These 'Lakefront Empire' Locals Run the Lake of the Ozarks Real Estate Scene

HGTV sits down with the cast of Lakefront Empire. Learn more about Peggy Albers, Amanda Smith, Cierra Grein, Gerardo Cornejo and brothers Jonas and Justin Farrell.

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They say what happens at the lake, stays at the lake — especially when it comes to the Lake of the Ozarks, a premier community located in central Missouri defined by 1,100 miles of shoreline — longer than the coast of California! The folks who live here say it’s the country’s best-kept secret. Well, not anymore!

The cast of Lakefront Empire is spilling the tea on what it’s like to sell real estate on Lake of the Ozarks. Ahead, learn more about the agents, what makes them tick and what we have to look forward to Monday, March 11 at 10|9c.

"People here believe in small-town values and in treating your neighbors like family,” says local real estate agent and lifelong Lake of the Ozark resident Justin Farrell. “We help each other out even if we don’t know one another, and we’re not afraid to leave our doors unlocked.”

Peggy Albers: Real Estate Agent, Albers Real Estate Advisors

Peggy Albers

Peggy Albers

A native of Lake of the Ozarks, Peggy had sales of $8 million dollars her first year as a real estate agent. Yet her claim to fame included a few bumps along the way, including a stint in state and federal prison for drug trafficking. “I was 30 years old and had a 2-month-old son,” shares Peggy, who is appreciative of being back home. “Living on the lake and running my business is an honor and a pleasure, but to help people find their dream home is the best reward of all.”

She asked her husband to marry her.

“I met Kevin when we were young, and he was working as a bellman at a lodge. I had to beg him to marry me — probably over 50 times — until he said yes!” says Peggy.

She’s close with her family.

Peggy didn't get out of prison until her son Hunter was almost 16 years old. “My parents raised him during that time,” shares Peggy. “I have two brothers, Jimmy and Kenny, and a sister Mary, who is also a real estate agent and my role model.”

She majored in business in college.

Peggy attended Missouri State University for two years and majored in business management but often says she got into the wrong business. “I received a 25-year sentence for drug trafficking and served 15 of those years,” she says.

She defines herself by these three words.

Blessed! Blessed! Blessed!

Peggy congratulates her clients who are putting in an offer for a new home.

Peggy congratulates her clients who are putting in an offer for a new home.

She always knew she’d be famous.

“I wrote a biography in the eighth grade and in it I said I would be famous one day,” shares Peggy. “My mom kept the assignment. I got a B+!”

She’s humbled by this compliment.

“Thank you for saving my life.” Peggy has heard this repeatedly from women she’s helped out, many of whom have just been released from prison. “Whether it be their rent, cell phone or transportation, I try to contribute financially to get them back on their feet,” shares Peggy. She’s already donated $372,000 of her own money and is now working on a startup called WOO (Women Overcoming Obstacles) to help women who’ve been in prison. “I want to move mountains,” she says.

She likes to tell this real story!

When she was fresh out of prison, Peggy went to view a luxury home that was listed for $4 million. “Afterwards, I went to pick up a pizza and a fellow agent waiting in line asked for my opinion on the price. I told him the house was not worth that value,” shares Peggy. “When I got back to my office, the owner of the home was on the phone, furious I was saying negative things about his property. I told him my thoughts — I didn’t sugarcoat anything. Apparently, I made an impression. He covertly watched me flourish in the real estate market for a few years, then asked me to sell his home, which I did. He’s been a faithful client ever since.”

She appreciates this advice from her father.

“My dad would say real estate is a tough business and if you don't work, you don't get paid,” says Peggy. “If I work part-time, I’ll get part-time pay; if I work full-time, I’ll get full-time pay. And if I work overtime, I’ll get overtime pay. I work day and night and have become a very successful agent. His advice taught me to push myself because if I didn’t, nobody else would.”

She has a favorite HGTV show.

Rico to the Rescue. “There are so many good shows on HGTV, but I love how Rico León goes in and fixes the things builders mess up and then calls them out on it!” Peggy says.

