Ryan Serhant-The Man Who Sold the World

imageHe may have had his “Turn” as a soap opera star, but, if speaking with him is any indication, Ryan Serhant is playing nothing but himself on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York. Calling me from a car in the middle of a torrential downpour, he finds it hard to stay all business. “Are you in New York?” he asks me. “It’s pouring here.” A couple of times he tries to make small talk and I redirect him, but I think it’s more his way than a case of ADD. A self proclaimed “sweet sweet little boy” the top selling agent is more shar pei than shark. Energetic and full of charm, it’s easy to see how even the most particular client can be sold when it comes to Ryan Serhant:

TBB: Hello Ryan. You hail from Boston and came to New York City to pursue acting. You had a starring role on As The World Turns, why did you decide to become a Real Estate agent?

RS: (Laughs)If it was only that simple. As the World Turns killed me. They had me sticking myself in the chest with a syringe. It was right before the writers’ strike hit. They were killing off lots of characters so they had me kill off a lot of people and myself. So there I was, I had no money and was doing modeling jobs to get by. A friend suggested I try Real Estate. I’ve been doing it ever since and I love it!

TBB: You found a great way to blend the worlds of television and Real Estate together. Tell us the story of how you landed the spot on MDLNY:

RS: I responded to a casting call, just like the other five thousand realtors that responded at the beginning of 2010. I had only been (a broker) for a year and a half but was doing really well in a really bad market. Thus began my six month casting process. There were written applications and Skypes, then more written applications. Then they followed me for half a day, which was followed by more meetings, more written applications, a DNA swab…(laughs)

TBB: Had you seen Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles?

RS: I hadn’t really seen the LA show. When you are working in Real Estate you are into it all day long. Honestly, the last thing I wanted to do was watch it on TV.

TBB: It’s hard to believe this is only your second season. You and Fredrik (Eklund) have become big names in the Bravo landscape. Why didn’t Michael (Lorber) come back?

RS: He retired I heard.

TBB: What are your thoughts on your new costar, Luis Ortiz?

RS: I love Luis! He’s hilarious! He’s very very spunky and he’s far more Puerto Rican than I am!

TBB: Each agent on the show has his own schtick. I’d say yours has to be your interesting clients like persnickety Patty and overly flirtatious Barbara. How do you decide which of your clients will appear on the show and then get them to agree?

RS: The clients that will appear on the show are the only ones that agree to it. The crew follows us around for eight months and they film all the time. It’s amazing just how much footage they take. I give the editing team a lot of credit for sifting through all that footage.There are people who say ‘I don’t want to be on camera’, there’s really no rhyme or reason other than that.

TBB:Another ongoing Ryan theme is interesting animals. From the large python you keep as a pet to last season’s client with a kangaroo. This season you were gifted a miniature pig. Do you still have her?

RS: You need to watch it and find out. (laughs) Let’s just say the pig is NOT a miniature pig.

TBB: Last episode you called her “pig”, does she have a name yet?

RS: I named it Kevin Bacon, but I found out later it was a female pig. It actually wasn’t easy to tell. Let me say that pigs are not puppies. They are not smart and cuddly, they are pigs and they make so much noise.

TBB: You are often portrayed as a ladies man, yet you admitted to feeling lonely this season. Have you met anyone special?

RS: Maybe. Did you watch last night and see me with a certain agent?

TBB: Ah I thought I sensed some tension there…

RS: I can’t give away too many spoilers. Keep watching! Really, we are just getting warmed up as a show. All the crazy stuff hasn’t happened yet, the stuff that people will be talking about until season three hasn’t even been shown yet!

TBB: The rumor mill has linked you to both Kelly Bensimon and Sonja Morgan of RHONY. Any comments about that?

RS: We’ve always, only ever, just been friends. Close friends..but friends.

TBB: According to your company (Nest Seekers International) bio this is impressively only your 5th year in the Real Estate business. What advice would you give to somebody who is watching you and is thinking about entering the world of high end Real Estate sales?

RS: Find a company in the city or town you want to sell in and work for the best broker. You want to be on the team or an assistant . You can slowly learn from them and then network network network!

TBB: One of our readers would like to know if you ever worry about sharing all of your innovative sales strategies on TV.

RS: Not really. I thought about that at the beginning but everything is in the delivery. Everything I say works in the moment with the deals that I’ve done. Every seller is different. Every buyer is different. For example if I thought a music video would sell a listing I would do that every time.

