ORANGE COAST MAGAZINE
Danielle Robb, Worldwide Home Finder In 2011, Robb surfed off Fiji’s Coral Coast, nearly got arrested in Sicily, and played polo with ace Adolfo Cambiaso in Argentina. Cameras captured it all for the inaugural season of her TV series, “A Place in the Sun,” which, despite Robb’s thrill-seeking, is more real estate than adventure. “I want to show viewers why a particular destination might be a place they’d want to live,” she says. After graduating from UCLA, she worked as a Fox Sports and ESPN co-host and flipped houses for fun. Then, in 2005, she opened Bella D Properties in Newport Beach. In Europe to scout properties for her company’s portfolio, the original U.K. real estate series caught her eye and became the blueprint for her U.S. franchise.—Sarah Womack
How long did it take to get the series off the ground? The whole process—licensing, shooting a pilot, raising funding through my investment company, and shooting the series—took about five years. Nothing happens overnight. This project has been a test of perseverance.
Why a travel-and-property show? When I look for a property, I want to see the surrounding area and see what there is to do. So when I’m traveling to these international destinations, I need to give that story to the viewers.
How do you prep for each episode? I start in the States, going through 60 to 80 listings to see what fits my client’s criteria. I look at maybe a dozen of the properties once I arrive at the destination, and then show three to my client.
The real estate company owner from Dana Point hosts and executive produces “A Place in the Sun,” which originated in the U.K. and plays in 23 countries. Season 2 premieres this fall on Discovery’s Velocity network.
ORANGE COAST MAGAZINE continued
Do clients audition to be on the show? We interview them to make sure they’re really serious. And we check all of their financials to make sure they can buy a home abroad, though, of course, they don’t have to. The truth is, no international property is going to close that fast, within our production time frame. So we give clients an idea of what’s available and make all of the contacts they would need to purchase a home. Then we include an update on their property search at the end of each episode. (continued on next page)
Any clients from Orange County? Yes. One bought a property in the hills of Sicily. I took him to this beautiful property on the Mediterranean that I thought he’d love, but he told me he wasn’t “an ocean-view guy” because he has it every day in O.C. I also took an adventurous couple from Huntington Beach, who own a plane, up to Canada—the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. We saw one property that had an airstrip, but they haven’t bought anything yet.
What’s your typical schedule? I spend about a week on the road and then have about 10 days down, but sometimes we have to work around the clients’ schedules. During the first season, I spent a month on the road filming three episodes—Greece, Croatia, and Sicily—but I won’t do that again. Whew!
Been thrown any curve balls? No matter how prepared I think I am when I leave the States, when I land in that international location, I never know what I’m going to get. The descriptions and pictures I’m sent aren’t always representative of a property. I walked into a high-rise in Buenos Aires expecting to see a really beautiful apartment, and the first thing I saw was a parking garage through the window. There’s no Multiple Listing Service overseas. So we work with agents, and they have to call someone’s babysitter’s aunt’s cousin’s grandma to find out if a house is even for sale. But that’s all part of the excitement.
Any colorful tales? A couple hours into searching for properties in Sicily, I knew it wasn’t going to be a smooth day. Some of the properties I’d really been looking forward to seeing I couldn’t get into. Then we drove past this one, and it looked like it met all of my client’s criteria, so we stopped. It looked abandoned, so I climbed over this little wall joking that I hoped I didn’t get arrested. Sure enough, the police came. We talked our way out of it—and the place ended up not being for sale.
So Sicily is especially challenging? The best way to describe the Sicilian method of buying and selling real estate is word of mouth. At the end of our second day there, I was frustrated and exhausted. My stress levels were through the roof. I literally broke down while we were scouting properties for a high-maintenance client, who also has a home on Balboa Island. He eventually purchased a villa.
How do you recharge? I usually set aside a day to get my body back on track, which means a pretty intense workout, a massage, and juicing. I also set aside time for friends and family, usually a big dinner at my house. I have a rooftop deck that’s perfect for unwinding and watching the sunset.
Have you found your home abroad? Not yet. I’ve always pictured myself having a place in Italy, but the show has opened me up to so many other places. Now I could see myself buying in New Zealand—or the Okanagan. -Sarah Womack, an Orange Coast contributing editor, writes the On the Market real estate column. (See Page 44.)