She’s excited about putting a spotlight on her neck of the woods (lake!).

“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 says.

Gerardo Cornejo: Broker, The Cornejo Group

Gerardo Cornejo

Gerardo Cornejo

Gerardo and his family emigrated to the United States from El Salvador in 1990, when he was 7 years old. “I grew up on the Pacific Ocean, but I love the lake. This Midwest body of water is amazing. The views, the sunsets, the history behind the lake. There really is no place like it,” he says.

He grew up in Southern California

“My sister and I were raised in Bellflower, California, and loved every minute of our childhood. We made the absolute best memories,” says Gerardo.

He has a secret.

“I won a first grade spelling bee contest my first year in America, and I barely spoke or read English!”

He was recruited to play football in college, twice!

“I earned my associates degree from Cerritos Community College in Norwalk, California, after being recruited as a kicker on their football team,” he says. “Then I went on to be the kicker and punter for Lincoln University of Missouri and graduated with a degree in business administration in 2007.”

He has his hands full with three kids.

The Cornejos have three children, Irie (10), Jacob (7) and the boss baby, Marlie (3). “I’ve been married to my country girl, Staci Cornejo, for 13 years,” shares Gerardo. “My mother made the move to Missouri in 2013 to be closer to her first grandchild, then my sister Lynda moved here, too, and now she’s a big part of our real estate business. My father’s life tragically ended during COVID. I was blessed to spend 38 years of my life with him.”

He purchased his first house for less than $25,000.

“The cheapest house I ever sold was to myself! 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,” he says.

He always wanted to be a ______

“Husband,” says Gerardo. “My wife is the most important relationship in my life. Our bond sets the tone for everything.”

His children inspire him.

“They’re hilarious, helpful, respectful and very intelligent kids,” shares Gerardo. “My wife and I are beyond blessed to be their parents.”

He defines himself in three words.

Dreamer. Lover. Fighter.

Gerardo and Peggy film Lakefront Empire.

Gerardo and Peggy film Lakefront Empire.

He has a special place in his heart for his home country.

“I took my family to El Salvador last year after not being back since I moved to the United States almost 25 years ago. My kids loved the food, the ocean and meeting all their cousins who live in Central America, so much so, we’re going back this year!” shares Gerardo.

He loved filming the show.

“The crew made filming the show an unforgettable experience,” says Gerardo. “They showed so much respect for me, my clients and the homes we filmed. Our lunch conversations were epic.”

Cierra Grein: Broker Associate, Gibson & Grein Real Estate Network

Cierra Grein

Cierra Grein

Cierra cherishes her memories growing up on the Lake of the Ozarks. Married to Chad Butler in 2023, she’s expecting her first baby (a boy!) in March almost a year to her wedding day. She believes selling properties at Lake of the Ozarks is special because, “We aren’t just selling a home, we’re selling lifelong memories.”

She loves her dog!

“We have one dog named Bruno who we love so much,” says Cierra. “My husband owned him before we met, and I immediately fell in love with both of them. He’s super sweet and loves boating and swimming in the lake — and the occasional jet ski rides with his dad!”

She has something in common with Taylor Swift.

Cierra and her husband are Kansas City Chiefs season ticket holders and love to tailgate at Arrowhead Stadium. “My husband and his old college friends put on this huge tailgate for home games where 200+ people show up and raise money for KC Hope Kids and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.”

She loves to stay active.

“Anything water-related is my jam: boating, sailing, kayaking and swimming. In fact, scuba diving has been a huge passion of mine since I was 12 years old. I also love to snow ski in Colorado and Montana,” shares Cierra.

She’s a yoga instructor.

Cierra became a yoga instructor in 2016 and teaches hot yoga. Says Cierra, “I love sharing an hour with others, helping them disconnect from the busy world and be present with their mind, body and soul. I’ve been teaching hot yoga throughout my entire pregnancy, and it has really helped me prepare for a healthy natural birth.”

