Here's What You Need To Know About HGTV's Lakefront Empire

The following article mentions addiction.

It's no secret people can't stop watching HGTV, and the shows the follow teams of real estate and/or design professionals keep rolling in. Alison Victoria's "Windy City Rehab," for example, highlighted home renovations in Chicago, while "Fixer Upper" — which is now seen on Chip and Joanna Gaines' very own Magnolia Network — focuses entirely on projects situated in Waco, Texas. Meanwhile, Ben and Erin Napier's show "Home Town" transports viewers to Laurel, Mississippi, while "Love It or List It" and its spinoff, "Love It or List It Too" are both — fun fact — filmed in Canada.

On March 11, 2024, HGTV debuted "Lakefront Empire," a reality show set in Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks. "With its coveted prime water frontage, mega custom pools and hot tubs, and extravagant decked-out docks valued at up to $450K with boat slips, wet bars and double-decker water slides, Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks is the ultimate party destination for millions of visitors," gushed an HGTV press release, which described the region as the "Hamptons of the Midwest." 

At the center of the show are a colorful collection of local real estate agents and brokers, with cameras following along as they find stunning waterfront homes for clients during their wildly busy summertime peak season; think more along the lines of Netflix's "Selling Sunset" than a renovation show like "Fixer Upper." To find out more about this intriguing new series, read on to find out everything you need to know about HGTV's "Lakefront Empire."

Lakefront Empire reveals America's 'best kept secret' in the Midwest

According to HGTV's "Lakefront Empire" press release, Lake of the Ozarks — situated between Kansas City and St. Louis — is not only a popular tourist destination, it's also "the country's best kept secret." In fact, those who haven't visited there will likely be surprised by its size; the lake boasts 1,100 miles of shoreline — more than the entire coast of California (which, as HGTV viewers are aware, is well represented by "Christina on the Coast").  

‌While there are numerous luxury homes with seven-figure price-tags dotting the Lake of the Ozarks waterfront, there are also relatively moderately priced abodes available in what's come to be a sizzling-hot real estate market. Over the past decade or so, prices have risen considerably as the area becomes increasingly well known. According to statistics highlighted by Lake Expo, the average price of a home was about $193,000 in 2012, with that average rising to $349,000 by 2021; in fact, that increase represented a rise of more than 30% over the previous year. Meanwhile, 2020 was the biggest-ever year for real estate in the region, with more than $1 billion in transactions taking place that year alone. 

Clearly, the secret is out — and who knows what kind of upturn the market might take after HGTV viewers feast their eyes on "Lakefront Empire."

The Lake of the Ozarks is a major tourist destination

In addition to its size and the surprisingly vast miles of coastline it boasts, Lake of the Ozarks is also a top destination for tourists — a factor that the arrival of HGTV's "Lakefront Empire" promises to only popularize even further. 

As HGTV noted, while many viewers might picture wide expanses of even terrain when they think of the Midwest, Lake of the Ozarks it is anything but flat. "This region is exploding with rolling hills, ancient forests and sparkling waterways," HGTV's website pointed out. Lake of Ozarks, which has been shaped by Native American and European cultures, is a dynamic and stunning slice of the country. Those looking to commune with nature and take in some fresh air are sure to enjoy the area, as there's plenty of hiking, ziplining, cavern exploring, boating, jet skiing, camping, and fishing to do. 

For those who aren't in the mood to hit the trails or strap on water skis, the region offers a ton of other activities. There are ghost tours, waterparks, plenty of shopping options, helicopter tours, museums, lakefront bars, and restaurants galore.

Realtor Peggy Albers is upfront about her shady past

At the center of HGTV's "Lakefront Empire" is realtor Peggy Albers. "Whether you're buying or selling, I am your ultimate resource for securing the best deal in the market," Albers stated on her website. Having been born and raised there, Albers knows the Lake of the Ozarks like the back of her hand. Once she gravitated to real estate, her knack was instantly evident; during her first year selling homes, she racked up a whopping $8 million in sales. 

That said, she's also been open about her checkered past, which has included a stint in prison. "I was 30 years old and had a two-month-old son," Albers told HGTV, explaining she was in desperate financial straits at the time. "I received a 25-year sentence for drug trafficking and served 15 of those years," she revealed, recalling that her son, Hunter, was 16 years old when she was finally released, her parents raising him while she was behind bars. Having served her time, Albers has long since put her past behind her. "Telling my story of overcoming obstacles and kicking ass was great, but putting my little hometown on prime-time television — it's just amazing!" she gushed.

"Living on the lake and running my business is an honor and a pleasure," she added, "but to help people find their dream home is the best reward of all."

Broker Gerardo Cornejo was born in El Salvador

Another personality introduced to viewers via HGTV's "Lakefront Empire" is Gerardo Cornejo, a real estate broker with his own firm, the Cornejo Group. Unlike his HGTV co-star Peggy Albers, Cornejo wasn't born in Lake of the Ozarks, but in El Salvador. As he told HGTV, he and his family immigrated to the U.S. when he was 7 years old, and he spent his childhood in California. "I grew up on the Pacific Ocean, but I love the lake," he explained. "This Midwest body of water is amazing. The views, the sunsets, the history behind the lake. There really is no place like it."

