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In this Episode
How did James Harris and David Parnes get their start on Bravo‘s Million Dollar Listing? It might surprise you to know they initially thought it was a joke. After partnering with other realtors like The Agency’s Santiago Arana just to get a foothold in the real estate industry in Los Angeles, James and David found themselves on a casting call with nothing to lose and a sense of humor about the whole thing that ultimately leads them to be selected.
From door-knocking $5 Million estates, and developing a keen sense for land deals they could put together with local developers, James Harris and David Parnes have carved their own way in a cut-throat marketplace. But the journey doesn’t stop there.
“The word FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. If you have a moment where you’re fearful of doing something, jump in front of it, and deal with it, because it will be a lot easier on you in the long run than it will standing behind that fear for many, many years.”Tweet
“…We both thought it was a prank. Before you know it, we’re on a Skype call with the Million Dollar Listing casting director, and I’ll never forget it. David and I were just joking around. We thought it was a prank. He was flexing his muscles and the camera, and we were all laughing.”Tweet
“It was an interesting road. Dave and I knew from day one we wanted to target the high-end real estate market and to anybody listening, whether you’re trying to sell a $500,000 home or a $5 million home. Nothing really changes except the paycheck’s a lot bigger. And I think people are very scared to go for the high end when they really shouldn’t be.”Tweet
Million Dollar Listing, Los Angeles
Find out how a Million Dollar Listing shark lives with this tour with the whole family. Try not to get jealous.
Full Episode Transcript
James Harris: [00:00:00] The word FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. If you have a moment where you’re fearful of doing something; jump in front of it, and deal with it, because it will be a lot easier on you in the long run than it will standing behind that fear for many, many years.
Warren Dow: [00:00:36] Welcome to DIGS Influencer Podcast: The Titans of Real Estate. The show that provides direct access to the real estate industry’s top movers and shakers is they share invaluable insight on how to best navigate and succeed in any market. I’m your host, Warren Dow, Founder and CEO, and Publisher of DIGS Magazine.
You may recognize the name of today’s guest, James Harris, one of the most popular cast members on Bravo’s Million-Dollar Listing Los Angeles, along with business partner David Parnes. James and David are founders of Bond Street Partners and work for The Agency in Beverly Hills where they continued to enjoy record-breaking success as one of the top-performing teams in the country as ranked by the 2019 Real Trends 1000.
Please welcome to the show, James Harris.
James Harris: [00:01:34] Thank you so much for having me. What an introduction. Thank you so much.
Warren Dow: [00:01:38] So you were born in and raised in London, England. Tell us what your childhood was like.
James Harris: [00:01:44] Wow. How long do you have?
Warren Dow: [00:01:46] All day? Rest of the week?
James Harris: [00:01:48] Come on. We can do this. Born and raised in London, single mother, and as you might know, London is a very fast-paced city.
School wasn’t for me. And I’ve shared about this before, I was actually expelled from eight schools, which is record-breaking. And I like to say, well, my mother likes to say I was asked to leave, which means that she pulled me out right before they expelled me. Not my proudest achievement, but I really wasn’t able to focus at school, and I struggled at school and I wanted to work. And so, the moment I was of the legal age, which was 16 to leave school and start work, was essentially when I started in the real estate industry. Worked in residential real estate for two years, worked in commercial real estate for two and a half years, and then age 21.
Was when I began my journey stateside and came to the US.
Warren Dow: [00:02:48] But wait, we need to go back and hear about those expulsions. Yes. So, we can’t just continue forth without digging into that a little bit.
James Harris: [00:02:56] Absolutely.
Warren Dow: [00:02:57] You were answering my second question is what kind of trouble did you get in as a kid? So were you just a rebellious sort, were you?
James Harris: [00:03:04] It’s a great question and it’s not something I’m ever ashamed about discussing because I certainly want anyone that might be listening to this podcast to understand and realize that no matter what they’re going through as a child or no matter what they go through in their upbringing, that. As long as they stay focused and find something that they love and they’re passionate about, it will ultimately all be okay.
