House Master

Leah LeMoineApril 2013
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A new reality show spotlights the Valley real estate scene and a local foreclosure kingpin.

Doug Hopkins, self-styled “King of the East Valley” for his 20-year reign over the Valley real estate market, has yet another jewel to add to his crown: reality TV stardom.

Hopkins stars with a cadre of foreclosure trustee sale bidders on Discovery Channel’s Property Wars, a Valley-based iteration of the blind-bidding genre of reality TV popularized by shows like Storage Wars and Baggage Battles. The show follows Hopkins and castmates – Valley resident John Ray, New Yorkers Scott Menaged and Lou Amoroso, and L.A.-based Ed Rosenberg and Steve Simons – as they vie for ownership of local foreclosed properties, from shabby rentals to chichi mansions.

According to the Discovery Channel, the network was drawn to the Valley because it once led the nation in foreclosures and has a dynamic real estate scene with a pool of bidding rivals. The show premiered on July 12, 2012, and was renewed for the currently-airing second season, which wraps on July 18. The Discovery Channel won’t yet confirm a renewal for a third season.

The Discovery Channel reached out to Hopkins after seeing a business video of him on YouTube, envisioning him as the tough-talking, deep-pocketed local foil to out-of-state carpetbaggers. Hopkins moved to the Valley from New York in 1987. He sold cable TV door-to-door to put himself through college at Arizona State University and was a mortgage loan officer before transitioning into real estate. He says his bulldog persona on the show is true to life – as are his often-explosive interactions with fellow buyers.

Bitter competition is par for the course in the foreclosure business, where rival bidders cost each other thousands of dollars daily. According to costar Ray, Hopkins backs up his bluster. “I know he knows his stuff,” says Ray, owner of Bid AZ Foreclosures. “I know he likes to throw his weight around. I try to stay below the radar and not ruffle his feathers too much. I respect him for what he’s built. He can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but I don’t have any problems with Doug Hopkins.”

Hopkins runs three Arizona businesses – Red Brick Realty, and Outside of Property Wars, Hopkins says he averages five or six auctions in Arizona and four or five in California daily.

Outside work, he’s softer, with an affable chuckle replacing business-time bombast. His family has made cameos on the show. He still visits his purchased properties, where surprises both fanciful and macabre often lurk.

“Dead bodies are the worst,” Hopkins says. “I’ve seen two of those [not on the show]. For the most part, though, it’s just junk.”

Foreclosing on Foreclosure
Will Property Wars need to find a new home? According to real estate tracker RealtyTrac, foreclosure rates in Arizona fell 51 percent in 2012 from the previous year. Here’s how Arizona ranks nationally, by number of foreclosures per residences:

1) Florida 1:300 

2) Nevada 1:344 

3) Illinois 1:375
4) Arizona 1:501

5) Georgia 1:513

Real Bull?
Despite its respectable ratings – No. 14 for prime time cable in February 2013 –  Property Wars hasn’t been well-received in the Valley’s foreclosure trustee sale community. “It’s as real as any reality show,” one anonymous bidder says. “It’s not at all what the business is really like. People showing up at the same house at one time to bid? It’s illogical. It’s all done for drama.” Hopkins and company maintain the auctions happen in real time against real bidders who aren’t affiliated with the show, and that footage of auctions they don’t win is simply discarded. Another anonymous bidder calls this a “fabrication” and “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.”

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