TBB: So all is forgiven with the client whose apartment you filmed the music video in?

RS: I sold the apartment and now he thinks (the video) is the coolest thing ever!

TBB: Thank you for speaking with me. Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

RS: (Laughs) I think everyone should know that I really am just a sweet sweet little boy.

All About the Altman

Josh Altman
On television he’s unapologetically confident and cut throat, but when it comes down to it the most important things in Million Dollar Listing’s Josh Altman’s world are his family, friends, and clients. He spoke to me about his road to success, his love for his industry, and why he encouraged Heather to stand up to Madison.
TBB: Good afternoon Josh. I read you played college football. Can you tell me about that?

JA: I was one of the kickers on the Big East Championship Syracuse University Football Team. I played for a couple of years and I feel that it prepared me for what I do right now. It’s a pressure filled position kicking in front of 80,000 people, it helped me learn to handle the types of pressure in situations I face in real estate. I always played sports. I was a soccer player also. Playing college ball was great, I had fun doing it!

TBB: You were a communications major at Syracuse, many graduates of that program go on to broadcasting careers, how did you end up in real estate?


JA: I was a speech communications major, I got into real estate by chance, not planned. I actually came out to LA for music management. I started out in the mail room at a well known record agency. I worked there for a year getting coffee, running errands. At the same time my brother and I put all our money together and bought our first condo. That was around 2002-2003 when the economy was booming. We bought it and did some interior work on it. When we were finished we thought it looked better than it had before so 3 or 4 months later we decided to put it back on the market. We made a profit and I found real estate was something I wanted to do. My favorite thing to do still is building homes. We flipped some more properties and I realized how much money was going to the mortgage brokers so I got my broker’s license. Then the market collapsed so I got on the agent’s side. I think all these components lead to me being a successful agent.

TBB: You are originally from Massachusetts, and went to school in upstate NY, why did you leave New England for SoCal?

JA: My brother was out here and we are really close. I knew that whatever business we gotinto we would want to work together, so I wanted to be where he was.

TBB: Your brother Matt is still your business partner. How come we don’t see him on MDLLA?

JA: You will see him a little bit in the last episode. We wanted to keep one of us off the show and one of us on, let one person be in the limelight and the other behind the scenes. People don’t realize how much he is involved in every deal we do because of this, but he works very hard and is a huge part of this business.

TBB: Tell me about your professional ties to the Hilton family and how their mentorship has helped you build your business.

JA: I work for Hilton and Hyland which is literally the top company on the planet. For perspective, H&H sold over 1.5 billion dollars in real estate last year between its 90 agents. Large real estate companies with thousands of agents didn’t do that volume. Rick Hilton and Jeff Hyland are legends in the business. They are here working every day even though they could retire. Jeff Hyland wrote The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills which chronicles the history of 50 of the most historic homes here. In business, like in sports, you want to surround yourself with the best. Every one here is a hitter. I’m in the office 8am-8pm and when I’m not I’m showing properties. This is my lifestyle and I love it!

TBB: After a brief appearance on Keeping Up with the Kardashians you came into MDLLA in season 4 to replace former cast member Chad Rogers. How did it all happen?

JA: I got a call from (MDLLA) after I was on The Kardashians. I had also closed a few deals with celebrities around town so they were hearing my name. They reached out and asked if I was interested. I did about 7 interviews, thinking it was just fun, even up until the very end I was not really expecting to get the offer. Initially when I got it I wasn’t going to do it. For the first couple of days I was going to pass it up. I was worried about how it would affect my business, but after talking to my colleagues and clients I figured what better platform to get my name out there. So I said, “What the hell?” It’s been great for business which is through the roof right now despite such a hard time in the market as a whole. A lot of it is hard work, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the show helps. We are almost at the 100 million dollar salesmark for the year. It’s very exciting and we can’t wait to celebrate!

TBB: You are extremely confident on the show, some may say overly confident. Are you always that, for lack of a better word, cocky? Does it ever have a negative impact on your business?

JA: I like to say I’m confident and I have the numbers to back it up. I wasn’t always like that, however when you get to a certain point in your career confidence comes along with that, but cocky? No, but it’s a reality show and if people think that it’s cool with me. What matters is what my family, friends, and clients think, and they would all say I’m generous and a good guy. However, if everyone else thinks I’m cocky and a good business man, and that’s the worst thing people think, well then it’s OK by me.