I had behavioral problems at school. I got in a lot of trouble. I don’t typically remember doing all that much different to my school friends. But I definitely got caught. I also suffered with extreme ADHD. I was extremely hyperactive, had an extreme problem with concentrating and focusing on school classes, and I had a passion for real estate and a passion for working and I wanted to get out there and so I really did I struggled a lot with school and not to go into it too deep. But I was placed into special needs schools. I was placed into an adolescent unit because, if I wasn’t, I would have been taken by the social services, and my mother obviously didn’t want that. So, I was put in a lot of different places and had terrible struggles growing up.
But thank God my mother never gave up on me. She stood by my side 110% and did whatever it took to keep me in a place of feeling safe and being okay. And, as I said, the second I was able to get to work was when it all began in my life started to change.
Warren Dow: [00:04:40] That’s great. Thank you for sharing that. I’m sure very few people know that about your history. Right?
James Harris: [00:04:46] That’s very true.
Warren Dow: [00:04:47] And what does your mom do for work?
James Harris: [00:04:48] So my mother recently moved to the States, but she is an interior designer, an extremely talented one. And what a lot of people don’t know is that David Parnes, my best friend and business partner, and I have known each other since we were born, but our mothers were actually business partners and they had an interior design company in London while we were growing up.
And my mother is still doing that here in the US in Los Angeles. She now stages and does private design.
Warren Dow: [00:05:17] So what, how old were you when you met David.
James Harris: [00:05:19] I was about two seconds old. He always likes to remind me, cause he’s three years older than me, that he knew me first.
Warren Dow: [00:05:26] So, you guys are twins, but not by blood.
James Harris: [00:05:29] As far as we know, people think my brother is twins.
And as far as we know, we’re just friends.
Warren Dow: [00:05:35] Okay. So. If you were in trouble as a youth, was David alongside with you? Was he a partner in crime or is he doing something different?
James Harris: [00:05:43] He was the polar opposite. David was very fortunate growing up that he was highly, highly academic, and it always used to drive me mad because even if he didn’t enjoy school or enjoy university and he studied economics, David was the type that would go in, do a little bit of work, and then crush the exam.
So, he was the academic type. I wasn’t. I was the type that wanted to be in front of people. And we’re different in that respect that he did great at school and finished university with a great degree and you know, went on different paths. And I came to the US and David came, I want to say five years after I landed here.
Warren Dow: [00:06:22] Okay. You were what, 20-21…? But you started in real estate at age 16 correct. And were you just learning the ropes, like if you were an assistant or just learning?
James Harris: [00:06:33] I was in the mailroom. You know, when I first got my job, I had no resume. I was 16 I’d been expelled from eight schools. I really had very little hope.
And so, having no resume, I decided to essentially, put on a suit blazer. I was wearing sweatpants below and I’ll never forget it, it was raining, and I had an umbrella and I walked into a payphone box in London and my mother’s friend had a camera and they took a photo of me in the photo booth. And that became my resume.
And then I found a real estate directory in London that had all of the different real estate companies in alphabetical order. And so, I went through that list and highlighted the companies that I was interested in interviewing, and I decided that I would take my photo to each of these agencies in London and try and meet the owner.
Well, the first company I went to, which was called Dutch and Dutch, which started with a Dave so it was the first one on the list. I walked in and I asked for the president of the company, and the gentleman I asked happened to be the president, and he interviewed me on the spot. It was a family-run business and I have goosebumps even thinking about it, and I started working immediately.
I started in the mailroom, getting coffees, running letters through the stamp machine. I slowly then started showing properties. One thing led to another and I became their top negotiator, and then they asked if I wanted to learn the commercial business, which I said yes. Did that for two and a half years and then decided after five years of working that I really wanted to try travel the world.
