Although Brett Oppenheim descends from four generations of real estate experts in his family, Oppenheim never knew that he would eventually work in real estate. Now, he is one of the most well-known real estate brokers and stars on the hit reality TV series “Selling Sunset.”
At a Berkeley Forum event, Oppenheim, who is a UC Berkeley alumnus and former attorney, discussed how he found his way into the real estate business.
After attending four different high schools and transferring from Ohlone College, Oppenheim noted how he was able to regain his academic status at UC Berkeley, where he ultimately graduated as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
“I wasn’t the model high school student, to say the least, but that allowed me the opportunity to get into Berkeley,” said Oppenheim. “I had a phenomenal time here. I went here with my brother (and) I did pretty well.”
Upon graduation from Berkeley, Oppenheim headed to law school and eventually worked as a security and litigation attorney, he said at the forum. However, Oppenheim noted he was “miserable” and ultimately left the position.
While Oppenheim noted his law firm offered a good salary and carried prestige, he said that was not happy working in the office.
“The number-one thing I got out of working for corporate America is how awesome it is to not be working for corporate,” Oppenheim said.
Ultimately pivoting to work in real estate, Oppenheim first joined his brother’s brokerage, the Oppenheim Group, in Los Angeles and has now opened up his own real estate brokerage.
Even though Oppenheim and his brother work together closely for business, he explained that the two have different business models and work with different types of clients.
“I have less clients; they’re all like really good friends. I love my clients, I go to their weddings,” Oppenheim said. “My brother has more clients.”
Oppenheim said if he could teach anyone one thing about real estate, it would be that it is the best way to form wealth due to financial leverage. Specifically, he explained that individuals can use leverage in real estate, but not with stocks.
When questioned about the effect filming “Selling Sunset” had on the Oppenheim Group’s professional work, Oppenheim noted the reality show “greases the wheels” for the brokerage’s transactions.
He added that the show has had a bigger impact on the real estate agents at the firm than him and his brother since the agents have more room to grow.
According to Oppenheim, a piece of wisdom that he would like to impart on undergraduates is to understand that after a certain level, fame and money do not have a linear relationship with happiness.
“Make enough money and realize that your happiness will be dictated by friendships and love and where you live,” Oppenheim said. “The diminishing marginal returns on wealth are extreme once you reach a certain level.”