TBB: When the anticipated drink throwing argument between Heather (Bilyeu) and Madison (Hildebrand) aired many Tweeters called you out for instigating the fight. We only see the footage that makes the final cut. What happened that night that we did not see?

JA: I think it’s very important for people to understand I was pushing Heather to do something she needed to do. They didn’t see the emails and the calls from Madison saying, “I’m paying you” and then turn around and change his mind. For a young woman trying to make it $7,000 is a lot of money. I thought it was important for Heather to confront him. As the only woman,she represents women on our show. Madison would not see her, answer emails, or calls, so when viewers say it’s the wrong place and the wrong time what they don’t know is that it was the only time. I knew she would feel better if she got it off her chest, and she did.

TBB: What do you think of MDLNY and its cast?

JA: I think it’s great. I love those guys. I worked with Fredrik (Eklund) on a deal. I gave him a referral for a townhouse in Manhattan. He’s a hustler, he’s great. I love watching the New York show. I’m an East Coast guy and I love real estate. I could watch real estate all day.

TBB: You seem to do well with townhouses. I read you sold the highest priced townhouse in the history of your area?

JA: In the history of Santa Monica, yes, we sold it earlier this year for $10.5M. 8,000 square feet on Ocean Ave. Those are New York prices, which is huge to get that here. We are very proud. We also hold the second highest too, which was $4.5M.

TBB: Real estate related television is quite popular. In addition to your show there’s Open House on NBC and several on HGTV. Why do you think your industry makes for such great TV?

JA: Real estate is something that every one is interested in, especially now in this economy. You either have it and want to know what your home is worth, want to know about it, or just want to dream about it. Even when you see the mansions on our show, it’s nice after a long day of work to relax and see these crazy houses.

TBB: Thank you for talking with me today. Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?

JA: I’m a big family guy. My family is very important to me. People who know me know I will also do anything for my clients, I treat their money like my own. I love what I do and I’m having fun!

Heather’s Life: On Her Own Terms!

On TV you know her as Madison’s former assistant and Josh Altman’s other half, but make no bones about it, Million Dollar Listing’s Heather Bilyeu is her own woman. A powerful force on the LA Real Estate scene, she talks about business, MDL, and of course her relationships with her co-stars. Heather is all woman, but she can both work and play like one of the boys!
Heather Bilyeu  
TBB: Good afternoon Heather. You have an interesting last name. Can you tell us about it?

HB: My last name is French. People always slaughter the pronunciation, so my dad came up with a saying so people would remember how to pronounce it… “Don’t bill me, I’ll ‘Bill You,” fitting for my business.
TBB: People think you are the quintessential California girl, but I have read you are originally from Vegas. How did you end up in LA?

HB: I’m born and raised in Las Vegas. My aunt lived in Laguna Beach and Los Angeles. I would stay with her over holiday breaks and summer vacations and I immediately fell in love with California and everything about it! I love the weather, the people, the food, the shopping, the beach, hiking and you’re just a few hours from the mountains, wine country, camping, etc. I started my real estate career in Las Vegas but then the market crashed and it gave me the perfect excuse to run to LA to start my next chapter! I’ve never looked back!

TBB: This is a big season on Million Dollar Listing, lots of changes. At the end of season IV we weren’t sure what would happen between you and your former boss Madison Hildebrand. It appears that after the show stopped filming he decided to take you on as a partner, however, that partnership was dissolved when Madison let you go. We’ve heard his side of the story in On The Fly interviews, but we haven’t heard much of your side. What would you like to say?
HB: I was a Realtor in Vegas for 5 years. When the Vegas market crashed, I moved to LA to pursue real estate as an assistant because I wanted to learn the market there. In my initial interview with Madison I told him that eventually I would want to become an agent again and was looking for someone who may want to partner in the future, 3-5 years down the road. Madison was open to the idea as he only had a 5 year plan to be in real estate and then he wanted to pursue another career. Fast forward to the end of season IV, I had been working for Madison for a little over 3 years, had plateaued in my assistant position,and was no longer being challenged. Madison was past his 5 year mark in real estate and was itching to pursue the entertainment scene (outside of Million Dollar Listing). We were a great team, had fun together and trusted each other. I felt this was the perfect time to explore the idea of partnering, which would benefit both of us: I would make more money and create a future for myself and Madison would collect residual income from my efforts while he pursued his next dream. It sounded perfect BUT Madison could not separate the TV drama from our real lives. I think he felt threatened by my ambition, success and my romantic relationship with Josh. I understood he made the decision to fire me to protect his business, I was not upset about that. I was upset about the way he handled the termination and my commissions that I earned as an employee. I felt he was cruel and malicious considering the cause for me to be fired was not due to my work performance but due to my personal relationship outside of work. There’s my story, his story, reality TV’s story and then the truth. It’s unfortunate because he was a huge part of my life. It feels like a break-up because I did love Madison as a friend and felt like we were family. This experience has been another learning curve and I have made the best of the situation. I now have a successful real estate business that is growing rapidly and I look forward to the future. I do wish Madison the best.TBB: Speaking of your business, you are now working with Mauricio Umansky. People know him as Kyle Richards’ husband on RHOBH, and from his previous appearances on MDLLA. How did that partnership develop?