I came to Los Angeles, which is where my father lived at the time, and I never went back and I fell in love with the city, the lifestyle, the people, and my father lived here. So, at the time it made sense.
Warren Dow: [00:08:22] We’re going to talk about your move to LA. But last question, going back, so how old were you when you got your license?
So, did you get it right away at age six 16 or 17?
James Harris: [00:08:30] Funnily enough, in the UK, you don’t need a license.
Warren Dow: Don’t, no license required in the UK. Wow. Okay.
James Harris: Very different to how it is in the US so no, I’ve got straight into the business, no license required. And I grafted, I mean, I didn’t even have a driving license at the time.
So, you’ve got to imagine I’m walking through the streets of London from apartment to apartment in the freezing cold. But I was prepared and willing to do whatever it took, and I’d found something that I truly enjoyed and had a passion in doing. And so for me, the walking and trying to learn the ropes and being told what to do really wasn’t a problem because I was intrigued to learn.
Warren Dow: [00:09:09] Is it still like that in England, you still don’t need a license?
James Harris: [00:09:11] You do not need a license.
Warren Dow: [00:09:12] Even if you sell insurance. Same thing?
James Harris: [00:09:15] like, I don’t know, but in, in residential and commercial real estate, no license is required and it’s very different over there.
Warren Dow: [00:09:21] What about mortgage? I’m just curious.
James Harris: [00:09:22] I don’t believe you need a license in mortgages either.
Warren Dow: [00:09:25] Yeah, that’s, that’s a whole different scenery.
James Harris: [00:09:27] Very different.
Warren Dow: [00:09:28] So when did you sell your first home or your first property? Your first lease. What was that first deal?
James Harris: [00:09:34] In London or the US?
Warren Dow: [00:09:36] Let’s start with both.
James Harris: [00:09:36] Do both. In London. It was an apartment that I actually sold in an area called West Hampstead, Northwest London, and it was my first ever listing, and God, I treated it like gold.
And it was a great feeling seeing a transaction through from the start to finish, being able to negotiate terms, putting the deal together. And that’s my real passion is the negotiation. You know, some people like the paperwork side of things, that’s not my passion. My passion is putting the deal together, putting the meeting of minds together and negotiating a deal.
That’s where I thrive. And that was the first deal I did. I think it was a $2 million apartment in London, and the first-ever deal I did here in the US was actually a tear down in Bel-Air that David and I door knocked, which is a much longer story, but we ended up selling it for six and a half million dollars, and that house, seven years later, is almost built and we’ll be listing it for $45 million.
It’s amazing how things come full circle.
Warren Dow: [00:10:41] Well, welcome to LA with a $6 million first sale.
James Harris: [00:10:45] Right? That’s it. I mean, we found a niche in the market at the time, which was door-knocking, and it was doing knocking development deals and finding dirt. And that’s a whole other story. But yeah
Warren Dow: [00:10:54] At age 16 or 17 after that first deal, did you know, okay.
This is my career. I’m doing this. I’m locked in. I’m going to go the full distance on this
James Harris: [00:11:02] 1000% yes, I knew I had a passion here. My mother was an interior designer, so I’d spent my childhood moving from property to property cause my mum would buy a place, remodel it, and then we’d sell it. And I was always intrigued with real estate.
And when I found my feet here at this company, I just knew I’d found my feet. And I was going to be happy and spend a long time in this business.
Warren Dow: [00:11:28] You and David did something very unique and smart early on in your careers in LA. First, you decided to target the high-end luxury market and focus on a specific niche. But I’m more impressed about how you guys leveraged another very successful sold inventory and other others agents’ inventory on your website to create a powerful content marketing strategy where out of the box. So basically, you get here in LA, you have no inventory, no sales, no conversation, nothing going on, and you basically invented one. That’s brilliant. Tell me more about that decision.
