As a New York City resident, the prospect of owning a house (or a large apartment for that matter) often feels like a dream in the air. The country just doesn’t have enough affordable housing to keep up with growing demand, especially in competitive urban markets like New York. During the pandemic, US home prices rose even in smaller, less populous regions, as homeownership numbers started to decrease† In the Southern California suburb where I grew up, the median home price recently reached $1 milliona mind-boggling sum of money for anyone earning less than six figures and having little to no intergenerational wealth.
I don’t expect to buy a house anytime soon. However, I spend quite a bit of time exploring the real estate landscape on Zillow and checking out ambitious home-related content, such as Architectural Digest’s celebrity tours and reality TV shows like Sell sunset† Luxury Deals Sydneyand The Paris Agencywhich has been my favorite of the genre.
There’s a scoophile aspect to judging the multimillion-dollar homes offered to wealthy clients, whose budgets are so sky-high that they can afford to nitpick on every disapproving detail. These residences are furnished, with aesthetic decisions by the architects and interior designers. It is very different from the market reality of middle-class buyers, who try to outbid competitors, sometimes with cash offers†
Because of their proximity to wealth, these luxury agents treat posh houses like trading cards — properties that must be acquired, shuffled, and delicately presented to the best clients. Such content allows the viewer to forget about their own living conditions and get caught up in the out-of-touch mentality of the elite mansion-buying class, who are always looking for something bigger and better. Dream houses are easy to find if you have the money.
I watch these shows for the visual opulence of the houses, less for the rivalry between the cops. Many people enjoy Sell sunset‘s absurdist Barbie office drama and enjoy Luxury offersIt’s a selfish bastard, but after a season or so, I’m starting to get tired of the interpersonal conflict. I don’t care about the catfights, which seem overwrought and unbelievable. I want less tacky confessionals and more indulgent, sweeping CCTV footage of the luxury properties. (Yes, I have both seasons of The most extraordinary houses in the world†
The Paris Agencyor L’Agence in French, fulfills this voyeuristic urge and also introduces viewers to the highly successful, highly lovable Kretzes, the French family behind the luxury real estate of the same name. Streaming on Netflix, the show — and the agency — is a family affair, so the drama is low-stakes and the spats are virtually non-existent. Think: The Great British Bake Off in terms of its light-hearted and healthy tone, but with a touch of European glamor and the occasional Kardashian-esque aphorisms about hard work.
The Kretzes are not motivated to compete against each other. When a member strikes a deal, they sound a gong to celebrate the group’s success. A sale for one is a sale for all, an ethos reflected in their gargantuan 1930s home office space in Boulogne Billancourt, a wealthy Parisian neighborhood. Yet there is a kind of hierarchy. CEO Olivier Kretz and his wife Sandrine are the power couple behind the agency, which founded it in 2007 and later took their sons Martin, Valentin and Louis into the company, in order of age. Raphael, the youngest of the four, is 17 and still in high school, but makes the occasional cameo to express his enthusiasm to one day work with his brothers.
Besides the lavish features, the main draw of the show is the distinctive and generally likeable personalities of each family member. This is of course useful when negotiating with customers and it also makes for pleasant television. The Kretzen breathe the atmosphere of a close-knit French host family, who are only too happy to share a bottle of champagne with you in one of their country houses. Still, the Netflix producers have managed to capitalize on the more “normal” aspects of Kretz family life: shared breakfast croissants, casual snark between siblings, occasional bonding activities (e.g., kitesurfing and a team-building ice bath), and their cool, ever-present grandmother Majo, with whom the boys try to arrange a date.
The Kretzes are just like us, the show seems to say, even if they can fly to Ibiza in the blink of an eye and mingle with the members of the haute société. Martin, like any older sibling, is tolerably arrogant, but possesses some self-consciousness to keep his ego in check. Valentin is serious and down to earth, he is always seen with a smile on his face. Louis, the second-youngest, is in the shadow of his brothers’ spotlight, but even he gets an episode-long arc to hone his skills as an apprentice cop.
While Martin and Valentin may be the most visible cops in the field (it helps that they’re tall, incredibly handsome French men), it’s not wrong for the parents to be in charge, even though they’re usually pictured with the fortress at home. Olivier is the stern patriarch who always seems a little concerned about his sons’ pranks. Sandrine is a smart businesswoman and a proud girl boss. She wears a “Girls Can Do Anything” shirt in her first season confessionals, an allusion to how she is the only working woman in the clan.
The first season sticks to this family dynamic and includes an occasional stress test for customers. In one episode, Martin and Valentin struggle to find a last-minute Ibiza estate to suit the meticulous 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 literally make land grabs for more. The Kretzes are at the top of the game in Paris, but Olivier is eager to expand their reach. They bring in Jeanne, a new agent who is scheduling Martin on a tour. The apple of Olivier’s eye, however, is Daniel Daggers, a British luxury broker who has managed more than $4 billion in sales and calls himself “Mr. Super fine.” To court Daggers and convince him to team up with the family, Olivier and his sons give a tour of a literally 32,000-square-foot castle with 30 rooms.
The effort casts a slight will — they won’t — they’ll pale in the second season’s end. Daggers’ co-sign would be valuable to the Kretzes, as they set their sights outside of France. However, their international reputation will only grow. The show confirms their status as Paris’ preeminent real estate family: a mom-and-pop company with enough ambition and big clients to make gold. A Netflix show is probably a better marketing strategy than a shining profile in a major European newspaper, even if the Kretzes don’t seem particularly interested in climbing the celebrity ladder on the D-list. In this lifetime, I probably won’t buy a million dollar real estate in Paris. But if I ever win the Powerball jackpot, I know exactly who to call.
The Paris Agency: Exclusive Properties is available to stream on Netflix† For more recommendations from the world of culture, check out the A good case archives.