HB: The real estate industry in LA is very small and we all have crossed paths at one time or another. I met Mauricio a few years ago but didn’t really get to know him until Josh Altman introduced us. Mauricio mentored Josh when he first got into the business. Mauricio and his partner, Billy Rose opened a boutique real estate brokerage called The Agency. Several top agents and agents I was friends with moved to The Agency. There was a buzz around town about The Agency and it’s quick success. I met with Mauricio, Billy and the rest of their team to learn more about the company. Redefining real estate: What a concept! Billy and Mauricio’s vision of a collaborative culture amongst agents was a breath of fresh air. The Agency is a family, a partnership; we work together and celebrate each other’s successes. I immediately knew this is where I wanted to be!TBB: Your former boss may not approve of your relationship with his competitor, but I think you two are an adorable couple. Will there be a lot of business ventures together?

HB: Josh and I have a great relationship, both in our personal and business life. He is my biggest fan and supporter of anything and everything I do, in particular my real estate career. He is my real estate coach. He gives me pep talks every morning, checks in on how I’m pursuing business, what deals I’m negotiating, etc. He’s been amazing. I’ve learned so much from him! And yes, we do share listings and buyers because we network together. It’s so funny, when we are at dinner and the couple next to us tells us they are selling their house, it’s a race to see who can get their business card out faster! It’s comical.
TBB: How are you, Josh, and Madison getting along now?
HB: Only time will tell! Stay tuned.TBB: I know you are an advocate of Female Empowerment, especially in business, however, when you stated you had an announcement at the season’s beginning, people automatically assumed it was an engagement or a pregnancy, and not business. How did that make you feel?

HB: I strongly believe in female empowerment! For generations, females have fought to have the same rights as men and we are still fighting! It is very upsetting to know that woman are paid only 70% of what men make for the same job. My role on the show focuses on my personal relationship so it was no surprise that people would assume that my big announcement was going to be a personal announcement. It was actually entertaining to see peoples’ responses! I hope they learn that I am not one dimensional and I have more to offer than just drama and my personal relationship with Josh. I am a business owner and very excited about my success and the success that is to come for myself and my company!TBB: According to your Twitter your mother recently got her Real Estate license. That must be quite a feeling to have inspired her, yes?

HB: My mom was actually the one that turned me on to real estate! When I was in high school, we would visit the new home developments on the weekends; that’s when we would have one-on-one bonding time and catch up about school, boys, life. We loved seeing the new areas, floor plans, finishes, just design in general. I really enjoyed it! That’s when my mom suggested I get my real estate license because there is nothing better than doing something you love and I loved real estate. My mom semi-retired in Phoenix, Arizona but saw the market picked up and saw the success I had so she got her license too. So yes, I guess you can say I inspired her, but she inspires and motivates me. She made her first deal in her first month! The average agent takes one year to sell their first home.TBB: What advice do you have for women in your line of business or business in general?

HB: 1. Confidence – don’t let them see you sweat!
2. Be an expert in what you do
3. Dress the part
4. Tell everyone what you do
5. Network/Socialize
TBB: Thank you so very much for talking with me today. Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?

HB: I think viewers would be interested to know that I am a tom-boy despite what you see on the show. I ride dirt bikes, snow board, play soccer, go camping. I just love adventure and speed but will always be fashionable when doing it!