James Harris: [00:12:02] So it wasn’t a decision. It was an interesting road. Dave and I knew from day one we wanted to target the high-end real estate market and to anybody listening, whether you’re trying to sell a $500,000 home or a $5 million home.
Nothing really changes except the paycheck’s a lot bigger. And I think people are very scared to go for the high end when they really shouldn’t be. But we knew we wanted to go high end and we had developed this very sexy website that we’d put a lot of our savings into to design the website. We worked with a very reputable company, came up with our brand and once this website was built, it looked like we owned our own brokerage. But the one thing that we were missing on the website was any real estate. We’d never done a deal. So, we’re here high-fiving and then realizing, Oh my God, we don’t have any real estate. So, we were doing knocking and door knocking and we weren’t getting any results.
And then we would, and then something would happen and then it wouldn’t. But what we realized was, was that we needed to have. Inventory under our belt so that we could then go to people and utilize that inventory to platform us to being somebody that we weren’t really, but we knew we had the ability to become.
So we went to an agent that had been in the business for 15 years, and we said to this agent that we’ll cut you a deal, and we said, you let us pull your inventory of everything you’ve sold in the last 15 years onto our website and in return, we’ll give you a third of any business that we do in one specific area that we’re targeting.
And it wasn’t that we were claiming those were our deals. We just wanted inventory so that when we met people and we sent them to our website, they had something to look at and that agent agreed.
Warren Dow: [00:13:51] Can you tell who that is?
James Harris: [00:13:51] that is, by the way. Absolutely. Dear, dear, dear friend of mine, Santiago Arana. Oh Santiago is a dear friend, someone that I do a lot of business with today, and we then took that inventory and suddenly our posture’s changed. We door knocked houses, like we had all these deals under our belt and people started to take us seriously and one thing led to another and then we were always looking for the next niche and then we found this development deal niche and move to that, and everybody won.
It was a win-win.
Warren Dow: [00:14:23] Well, it’s, it’s whether you recognize it at the moment or not, it was marketing genius in the sense that. In our business, publishing DIGS. We get to talk and, and, and understand all the players in the industry and what the strategies that they’re working on, what’s working, what’s not. But ironically, most agents view their content, their inventory as an expense, like marketing their, their listings as an expense.
It’s a total investment. That’s how you propel your brand. That’s the only conversation really. You have in the market, correct.
James Harris: [00:14:52] This business is all brand-based, right? You are your brand. So, people only know what they see. And so, we choose to show off our brand in a very specific way. And you’re absolutely right. Your inventory is your brand. And so we realized that very early on and we needed something to help us get a leg up and a one-up on going out there and trying to build our own. And that was one way of utilizing that and doing so.
Warren Dow: [00:15:22] That’s great. Kudos to you.
James Harris: [00:15:23] Thank you.
Warren Dow: [00:15:25] And then you still, you started talking developers and how did that come about exactly?
How did that decision. When you started going, okay, we’re going to go, we’re going to focus on developers, phase one?
James Harris: [00:15:34] So we hit the ground running in a market that was extremely strong. We’d bounce back from the recession. The market was very hot. Developers, we’re building in LA, and this was right around the beginning of the time that people were tearing down to 3000 square foot houses on one-acre lots and building 20-30,000 square foot houses.
And what we realized very early on is that developers really didn’t care who they worked with, they cared about who brought them the deal. And it seemed to us as if it was a huge gap in the market. And we were door-knocking, but we had no clients. So, we formulated a pitch, which was that we would look for teardowns, we would knock on doors, people would answer.
And our pitch was very simple, which was that we have a client who really doesn’t care about how the house looks, but they’re extremely motivated by this home’s location. Would you be interested in selling? And everybody has a number, no matter who it is, 99% of people have a number they’d sell for. You just need to get that number.
And so what we would do is we would find these lots. From people that were interested in selling, and then we would go and find the developer. So, we were kind of doing things backwards. We didn’t have the clients, but we knew the developers would listen to us if we had the deals. So we’d find the deals and then go to the developers, offer them the deals.
