It’s all about desire on HGTV’s ‘Hot Properties: San Diego’

HGTV's "Hot Properties: San Diego"
The marketing campaigns of Realtor Seth O’Byrne, center, can reach $100,000. He’s joined by Realtor Mia Tidwell and contractor-designer Andrew White on HGTV’s “Hot Properties: San Diego.”

A flock of seagulls blitzes one of agent Seth O’Byrne’s drones, pecking it out of the sky over San Diego — a casualty in the new atmosphere of luxe home promotions, yet just another day for the O’Byrne Team of Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty.

Such high-flying marketing exploits are showcased on HGTV’s “Hot Properties: San Diego,” which premiered Nov. 3; new episodes will air early next year.

O’Byrne is joined on the show by Sotheby’s agent Mia Tidwell and contractor-designer Andrew White, who heads the remodeling firm Method Development.

O’Byrne is known for his cinematic marketing campaigns (some budgets reach $100,000) that sell swank San Diego properties to the Scotch-and-cigar set. His occasionally edgy (and quirky) videos might feature a James Bond-esqe character, or sultry models sauntering through the properties — often focusing more on them than the floors and finishes. In “Rex & Rhonda Move to San Diego,” a dinosaur couple shops for a home.


We reached the trio in Sotheby’s downtown financial district office, a few blocks from San Diego’s celebrated Little Italy neighborhood, known for its vibrant art and foodie scene.

San Diego’s real estate market can be overshadowed by Los Angeles’ megawatt, celebritized deals — but we expect there are similarities.

Seth: There is more money swirling around high-end real estate in San Diego County than there’s ever been. Purchases are not made on need anymore. It’s more like selling a German sports car or a yacht. This is all about desire.

What are the differences?

Seth: When people come here, they’re not looking to buy showy real estate. We work with a lot of buyers who buy $4-million homes here that buy $30-million homes in L.A., because they want their showy homes in Miami and Los Angeles. They come to San Diego because they want to tap into that down-to-earth lifestyle.

Your marketing videos take an au courant storytelling approach that creates an emotional connection to homes — does anyone even attend open houses anymore?

Seth: When I got into the business 16 years ago, I would see 100 to 150 people, and now we have three to six people at our open houses, unless we heavily advertise them. It’s not a hard sell anymore. It used to be a sales business, and this is now a marketer’s industry.

HGTV's "Hot Properties: San Diego"
High-stakes marketing campaigns are de rigueur on HGTV’s “Hot Properties: San Diego,” hosted by, from left, Andrew White, Seth O’Byrne and Mia Tidwell.

Do you do much business in Little Italy?

Mia: I’ve sold quite a bit there. You can still get condos there for under a million bucks. Sometimes families or couples who are looking for a detached family home can’t afford one. But Little Italy is essentially the next best thing. Everything that you would need in a cute, cozy residential neighborhood is right at your doorstep.

San Diego’s design aesthetic seems less affected and more warmly real than what’s found in L.A.

Andrew: That super kind of cold modern doesn’t sell here as well as it does in L.A. There’s no question that everything has gone more contemporary, more modern. But here, it’s comfortable living, it’s usable and it’s inviting. When your friends come over, they don’t feel like they’re walking into a spaceship. You can merge the coastal beach style with modern really nicely — a pleasing aesthetic that sells really well.


When creating marketing videos, you personally choose cameras, lenses and even how many frames per second your crew will shoot. Why this level of detail, Seth?

Seth: I actually believe that’s part of the marketer’s job — focusing on the content that we generate. It’s oftentimes the most important part of the process. If it looks beautiful, our distribution becomes less important. If you have a stunning video, it will go viral on its own — even without a budget.

The use of inside drones to showcase estates has become standard practice. How do you keep them from crashing into a priceless Picasso?

Seth: The new drones have such good internal stabilization. We actually fly a drone into our hands and then guide the drone above our heads through part of the house — as if you were to catch a bird in your hand and then release it again. That allows you to have these single tracking shots. We’re also hot on low-light shoots. At night we can really manipulate color, and oftentimes color is what creates an emotional response. I think we’re at the beginning of a massive revolution in the video space — one of the most exciting things about being a real estate marketer today.