She likes to stay positive.

“My biggest strength is my ability to communicate,” says Cierra. “I’m very outgoing and optimistic. I try to shine a positive light on everything I do and throughout my community.”

She has always known her calling.

“I’m an only child and my parents ran a real estate company when I was growing up. It may sound silly, but I’ve known I wanted to make my money in real estate since I was young,” shares Cierra. “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’s had some cool jobs.

Cierra has spent time living on a wooden sailboat while employed as a deckhand in Camden, Maine and in Key West, Florida. She’s also worked on a yacht as a stewardess and lived in a tent on a beach in an ashram on Paradise Island in the Bahamas for five months!

She can’t live without these four things.

My husband, my dog, my cell phone and exercise.

She has a favorite HGTV show.

Vacation House Rules with Scott McGillivray. “I love to see what Scott does with vacation rentals because I use this info and advice while helping out my own clients with rentals,” Cierra notes.

She has a crazy real estate story.

“A guy called our office saying he and his girlfriend were coming to buy a house and that he wanted the nicest one on the lake. We didn’t have time to do a background check nor was the internet a thing at that time. Well, his earnest money check bounced and two days later the FBI came into our office and said this guy was wanted in over 40 states!” says Cierra.

Amanda Smith: Broker and owner of Smith & Associates Realty Group

Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith

When she’s not chasing her kids around, Amanda Smith is chasing deals on Lake of Ozarks. “The area is a vacation oasis away from home,” she shares. “There’s something about helping a family find a vacation house away from their primary home that motivates me to stretch my imagination and inspire others to be creative and bring into view what's possible.”

She married someone from high school.

“I’ve been married to my husband Davaun Smith Sr. for five years. We attended the same high school together but met years later on an online dating app!” says Amanda.

She has four children.

Amanda grew up in St. Louis and is the youngest of four children. “I have two brothers, Damon and Matthew, and a sister Tia,” she says. Amanda now has four kids of her own: Kamiah (18), Darion (16), Kourtney (12) and Davaun Jr. (7).

She loves to connect with people.

“My biggest strength is my passion and the heart I have for people,” says Amanda. “For me, it’s genuinely easy to connect with others.”

She always thought she’d be a lawyer.

“I’m really good at debating and getting my point across,” shares Amanda. “I’m also detail-oriented and great at gathering information.”

She loved receiving this compliment.

“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,” Amanda says.

She found herself a bargain property.

“The cheapest house I’ve ever sold was a $10,000 duplex that I bought for myself and renovated to use as a rental property,” she says.

She defines herself by these words.

Family-oriented. Ambitious. Dedicated.

She received this advice from her elementary school teacher.

“She said, ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’ This statement inspired me in elementary school and is something I’m reminded of frequently,” says Amanda.

She loves ice cream!

Amanda admits she can eat a whole pint of ice cream in one sitting. “I love sweets!” she says.

She loves this HGTV host!

Egypt Sherrod (Married to Real Estate) is so realistic and down to earth. Plus, I love how she and her husband, Mike Jackson, do such an amazing job balancing work and family life,” notes Amanda.

Justin Farrell: Broker, John Farrell Real Estate Co.

Justin Farrell

Justin Farrell

Justin spent most of his life on the lake. “I left for college but then came back home. There’s no better place in the world to live than Lake of the Ozarks,” he says.

His wife gave him an ultimatum!

“My wife Carrie and I got married in 2013. She told me if I didn’t ask her to be my wife, she was going to leave me!” Justin shares. “The best compliment I ever received was when she said yes to my proposal. She gave up everything to live with me, and I am not an easy person to live with!”

He loves being surrounded by females.

“I have an amazing wife, who makes sure I’m the best I can be; a 7-year-old daughter named Airabella, who brings joy into my life every single day; and a female dog and cat. Without them, I’d be a ship without a rudder,” Justin says.

He's 15 years sober.

“When I met my wife in 2009, I was six months sober from alcoholism. I was living at home with my parents and barely scraping by as a real estate agent and a nightclub disc jockey,” says Justin.