MIXED MEDIA / MARCH
Career Move—Danielle Robb If prowling foreign lands for cool property and having fun along the way sounds good to you, Danielle Robb has you covered. With roots in the Redlands home of her parents, Done and Cress Bracci, Robb is the executive producer and host of A Place in the Sun, a reality-based show on Discovery’s Velocity channel about the adventures of finding a home abroad. “We are all dreamers and we can all be moved by the exploration and journey of one another, even when it starts by simply watching a television show,” she says. Robb is CEO of brokerage company Bella D and a television personality with ESPN and Fox Sports. velocity.discovery.com
RIVIERA ORANGE COUNTY
Talk about multitasking, this Dana Point resident is traveling the world looking for real estate while filming a TV show and discovering her own Place in the Sun.
The Robb Report By William Lobdell / Photography by John Gilhooley Standing at the helm of a sleek yacht under sail, Danielle Robb looks into the television camera and says, “Stick with me; I’ll take you guys places.” Smart, sexy and fun-‐loving, who wouldn’t want to tag along with her as she travels the world in search of adventure and real estate? For guys, it’s like being on a fun date with an attractive tomboy. For girls, she comes across as their bestie. And as host and executive producer of A Place in the Sun on Discovery’s Velocity channel, Robb hopes to turn a popular British television show into an American hit. In each episode, Robb travels with a client or couple (and a film crew)to finda home abroad – a quest that takes interesting twists and turns typical of house hunting in foreign countries – while introducing the viewers to different cultures and people. She stumble upon the Sun franchise while on a trip to England and decided she wanted to make an American version of the program. A serial entrepreneur since her college days at UCLA, she was uniquely qualified. She had worked a couple of years as host of ESPN’s Cool Shots hockey show, and she owns her own Orange County-‐based real estate company. Plus, there’s that “it” factor: The camera loves her. “It was a full-‐circle moment,” she says. “I got to bring all my experience to the table.” Robb invested more than $400,000 of her own money to produce a pilot, then found investors to finance the first season, which debuted this past fall in locales such as Belize, Argentina, Greece, Croatia, and New Zealand. Shooting begins soon on the second season. Robb now spends about nine months a year traveling, which doesn’t leave much time for a love life or hobbies – except for international Latin ballroom dancing. But she’s not complaining: “I’m in the best time in my life.”
ORANGE COUNTY WHERE
I LOVE O.C. Danielle Robb Robb is a producer and host of A Place in the Sun, a show on Discovery’s Velocity channel featuring luxury homes around the world. Robb has been a real estate investor, brokerage firm CEO, and ESPN and Fox Sports TV personality when she discovered and bought the U.S. rights to London’s A Place in the Sun. The show helps a couple or individual to find an affordable dream property for relocation, investment or vacation purposes. The first season’s highlights included Belize, Croatia and Fiji; the second season is filming at locations including Tahiti, Portugal, South Africa and Dubai. Robb assesses each market and the homes offered. “I count my blessings,” says Robb, who lives in Dana Point. “It’s not a bad job. Every time I find myself complaining, I say, “Really, Danielle…’ I see some of the most beautiful locales in the world, but O.C. is hard to beat, hard to beat…”
Dana Point Harbor When my parents visit, they do not miss a morning at The Brig – my dad orders the biggest plate of chili mixed with eggs every single time and loves it. I like to walk down to the harbor. If I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll hike up to the Dana Point Preserve and down to Dana Strand Beach – it’s a little more private, not rocky, a great place to get a jog in.
Avenida Del Mar San Clemente is still the secret little surfer-‐beachy village. Great shops and restaurants. San Clemente Pier. Sunday farmers market. Great day or night. In the evening, walk from restaurant to restaurant. Dinner at Nick’s, a drink at the Cellar, great bands at BeachFire.
Alta Laguna Park I have to be outside, especially when I get off the road. I love this park. I hike, picnic, relax, people-‐watch. Great views – all of Laguna Beach and the ocean on one side, the nature reserve and beautiful Soka University on the other.
Balboa Island I spend a good amount of time here. I can’t go into Art for the soul without buying – whether its buying for me or buyinga gift. Great artists, great jewelry. Ciao has great calzone. I walk around, eat, buy something, take the ferry across to the other side and continue the adventure.
Coach House This San Juan Capistrano spot has great artists, and you can enjoy dinner before they come on. You’re not squashed. Every inch of the walls is covered with photos of bands that have played there.
The Cannery My favorite restaurant in Newport Beach. The upstairs is really happening for appetizers and drinks, a lot going on socially. Downstairs, you can have a nice romantic dinner, it’s on the water.
