A star broker from “Million Dollar Listing New York” says this is the most important skill to have when selling high-end homes

"Million Dollar Listing's" fifth season premieres April 21

Ryan Serhant
Ryan Serhant

These days, you can catch Ryan Serhant as one of three real estate agents selling multimillion-dollar homes on Bravo’s hit show “Million Dollar Listing New York”. But it wasn’t always Serhant’s dream to get into real estate.

He had moved to New York City with the hope of pursuing an acting career in 2006, but that turned out to be much more difficult than he anticipated.

He took a series of odd jobs — hand modeling, passing out flyers for Equinox — before suddenly finding himself down to his last several thousand dollars with no plan for what to do next.

“It was either do something that made money, or go home to my parents in Colorado, and, like, paint fences for the rest of my life,” Serhant told Business Insider. “I knew so many people in New York who would say they were going home to recharge, and that they’d come back eventually. But they never came back.”

Serhant joined Nest Seekers International as a broker on September 15, 2008, the very same day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy.

“It was terrifying for anyone who had money or who had been doing real estate for the last five years, when the market was great. The five years prior to 2008 is when the construction boom really started, and everyone became developers,” Serhant said. “They were selling things that hadn’t even closed yet, but the buildings just never got built, and all of their buyers rescinded their deposits.”

“Whereas I was just like, ‘Real estate is really tough. Why is everyone so negative?’ I made no money my first year. I was starting at the bottom like everyone else.”

Serhant says that his failed acting career taught him how to cope with rejection, a valuable skill for anyone trying to sell expensive real estate during the recession.

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“Going into it, all I had was two brutal years of acting experience in the city, where I was being rejected because I was too tall or because they didn’t like my face,” he said. “I think I was a lot more ready for rejection than most real estate agents, and it really is an emotional roller coaster. You get a deal and everything’s great, but then the deal falls through and you’re miserable.”

“But at least people weren’t saying, ‘Oh, I’m not going to buy that because I don’t like your face.'”

Fans of “Million Dollar Listing” are about to see a lot more of Serhant’s face, as the show’s fifth season is set to premiere April 21.

“This show is so hard to make,” he said. “We shoot it almost year-round, and they follow me around as I try to sell really big properties that are not the easiest thing to sell.”

But, he says, the pressure of closing the deal and representing his company well on camera has done great things for his brand. Serhant and his team now list high-end homes all over Manhattan as well as in Los Angeles.

“I look back and see that I made it happen because I freaked myself out, and I hustled and pushed,” he said. “It has opened me up to a broader audience. Every time the show airs [abroad], someone calls my office saying they’re looking to buy an investment property in New York.”

It turns out his acting skills have also come in handy when closing those big deals.

“Everyone hangs out with friends who have their same problems. Misery loves company,” he said. “You want to know a little about everything so that you can always carry a conversation, whether your client works on Wall Street, whether he’s a doctor, whether she’s an actress or works in music. Real estate starts as a financial decision, but at the end of the day, it’s an emotional one.”