And that’s really how we started our business.
Warren Dow: [00:17:07] So think about it, James. So you, that’s your second prime example of reverse-engineering the solution. Absolutely.
James Harris: [00:17:14] Absolutely. Yup.
Warren Dow: [00:17:15] Right? So it’s awesome. It’s totally thinking outside the box and
James Harris: [00:17:17] everything about what we do is outside of the box. Because I think in this business, there are, I think 1.6 million licensed agents in the US. Why would anyone want to work with us?
So from the beginning, we’ve always thought about what separates us from everybody else. How can we be different? How can we be unique? How can we be creative? And at the beginning of our business, it was how do we get the business in the first place to become creative? Now it’s changed again because now we have the listings.
Now we need to be creative in how we sell them. And that’s very important in this business.
Warren Dow: [00:17:53] Skipping ahead, let’s provide some context around your industry’s success for our listeners. Average sales annual sales for you guys have been over $250 million and a record, $520 million in 2017 and you guys are already over $400 million for 2019. you represented to the seller in $120 million sale in Holmby Hills, which is the fourth largest in us history, and the second largest in California.
James Harris: [00:18:23] That’s crazy. Absolutely right.
Warren Dow: [00:18:25] Just crazy, crazy. So represented numerous ultra-high-end sales of $72.5 million and Beverly Hills, $69.9 million estate in Malibu, and at least to half a dozen other properties, over $30 million. Current listing inventory is over a whopping one point $5 billion.
I could go on with the accolades, but we might be here all day, James, but congratulations, man, on all that hard-earned success.
James Harris: [00:18:50] That’s very kind and thank you. And even just hearing you say it is extremely humbling. I mean, yeah, we wanted to be successful in this business and we work hard. But it is great and crazy to hear at the same time.
And I think it’s all about staying focused, having a great team behind you, which we do. Being ethical, honest, and transparent and staying in your lane, you know, so many people like to get out of their lane and try and do things that they shouldn’t. And I think for David and I, it’s always been about just staying focused, staying in our lane.
And not giving up until we get what we need, or want. Which can be annoying to some people. I’m sure.
Warren Dow: [00:19:36] And we’ll talk about the TV show in a bit, but most people have a false sense of reality. You know, they think, Oh, this is James. He’s on TV, he’s successful because he’s on TV, man. And then all these guys in LA.
They sell these multimillion dollars home. It’s so easy to just get your license. You cruise around Beverly Hills, you get a $30 million listing, you make a million. Yeah. That’s easy, right?
James Harris: [00:19:55] Yeah. It’s so easy. Just like roll out of bed and get fat. Now. It’s not like this is a very cutthroat, crazy industry, especially at the high-end.
But I think at any end, I mean, this is a cutthroat industry. Commissions are high. It’s a very competitive world and it’s not easy. And I think one of the problems in the real estate industry is the barrier for entry. I mean, anyone can get their license, but I think it’s the people that are willing and dedicated to give this 110% of their world that are going to succeed. And I truly believe that hard work pays off no matter who you are.
Warren Dow: [00:20:31] You’re an example of that.
James Harris: [00:20:35] And I say this, if I can go from being expelled from eight schools, being diagnosed with ADHD being where I was to being here, I truly believe anyone can do anything that they want if they put their mind to it, stay focused and don’t give up. And it doesn’t come easy. You have to want it. You have to earn it and you have to go get it.
Warren Dow: [00:20:58] Well said. If you could define your success in three words or less, what would those words be?
James Harris: [00:21:04] Teamwork. Honesty. Trust.
Warren Dow: [00:21:07] What would your competitors say about you, James?