H E A LT H U P D AT E
Danielle Robb – Staying Fit on the Go! by Jeff Rose Hey there HealthUpdate readers! We’ve got another great interview for you this issue. This In the Spotlight features Danielle Robb, a beautiful and talented real estate entrepreneur, and host of A Place in the Sun, a show on Velocity by Discovery™ that features real estate opportunities abroad in exotic places. Danielle tells about her exciting travels and how she stays fit and healthy with her incredibly busy lifestyle. Enjoy! HealthUpdate: Tell me a little bit about your show A Place in the Sun and how you got to be where you are today? Danielle Robb: Well my background is in real estate, and I happened to find this brand called A Place in the Sun that had to do with international real estate, which I was trying to get into at the time, because all of my investments are here nationally. And it happened that there was this magazine that is based all along international real estate, and I found out there was a show, and long story short, I felt that I could take this brand that they’d built in the UK and build that here in the U.S. So that’s what I set out to do. And in the meantime, we had to change the format a little bit for the American audience, because in Europe it’s much easier, especially if you’re part of the EU, to buy abroad. Spain is really big for Brits, as are Portugal and Italy, but for us that’s like traveling to another state. So it’s really interesting how they approach this idea of living abroad and buying abroad. But we had to change the format a little bit and make it more about the culture and the lifestyle of the places. So we have this really unique mix of a travel and property show, which I don’t think has really been done. We show Americans that when you’re looking at properties abroad, you’re not necessarily just looking at the home, you want to see what the surrounding area is like. Why would you want to live there? What are the people like? What’s the culture like? And that’s what we’re sort of talking the audience into. It’s not just the home, it’s the experience of the location. And I think that’s where we differ a little bit with the UK format.
H E A LT H U P D AT E
HU: I’ve always been so jealous of Europeans’ ability to travel such short distances and wind up in such drastically different cultures. DR: Right! A two hour flight and you’re just in a completely different world. I was just in London and I saw some statistic on television that something like 80% of Europeans have a passport whereas something like 30%, if that, of Americans have a passport. HU: What do you think are the benefits of traveling? Do you think it’s important? DR: Well you can read about these locations and see beautiful pictures, but until you actually step into these places, there are all these little nuances that you can’t really get by reading about them. It’s something that you really have to experience. And we do try and get into the culture and lifestyle and give our audience a taste of that. But the bigger picture is to motivate them and make them realize there’s this world of possibilities out there. Every time I’m in a country I have a certain idea or maybe even a stereotype in mind for that place, and I find that more and more in my travels I’m just opened up to a whole new way of thinking. I remember when we did a show in the Okanagan, which is a spot in B.C. Canada, I just had no idea what to expect, and if I’m being totally honest wasn’t as excited about it as I was about other places we went. But when I got there it was this incredible four season destination spot and it has these beautiful wineries everywhere and it became one of my favorite spots. And that’s actually a spot I could see myself buying in. But until I actually had the feeling for myself of being there and talking to the people and experiencing the culture and the lifestyle, I wouldn’t have known that. It’s really healthy up there, and everything is grown locally and organic, and it really fits me. And I just feel like it’s one of those places that until you experience it, you don’t really know that that’s a spot that you could really see yourself in. So that was an experience that I had. I can imagine, for other Americans, when you first start getting out there and experiencing different cultures and peoples, that it will open your mind up in a different way and it’s a different thought process that you can’t get from just reading something.
HU: Out of all the places you’ve been what are your favorites? DR: Well there’s a few. It’s funny because I always had a dream of having an Italian Villa, so when people would ask me, “Where’s the place you can see yourself buying in?” I would have said Italy. But after the first season there’s a longer list of places that I could see myself buying in, the Okanagan, of course, being one of them. New Zealand I loved. There’s a lot of Americans that are really interested in buying in New Zealand. When I landed in that place I just felt a really good energy to it. It’s very active. There’s this sort of adventurous spirit about New Zealand. It’s obviously stunning. We were in Nelson, New Zealand which is this small sort of artsy town. There is tons of stuff to do there, great people, and it’s easy to buy there, so that’s one of my favorites. Croatia is another. I think a lot of Americans think of it as this secret European spot. A lot of Europeans visit Croatia, but not a lot of Americans are familiar with Croatia. We landed in Croatia at night and we were driving in and you could see the whole city and it was lit up, and it just had this really magical feeling to it. Again it’s just that feeling. It’s that feeling you get when you get into one of these locations. I loved Mendoza, Argentina, even though it was a really hard shoot for us. HU: Why was that? DR: Well we’re shooting a show, so we have a pretty big crew with us, about 8-10 people that travel with us. And trying to get into Mendoza my cameraman’s back