry if you’re going to get business. My previous conversion rate from Zillow ZIP codes was 6 percent, costing $6-7,000 and grossing $70,000 just from using one ZIP code. When I presented that to my partners, they said it sounded awesome, and they wanted to do it on a much larger scale, spending $50-60,000. When a lead comes in through any of these websites, they are dispersed to agents through FiveStreet, and then Top Producer, our CRM and lead disbursement system, oversees all the leads we’re giving out. It’s a competitive system.
NC: How is the Delray, Fla. market faring?
AZ:. The market in Delray is growing and a whole bunch of shopping and restaurants are being developed and making the city grow. We like to do the multimillion, higher-end waterfront, but we are just getting started so we’re willing to work with people looking to buy tiny condos for $50,000 and people looking to buy larger homes. We just want to be approachable. All these companies from South Florida are suit-and-tie luxury real estate; we’re going for new age and tech savvy. We have the knowledge. You don’t need us to put on a fake front to show we know what we’re doing. We’ll prove it in the numbers. We want to get the best deals for our clients. That’s our number one priority.
NC: Tell me a little bit about your lead generation site.
AZ: Right now the website is growing quickly. If you search any property in Florida, Mad Valorem is one of the first sites to pop up. If you go to Trulia or Zillow, you have to submit your info in order to get information from these sites. On ours, our office admin is there so you can live chat with her any time. You don’t have to submit any details. You can ask a question without picking up the phone and instant message someone at our office to get info.
We’re still developing more and more because we’re getting new agents every day. With the higher-end properties, we’re offering virtual immersions – visual tours of the inside of the house where you can click to move forward. They’re great for international clients. You can search through a house as though you’re walking through it, you can look up, down, left, and right to get a better feel for the home. It’s done through drone photography.
We’re growing rapidly. In the first month we closed seven deals. We’re still growing and looking for more agents to bring on. Our biggest problem is that we have so many leads that some of them are slipping through the cracks because we don’t have enough agents to handle these leads. My best friends work for the company. It’s exciting and we’re growing it all together.
NC: Do clients often recognize you from being on Big Brother? Has this affected your business positively or negatively?
AZ: There are definite positives. Some clients don’t tell me they knew me from the show until after we close. Being in real estate, people have been able to find my contact info online. People go to Mad Valorem to find out if Amanda is still with McRae - which I’m not! People think that just because your phone number is online they can contact you for their own personal fan or hater reasons. It definitely has affected business. When I first got out of the Big Brother house, I had to change my marketing. I couldn’t use my name. People who didn’t like my character on the show would go online to leave negative reviews. When I first got out, I had to do my marketing under a team name. Now that the new season came out, it lessened up. I really only get fan phone calls now. I appreciate it, but it’s still my personal contact, and I need to answer my phone because it’s a lead generating site. I’ve changed all my numbers over to the office line so my office admin can screen everything.
NC: Who from your cast do you keep in touch with?
AZ: We’re all in a group text together, except for Jessie. I speak to Andy - he's one of my closest friends. Spencer is a good friend of mine. Elissa and I text a lot – her and I have become close after the show. I just saw her at the finale. I saw Aaryn a couple weeks ago in Orlando. I try to keep up with everyone, but I’m closest with Andy and Spencer – we have our own little group we like to be snarky in.
NC: What’s it actually like being in the Big Brother house?
AZ: People don’t realize how long it feels being in there. A day feels like a week. My head was always in the game. I never shut off, even when the cameras shut off for the Fourth of July. I went into this weird zone. I wasn’t myself. I became this control freak. The stress didn’t wear well on me because I don’t like fighting with people and I don’t like secrets. If I have a problem with you, I’ll say it to your face. It’s not to escalate the problem; it’s to clear the air. If people don’t understand me or we’re not eye to eye, I kind of freak out because I like to resolve things. With Elissa, we were really close, but towards the end when we evicted Helen, Elissa and I started butting heads, so it was a really weird environment. Outside, we’re really similar and love each other. If I were ever to do it again I’d have to take time to stop playing the game, get my head up, relax and think about my real life. Once you’re in there you forget who you really are, and I lost that. I lost myself. It took me awhile to get that back.
NC: What do you miss about the Big Brother house the most? What do you miss the least?
AZ: I miss the friends I made there the most and being able to spend all my time with them. What I don’t miss is the stress, lies and deceit that come with the game because it’s just not natural for me to lie and be so deceitful. It takes a toll on you.
NC: There are always rumors about an impending All Stars season. Would you ever play Big Brother again?
AZ: I’m pretty sure an All Stars season is going to come up. Not this season, but maybe the one after that. I would definitely play again. It’d be very difficult for me because I have so much going on in my real life, but I would definitely do it again.
MV Realty is located in Delray Beach, Fla. and covers Delray Beach, Boca Raton, and other parts of Southern Florida. Follow Amanda on Twitter and be sure to check out MV Realty and Mad Valorem to learn more.
Nick Caruso is RISMedia's Senior Editor. When he's not busy watching every Best Picture winner in the history of the Academy Awards, he spends his time bingeging and obsessing over Big Brother and Survivor.