Thursday, September 28, 2017
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
A new reality show goes inside the cut-throat world of high-end real estate sales and a Mahoning Valley native is at the center of it.
“Real Estate Wars” pits two teams against each other in a battle to sell luxury homes in Orange County, Calif. Joele “Jojo” Romeo-Watson, who grew up in Canfield, is a prominent part of one of the teams.
The series premieres next Thursday at 10 p.m. on Bravo.
An offshoot of the channel’s “Million Dollar Listing,” the new series moves the action to what is likely the nation’s most expensive real-estate market.
It’s an area that Romeo knows well. She has racked up an incredible $400 million in sales since 2011 in the county just south of Los Angeles. That puts her in the top 1 percent of real-estate agents nationwide.
In “Real Estate Wars,” she leads Team Relegance against Team McMonigle, which is spearheaded by John McMonigle, her former boss and current nemesis. McMonigle was once the No. 1 real-estate agent in the country but lost everything when the market crashed. He has since been rebuilding his empire.
McMonigle and Romeo mix like oil and water in the sales field, and their rivalry is intensified on the show.
In a phone interview, Romeo didn’t mince words about her opponent.
“He says he fired me, and I say I quit,” she said. “He’s not very ethical. He is a narcissist.”
McMonigle’s “get the sale at all costs” philosophy doesn’t jibe with Romeo’s approach of understanding her clients.
“To me, these aren’t just addresses,” she said. “These are people, and selling their home is just a disguise for a major transition in their lives. They are walking away from holidays and memories for a reason – divorce, death, graduation, a new baby. Once you see it from that perspective, you see that they are people.”
Romeo is all about feng shui and the energy of a house, and uses these spiritual elements to make it more attractive to buyers. She also has a flair for interior design.
Like all reality shows, “Real Estate Wars” will play up these and other personality quirks, and the drama that ensues. Romeo’s style is in sharp contrast to the all-business, dressed to the nines McMonigle, as they square off amid a backdrop of luxurious homes.
But Romeo said she also keeps it real with qualities straight out of the Mahoning Valley.
“I am super down to earth,” she said. “You can take the girl out of Ohio, but you can’t take the Ohio out of the girl. You will see a super-feisty Jojo, but there’s also that very authentic down to earth person. I bring a lot of my Ohio mentality to it, to life behind ‘the Orange Curtain’,” as she calls the Orange County lifestyle.
Romeo is a graduate of Canfield High School and is still a rabid Ohio State Buckeyes fan. She attended Bowling Green State University and still has plenty of family in the Mahoning Valley.
Romeo moved to Orange County in 1991, where she finished her degree at the University of California-Long Beach.
“I wanted to get away from the cold weather, so I drove here,” she said. “I worked my way up. I was working two jobs and I had two kids by the time I was 24, and no family out here.”
Getting into real estate was a natural decision for her. “I knew from the minute I was born that I was born to be in sales,” she said.
Romeo credits the Youngstown work ethic for her success. “Ohio taught me a work ethic. When I moved to Orange County, I realized it’s so laid-back here that if I add that work ethic, I would kill it.”
In addition to her amazing career, Romeo is the mother of three children and two step-children, who range in age from 11 to 25, and calls them her greatest success. She’s also a leader in the Orange County business community and enjoys inspiring women to succeed. Her activities include coaching a women’s empowerment group.
When she was approached to be on “Real Estate Wars,” she jumped at the opportunity.
“I feel that it is so that I can inspire others,” she said. “It’s also good for business, but I know there is another purpose.”