He never graduated college.

“I went to Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Missouri, to attend college and play soccer. But I found out I wasn’t nearly as good a soccer player as I thought I was so I left the team. Unfortunately, I didn’t graduate because I majored in partying," says Justin. “Knowledge is power. When you stop learning, you stop growing. If I only knew then what I know now!”

Justin (right) and his brother Jonas Farrell (left) stalk strategy with clients.

Justin (right) and his brother Jonas Farrell (left) stalk strategy with clients.

He knows where his strengths lie.

“My charisma and my level of bullshit are my strongest suits,” says Justin. “I have the gift of gab and can pretty much talk my way through any situation and come out on top. I tell everybody I’ve never met a stranger.”

He is his own inspiration.

“I once heard a great quote that said, ‘When I die, I’m going to face my maker and he is going to show me the person I could have become with all the gifts and talents he gave me.’ That quote has inspired me to work on being a better person,” says Justin.

He doesn’t just sell expensive houses.

“The cheapest property I ever sold was a 1,000-square-foot house for $14,900, and it was livable!” he says.

He's a musician.

Justin started playing the violin when he was just 6 years old, the fiddle when he was 9, and the trumpet and tuba in high school. “I’m a band nerd and proud of it!” he laughs.

He loves to read.

“I’m obsessed with the high fantasy book series, the Wheel of Time, by the authors Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson,” says Justin. “I’ve read each book four times, they’re amazing!”

He has lots of favorite songs.

“Being a DJ, I have respect for all the genres,” says Justin. “Currently, I’ve been jamming to Chris Stapleton and the song Starting Over. I just appreciate the entire packaging of that song.”

Jonas Farrell: Broker and Salesperson, John Farrell Real Estate Co.

Jonas Farrell

Jonas Farrell

As a second-generation real estate agent at his family’s firm, Jonas was born and raised at Lake of the Ozarks and takes ownership in being a true native of the community. “There are not many places where you can drop your boat in the water and head off to dinner. The laid-back culture is just one of the reasons I love living here,” he says.

He’s been married for 17 years.

“I’ve been married to my wife Nancy Farrell for 17 years, and we have two children together, Jonathan (15) and Evan (13), along with a miniature schnauzer named Gunner. Jonathan has autism and is super sweet and kind while Evan is always full of energy. I have two siblings, my brother Justin Farrell, who’s my business partner and a sister, Alicia Farrell Lange,” says Jonas.

He attended two different colleges.

Jonas attended Columbia College in Osage Beach, Missouri, for a year then transferred to Missouri State University where he received a diploma in general business. “I wanted to experience living somewhere else before starting my life at the lake,” he says.

He'll drive more than two hours to watch his favorite football team.

“I’ve been a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs since I was 12 years old. Nancy and I had season tickets but gave them up when we started our family. We try to attend at least one game each year. My favorite active players are Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce!”

He considers these two things key to his success.

“Patience and my work ethic,” he says.

He always knew what he wanted to do with his life.

“From the time I was old enough to think about my future, I wanted to work in our family business,” says Jonas. “It was an easy decision and took the pressure off trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.”

His favorite compliments come from his work associates.

Jonas’ clients recognize he will always put their welfare before his own. “I’ll never value my commission over their best interests,” he says.

He won’t soon forget this advice from his father.

“Shut up and listen. You might just learn something!” laughs Jonas.

He likes his alone time.

“I enjoy sitting outside, just me, with my thoughts, an adult beverage and a flavorful cigar,” says Jonas.

He admires HGTV’s Mike Holmes.

Says Jonas, “His home inspections are always spot-on, and I believe in his philosophy of ‘Make it Right’.”

He loves being these three things.

Husband. Father. Great Friend.

Lakefront Empire premieres Monday, March 11 at 10|9c. Get the latest on the new series on HGTV.com and via #LakefrontEmpire and @HGTV on Facebook, X, Instagram, TikTok and Threads.

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