James Harris: [00:21:10] I would like to say that all of the above. I would like to say our competitors. Whilst people can, Hate on others’ success, I would like to think that David and I have earned an honest, transparent reputation. We’ve always ran our business very honestly. We haven’t screwed anybody over, and we, do what we say we’re going to do, and we avoid trying to over-promise and under-deliver.
That goes for our clients as well as agents, but we also learned very early on that relationships. With other agents are in some way even more important than the relationships you have with clients, because clients will come and go, whereas real estate agents will stay, and so those relationships are extremely important
Warren Dow: [00:22:03]. Absolutely. The network, that’s the invisible sort of hand in real estate.
James Harris: [00:22:07] It is.
Warren Dow: [00:22:08] What’s the biggest check you’ve ever cashed?
James Harris: [00:22:11] Oh my God.
Warren Dow: [00:22:12] I haven’t have to. You don’t have to tell me. Well…
James Harris: [00:22:14] I’d rather not. I hate talking numbers.
Warren Dow: [00:22:17] I found it, it’s for audience. You know, they can’t get enough of the million dollar listings or the cash.
James Harris: [00:22:23] that specifies the information.
But we do, we, we, we work hard.
Warren Dow: [00:22:28] Or at least we got one question that James didn’t ask, right? I mean, didn’t answer. When did you sell your first home? Over 10 million. Like when was that first? Oh my gosh. We did six in the first one. It was like,
James Harris: [00:22:39] You know what? That was in our first six months of selling real estate, we represented both the buyer and seller of a commercial property on Melrose place in West Hollywood for $30 million.
And that was our first sort of really, Whoa, awesome achievement. And again, that took a lot of hard work and creativity. But I remember exactly where David and I were the day it closed and we heard it had recorded. And, again, to tell you the joy that that brings me just the happiness that we had when that deal closed.
Warren Dow: [00:23:15] Are there any special, when you get to these big numbers, let’s say $50 million, are there any special attributes that agents have to have, like to be comfortable. And to succeed at that threshold of a of a listing amount?
James Harris: [00:23:28] That is a great question because I truly think that so many people have a ton of fear inside them, that the thought of even doing a $20-30-50 million deal is so terrifying to them that they never try in the first place.
And I remember for David, and I. And anything that got in our way that stood in front of fear We would jump in front of it immediately. And again, I said it earlier, whether it’s a $5 million deal, a $50 million deal, nothing changes. The mechanics don’t change, but the paycheck does. And so if I’m doing knocking a $5 million house, why wouldn’t I don’t knock a $25 million house?
Whoa. There’s no doorbell. Yeah, there is. Everyone has a doorbell. Even if it’s at this big scary gate. But I can’t bring that doorbell. No, you absolutely can. You can ring the doorbell the same way that you would the $5 million or the $100,000 house. It doesn’t matter. So my best advice to any agents that are starting out there, or anybody that’s listening, is the word fear, is false evidence appearing real.
If you have a moment where you’re fearful of doing something. Jump in front of it and deal with it because it will be a lot easier on you in the long run, then it will standing behind that fear for many, many years.
Warren Dow: [00:24:50] I love that! What would you say is your biggest. Mistake, failure lesson learned moment thus far in your career?
James Harris: [00:24:57] Another great question. I truly don’t have any because I don’t look at anything I’ve done in my career as a failure because every single thing I’ve done has been a learning curve. If I took everything that’s happened in my life. And looked at my mistakes as failures. I would have probably hung myself.
And I really mean that because I’ve been through hell and back, but I have zero regrets in my life, and every single thing that I’ve had happened to me or has happened; has been an amazing learning curve. And I have zero regrets.
Warren Dow: [00:25:29] You have over 135,000 followers on Instagram. Nicely done, James.
James Harris: [00:25:34] Thank you so much.
Warren Dow: [00:25:35] Did you go all-in on social or Instagram? Do you have a channel strategy where it’s like, Hey, we’re, we’re all in on Instagram, or tell us about that.