Of all the real estate deals he's done over the years, one transaction remains both his most memorable, and closest to his heart. "The cheapest house I ever sold was to myself!" he said while relating a story that characterizes the entrepreneurial spirit underlying his success story. "My wife and I made an incredibly low bid on a house that needed a lot of renovation. We purchased it for $23,000, fixed it up, and then turned it into one of the first short- and long-term rental homes in Jefferson City, Missouri."

A newcomer to television, filming his first HGTV series was a truly memorable undertaking. "The crew made filming the show an unforgettable experience," he shared.

Broker associate Cierra Grein has real estate in her blood

Another member of the "Lakefront Empire" team is Cierra Grein. An associate with Gibson & Grein, Grein's history with the Lake of the Ozarks goes back to the very beginning, given that she was born there. The same is true for her love of real estate, which can be traced back to her parents. "I'm an only child and my parents ran a real estate company when I was growing up," she told HGTV. "It may sound silly, but I've known I wanted to make my money in real estate since I was young. Most kids whose parents are in real estate hate the idea of following in their footsteps because they've witnessed the demands on personal time, but I love everything about it!"

She also shared the philosophy that underlies the runaway success that she's experienced in such a competitive field. "We aren't just selling a home," she explained, "we're selling lifelong memories." As a native of Lake of the Ozarks, she's always been attuned to the lakefront lifestyle — evident in the hobbies she enjoys as an adult. "Anything water-related is my jam: boating, sailing, kayaking and swimming," she said. 

Not surprisingly, she's a big booster of her hometown, which will certainly receive a whole lot of attention thanks to her involvement in "Lakefront Empire." "I try to shine a positive light on everything I do and throughout my community," Grein explained. 

Broker Justin Farrell overcame addiction and found success

Realtor Peggy Albers isn't the only member of the "Lakefront Empire" cast who's overcome a difficult past. Broker Justin Farrell had to start his life over from scratch after confronting his alcohol addiction. "When I met my wife in 2009, I was six months sober from alcoholism," he explained in an interview with HGTV. "I was living at home with my parents and barely scraping by as a real estate agent and a nightclub disc jockey."

He's come a long way since then, and is now a successful broker with Lake of the Ozarks-based John Farrell Real Estate Co. Focusing entirely on the local market, Farrell has experienced some serious success. "In the past five years, I have been fortunate enough to assist over 100 different families and friends, totaling over $25 million in sales," he wrote in a bio on his company's website. While he's certainly sold his fair share of luxurious waterfront homes, not every property he's sold has been of the extravagant nature. "The cheapest property I ever sold was a 1,000-square-foot house for $14,900, and it was livable!" he told HGTV.

As a hometown boy, Farrell knows the local market inside and out, and he wouldn't want to be anywhere else. "There's no better place in the world to live than Lake of the Ozarks," he declared.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Jonas Farrell is in love with the Ozarks lifestyle

Jonas Farrell, brother of the aforementioned Justin Farrell, is also a broker at the same firm, which was founded by their mother and father. Born and raised in Lake of the Ozarks, Farrell's enthusiasm for the many qualities of hometown are evident in "Lakefront Empire" whenever he's on camera. "There are not many places where you can drop your boat in the water and head off to dinner," he explained in an interview with HGTV. "The laid-back culture is just one of the reasons I love living here."

Given his parents' background in real estate, he admitted that it was never a question that he'd go to work for his family-owned company. "From the time I was old enough to think about my future, I wanted to work in our family business," said Farrell, revealing that following that path was kind of a no-brainer. "It was an easy decision and took the pressure off trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life," he added. 

For Farrell, making money from selling real estate isn't his primary focus. "I'll never value my commission over their best interests," he said of the client-centric approach that he brings to his vocation. 

For Amanda Smith, real estate is all about making a personal connection

Rounding out the on-air team on HGTV's "Lakefront Empire" is Amanda Smith, a real estate agent who owns her own firm, Smith & Associates Realty Group. Like the other real estate professionals on the show, she's passionate about spreading the word about Lake of the Ozarks. "The area is a vacation oasis away from home," she told HGTV.

Defining what sets her apart, she said, "My biggest strength is my passion and the heart I have for people. For me, it's genuinely easy to connect with others." That connection, she revealed, was on display in one of the earliest home sales that she ever made. "During my first year in real estate, one of my clients, a single mom, cried during the closing of her home and thanked me for making homeownership possible. It was at that moment I knew my passion had met my purpose," she explained. 

She also has a keen eye for bargains that enter the market — such as a duplex that she purchased for just $10,000, and then renovated and rented out as an income property.

The boat docks on Lakefront Empire are bonkers

One thing that viewers of HGTV"s "Lakefront Empire" will quickly discover is that the lakefront homes come equipped with extravagant docks that must be seen to be believed. "Some of the people's boat docks cost more than my house!" realtor Peggy Albers declared in a sneak-peek teaser for the show. In fact, there's no greater status symbol in Lake of the Ozarks than a totally tricked-out dock. "People spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their boat docks before they even buy a boat," Albers continued. 

Boat docks are actually pretty essential for the lake lifestyle, a place where boats can float, along with jet skis and other accoutrements for water-based activities. 

In that video, Albers is seen taking a couple on a tour of a particularly lavish dock, which is replete with its own bar, a winding water slide and an elevated diving platform. "This is what the lake is all about," Albers opined.