The streets of Gotham have turned grim, its citizens haunted by ominous headlines. No, those aren’t scenes from the latest Batman movie, but rather the eighth season launch of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York,” airing Aug. 1.
The ersatz drama’s young hero-broker — Ryan Serhant of Nest Seekers International — battles Manhattan’s worst year in real estate since the 2008 financial crisis. Sales have declined for six straight quarters. Buyers are walking and listings are … listless.
No matter. Serhant plays the role of master salesman, boosted by his book “Sell It Like Serhant” (Hachette, 2018) and Bravo spin-off series of the same name. You might even catch the plucky Serhant in a cape and cowl during a broker opening — he favors costumes, themes and stunts.
A former down-and-out actor and hand model, he once used the hallway of a shared NYC walk-up as his bedroom. Now Serhant, backed by his team, crushes it with average monthly sales of $80 million.
We took a longish New York minute to speak with Serhant, who recently bought a $7.6-million Brooklyn brownstone; he’ll move in once renovations are completed, joined by wife Emilia and infant daughter Zena.
Your first day as an agent was the day Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Do you think short memories trip up other agents who lack such stormy experience?
The agents aren’t the ones who have short memories. We’re in this business all day, every day. It’s the buyers and sellers who have no memories and who have all the emotion. It’s the buyers who think they’re being screwed out of deals, and it’s the sellers who are upset that they can’t get what their friend got four months ago. And who do they take that anger out on but their real estate broker? That’s a lot of this season.
So much is stacked against you — oversupply, dwindling foreign buyers, stock market dives and new taxes, including a state mansion tax.
Yeah, but it’s all relative, right? It’s always kind of stacked against us. The financial hub of the world collapsed and it was in our city. Hurricane Sandy came and ripped apart our city and flooded it. There’s always things that are stacked against New York. New Yorkers and its real estate are pretty resilient.
What’s your survival strategy?
There’s always another phone call, another stranger on the street to go meet and they might need a home. A couple of months ago I lost 11 deals in one day — like $72 million worth of contracts vanished, because buyers got spooked by what they saw on the news, in the stock market. But I got through that by saying to myself, “Tomorrow is going to be a brand new day to turn that all around.”
What slice of the Big Apple are you currently concentrating on?
I’m really into the outer boroughs right now. We have two towers we’re about to bring to market in Long Island City, a total of about 200 apartments between the both of them. In Long Island City and in Brooklyn, price points are just better.
Comparing your show to “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles,” your brokers seem far nicer and more playful. There’s not as much infighting and ohhh snap! retorts.
I think Left Coast brokers have more time on their hands to be more vindictive. I say that kind of tongue in cheek, but at the same time I don’t. I mean, we’re very cutthroat in New York, but it happens very, very fast, like: I do not have the time to hold a grudge against somebody and go after them and be mean and angry because in that amount of time I could be getting other business. I’m booked on a 15-minute mark from 7 a.m. six days a week. In L.A., I know for a fact that brokers don’t have those types of schedules.