went out. So we were trying to find a cameraman that spoke English in South America. And we just had a really interesting shoot. But the location itself was amazing. I couldn’t believe what you could buy down there. We went to one of the most beautiful vineyards and they’re selling these lots of 3-15 acres, and all your grapes are already there to be harvested, and you can get your own bottle of wine with your name on it for like $60,000. We looked at a couple of vineyards that were 50 acres for $100,000 so I think the opportunity down there is pretty exciting. And it really is a lot easier than a lot of American’s think. That’s what I love about the show. It opens up this idea that this is possible. I think when Americans think about living abroad, they think they’re going to be disconnected with their family and friends, but with technology, that’s not the case. In fact I’m working on an article about technology when I’m on the road. When I’m on the road I have to do so much and stay connected. I have to still do business. But with technology today, it’s easier. And even with just Skypeing you feel like your close to your family and friends and it’s just easier to stay connected. HU: And that brings me to my next question. You’re obviously constantly on the go with your show and your business. And I think a lot of people can identify with that feeling of not having enough time in their day. How do you manage to stay in such fantastic shape with so much on your plate? DR: I think, truly I have to set priority lists and health and fitness is number one on my priority list, because it makes me better at everything else that I do. So if my energy levels aren’t up or I’m not feeling good for that day, then it affects me on camera, it affects my business, it affects my relationships with my staff. So I really make it a priority, even when I’m on the road. I sometimes have to arrange my shoot schedule so I can get a work out in. Even if it’s a short workout – 20 or 30 minutes in the morning. But it’s extremely important to me to stay active and to keep my healthy lifestyle when I’m on the road, and when I’m at home, of course. I think it’s really just about setting it as a priority. I actually bring a lot of my own food on the road, believe it or not, which is pretty funny because I pack a suitcase just for my food. Everyone makes fun of me. HU: Well I’d imagine sampling the different cuisines of the places you’d visit would be pretty tempting. Did you pick up any healthy living or diet tips in the different places that you’ve been to? DR: Well I learned a lot about organic living in Okanagan. I learned a lot about holistic living in Belize. We featured this property that had a holistic physician on premises that would customize your diet around spices. So I learned a lot about different spices in your diet. In Croatia and Greece sardines are a big part of their diet. If I’m being honest, I’m not a huge fan of sardines. A funny story, we were sitting out at dinner – and I do go out to dinner even though I bring my own food, it’s pretty much just staples for me to keep my energy up like bars, peanut butter, nuts and stuff like that – and my sound guy ordered something like fish and chips, but they brought out this huge plate of fried sardines and the smell was so overwhelming we all just started laughing. But sardines are supposed to be incredibly good for you. They have more calcium and phosphorus than milk and more protein than steak, and more potassium than bananas. So if you can get around the smell of sardines then you’re good!
H E A LT H U P D AT E
HU: Do you have any tips for our readers on how they can stay healthy with a busy lifestyle and on the go? DR: Well there’s two really really important things that I learned. I used to be in the mindset that unless I could get a 40 to 60 minute workout that anything less than that wasn’t even going to be a workout, so why even do it? But now that my schedule is so packed, if I get 10 or 15 minutes here, maybe just a quick jog or a walk around the block, whatever it is I’m just trying to fit in as activity much as I can. So I think the key is for people to keep moving. A lot of us sit behind our desks and work on computers all day, but if you can get up for 10 minutes and walk around the office or do a couple of stretches I think it’s huge. But sometimes we get into the mindset that if it’s not a “real workout” like going to the gym and getting a sweat on, that it’s not doing anything for our bodies. But if you can work in these small workouts where you can, it does make a difference. And number two I really try to stay in places where I do have a kitchen. And I do try and bring my own food, so I have a plan to keep my energies up and know exactly what I’m putting into my body. And I’m able to go grocery shopping where I’m staying, which is interesting because it’s going to be different than what I’m used to. And that way on our shoot days – which are extremely long days – I’ll have a good snack with me and I’ll make my lunches in the morning before we go out and shoot. So having a kitchen has been huge. The places I haven’t had one have really affected my energy levels and my health! HU: Was there anything else you wanted to add? DR: Well one thing I think I missed was that I do bring dvds or fitness tapes, and I’ll bring bands as well, so when I’m done shooting I usually stretch or do some workouts with the bands. It might be only 20 minutes or so, but I think that makes a huge difference. And they’re incredibly light to pack. So those are really good ways to bring workouts on the road with you. I do a lot of running too. If people are out and about on these locations, a great way to get in a workout is to do some walking, and a great way to see the location is to do an interesting run. To learn more about Danielle Robb go to http:// daniellerobb.com/ or www.sunpassport.com and check your local listings for Danielle Robb’s show A Place in the Sun on Velocity!