We catch up with the world’s most successful celebrity real estate agent – Josh Altman star of the hit American TV show Million Dollar Listing LA. He talks about selling property for and to the rich and famous.
Kevin: Josh Altman is the world’s most successful celebrity real estate agent, and I’m proud to say that he joins us. Josh, of course, works with some really big stars, people like Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Britney Spears, Ashton Kutcher, Miley Cyrus, and many, many more. He is their real estate agent, and he is also the star of the hit TV show Million Dollar Listing L.A. and he is coming to Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane in June. We’ll tell you a little bit more about that, but firstly let’s welcome him to the show.
Hi Josh. Welcome to Australia, and welcome to our show.
Josh: Thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to coming out to Australia. I can’t wait.
Kevin: That’s June 14th, 15th, and 19th respectively on a tour around Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. We’ll give you more detail about that in just a moment.
Josh, firstly, tell us about how you became a real estate powerhouse and where your passion for buying and selling property came from.
Josh: I definitely am in love with real estate, for sure. I’m a real-estate-aholic is what we like to say here. But it didn’t all start with touring around celebrities and selling $20 or $30 million houses; it actually started when I moved out to L.A. about 13 years ago.
I started working in the mailroom for $7.50 an hour. I had saved all the money that I had made in the mail room. I ended up investing in a property with 100% financing and ended up flipping that property and making more money in three months than I had all year long in the mail room. So I went and I quit my job, and I decided that real estate was the way for me to go.
Ever since, I’ve sold about $2 billion worth of high-end residential real estate, and now we sell properties all over the world.
Kevin: Tell me about that transition from becoming a successful developer or real estate entrepreneur to then selling properties and then moving up and selling them on behalf of people like Kim Kardashian. Was that a hard market to break into?
Josh: Well, yes. My background is that I’ve flipped a lot of houses, as well, which helps me be the type of agent that I am because I really understand all aspects of the real estate business as far as rehabbing properties, flipping properties, financing them, and now, of course, selling them.
When you work in Los Angeles as a realtor, you’re going to have celebrity clients one way or another, because everybody is famous out here; it’s just breaking into that upper echelon of the A-list celebrity clientele. The most important thing is always treating them the same as you would treat anybody else.
A lot of times you have to realize that we only need these people one time showing them the house. The rest of the time we’re just dealing with their entourage of business manager, attorney, managers, accountants, and so on. It’s not like we’re driving around spending tons of time with Kim and Kanye.
Kevin: Of course, you’re a TV star in your own right. You and your brother have your own television show. What is it like when you meet these guys? They obviously know you because they must watch the show. Is that a big attraction for them?
Josh: For some people, it is. For others, it actually is not a big attraction because they’d rather keep their finances private. I would say out of, let’s say, 100 clients a year, I only put 10 of them on the show. I have to be very careful to let people know that not every showing or every deal I do is taped, because we have a very private side of our business, as well.
There is a fine line that I have to deal with, as well, because I don’t want to become a celebrity. I’m not a celebrity; I’m a real estate agent who happens to have a show. I don’t want people to think that I’m too big to show them a $500,000 condo or a $1 million house, which is on the lower end of what you can find here in Los Angeles, because then that will start affecting my business. It’s a fine line of being on TV and selling houses.
Kevin: The competition we see between you and your brother Matt in the show, is that real or is that just done for television?
Josh: Of course, that’s real. That’s healthy brotherly love competition. Matt beat me up my whole life growing up because he was three years older than me – until I started going to the gym and then I beat him up once, and ever since then, we’ve been best friends. He is the best partner in the world to have. Nothing better than working with your family and having somebody that you can trust 100% always to have your back. With that, I also now have my wife – Heather – who works with us, which really completes the full circle of having all family involved in the business.
Kevin: I read somewhere, I think, and correct me if I’m wrong here, that you sold the most expensive one-bedroom home in history. Is that correct?
Josh: Yes. It was $21 million. It was a one-bedroom home. It was a very famous estate owned by Dick Zanuck, who was a very well-known movie producer here in Los Angeles. The gym was built by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was a very dear friend of his, as well. So that was pretty cool.
We have many records, but that one definitely takes the cake. I just listed a $53 million house that is 53,000 square feet with an indoor and outdoor tennis court and an indoor and outdoor pool. We come across some pretty wild houses out here.
Kevin: How do you get the prices on these? Some of them are very unique. I’ve watched the show, and I can see where there is a bit of a battle. Every seller wants more than what it’s really worth. How do you establish value in your mind?
Josh: That’s a good question, because a lot of these houses are so unique and they are one-of-a-kind that a lot of times in the higher end there are not that many comps to go after. As far as a normal house, you can pretty much figure out what it’s going to sell for because there are 10 other houses like it.
But when you are dealing with a mini Taj Mahal, you have got to take all different things into account: what buttons it hits, what the amenities are in the property, the acreage, the square footage, what type of buyer, and do those types of buyers typically pay more? There is a lot that goes into the equation.
Kevin: Who was the most difficult person you’ve had to deal with as a high-profile star? I don’t know whether you’ll even be prepared to answer that question.
Josh: Myself. I’m a real pain in the butt when it comes to buying and selling houses, let me tell you. I’m super picky. I typically pick up about three houses a year. I write about 50 offers a year and only end up with about three houses. I’m pretty picky myself.
Kevin: So you actually offer on about 50 – like one a week, on average. Is that right?
Josh: Yes, that’s correct. For me as an investor, it’s all about getting the best deal. So what better way than to write a bunch of offers, throw them against the wall, and see what sticks.
Kevin: Are you holding onto these properties, or are you flipping them?
Josh: As of right now, I’m flipping them. But it just depends on the deal. I’m always open to holding them, selling them, partnering, building, knocking down, whatever it is. It just really depends on the deal.
In fact, I just got married two weeks ago, and we just closed on our newest dream home in the Hollywood Hills last week, so I’m pretty excited about that.
Kevin: Congratulations. Well done.
Are the properties that you’re buying in different parts of the States, or are you buying primarily where you’re selling?
Josh: I’ve always been very big on buying what I know. If I can drive around and I can see it, then I’ll look at buying it. If I can’t, then it’s not something that I’m too excited to do. A lot of people pitch me properties in other states that are good deals, but I like to see it, feel it, drive by it, and touch it.
That’s how I look at my real estate portfolio. They are mostly in the areas where I am the expert, because I know what a good deal is and I know it better than anybody else in the area. That’s typically what I do. I have three houses within about 22 houses of each other. I guess you could say that I like a specific area.
Kevin: We’ve heard some horror stories out of the States in terms of real estate and what has happened with the market there, how it tanked in areas like Detroit. Is the market generally starting to improve in the States again now? Is supply and demand getting into a bit more of a balance?
Josh: I’ll tell you this, the market right now is super hot. As far as globally, we are still very cheap compared to every other major market. We are a destination location, as well, which is nice.
But I will tell you there is going to be a lot of inventory hitting the market in the next six to twelve months. That is due to the market continuing to go up and a lot of people investing in the market are finished building those houses that they had been buying. At that point, you are going to probably see a little of an adjustment and there will be some good deals for you to buy.
Kevin: So the market is likely to come back a little bit, do you think? Will there be certain parts of the States where that will happen more than others?
Josh: Yes. For me, it’s always invest in location, location, location. That’s the one thing that will be the safest bet in real estate. In good markets or bad markets, if you’re buying overlooking the park in New York City or if you’re buying in prime Beverly Hills, those are always going to be strong locations to buy and invest your money in.
Kevin: Josh, great talking to you, and thanks for your time.
Josh: Thank you for having me.