James Harris: [00:25:42] Instagram. Social media in general is an amazing tool in our business. You know, brand is everything. We mentioned it earlier, what people see is what they know, and social today is so important.
It’s an integral part of our business, and unless you’re going to use social media consistently, don’t bother using it at all. It’s all about posting on a consistent basis and putting out a clear message for others to see, read and understand. But you know, it’s something that if you’re willing to do it right, it can pay off very nicely.
Warren Dow: [00:26:14] What do you think of the five most imperative marketing initiatives a real estate agent like should consider either starting out or like in the coming year? What do you think where we’re at? Obviously, the universe evolves and we’re in transformation continually, but what, what would you select as like, Hey, these are the most sort of important?
James Harris: [00:26:32] I would say two that have never changed, which is door knocking. But just a huge component of that
Warren Dow: [00:26:39] because
James Harris: [00:26:40] Door knocking costs you $0 million to do. But it can be very effective if you’re willing to put in the time sitting open houses, extremely effective, costs you $0 dollars to do. Information is key.
So if you’re going to sit in open house, you better know everything about that house and the other 10 houses within a half-mile radius of that one. So that when somebody comes in, you have all the information at your fingertips and those buyers that come in want to work with you. Social media if you’re going to be consistent. Huge. Utilize that tool. It doesn’t cost you any money.
Newsletters, if you’re going to be consistent and there’s a specific area that you want to target, be consistent, send out a monthly newsletter. Make sure people see you, make sure it’s not the same boring newsletter that everybody else sends.
And the fifth thing, is make sure that no matter what you are doing, all of it is in brand with who you are. Don’t do anything that’s the same as everybody else is doing. Think about what makes you unique. Think about what sets you apart from everybody else and then go out and do it.
Warren Dow: [00:27:50] We as marketers, we preach that all the time and you know. What do you think is the single most important thing that’s sellers look forward today when hiring an agent?
James Harris: [00:28:00] Trust. Information.
I think today a seller wants to know that a. You know your shit, you better know everything about their house, everything about the neighborhood, everything about the comps, everything about the features and highlights of the property, when it was built and they want to be able to trust you. If you can bring both of those things to the table and give your seller no reason to think they even need to meet with anybody else, you’ll be successful.
Warren Dow: [00:28:27] All right, let’s talk million-dollar listing, shall we? Shall we. First you and David joined the show, I think starting in season 7. How did you guys get on the show? How did that come about?
James Harris: [00:28:42] Great question, I was driving home one evening from work and received a call from a casting director who said that they were looking for a new cast member on the show, and I honestly thought it was a prank.
I thought someone was pulling our leg. I thought they must be joking. So, I called David. I said, look, I think we’re being pranked, but let’s go along with it. And, David loved the show. He actually loved the show, so he was very excited. But again, we both thought it was a prank. Before you know it, we’re on a Skype call with the casting director, and I’ll never forget it. David and I were just joking around. We thought it was a prank. He was flexing his muscles and the camera, and we were all laughing.
And the next thing you know in Israel, and they’re interviewing hundreds and hundreds of different agents. And I guess they went through a selective process and got down to the last 10 and they then sent a full crew out to shoot with us for an eight-hour day.
And the other 10 people, I guess they must’ve edited it down and ultimately went with David and I. And that is how it all begun.
Warren Dow: [00:29:53] I didn’t realize it was that strenuous of a, but you know what it the carefree process. In which you guys took it probably bodes very well, just like, you know, absolutely no worries in the world.
Let’s have some fun, cause it’s crazy to think you guys are coming up on season 12.
James Harris: [00:30:08] Insane.
Warren Dow: [00:30:09] Are you going to ride this out until there’s no more?
James Harris: [00:30:12] Like, well, yeah, I think that platform is incredible. I think it’s a platform where we can showcase the work that we do through the eyes of a camera lens, and I think it’s been very beneficial to our business.
And I think it’s a great franchise. And the truth is people love real estate, and the homes that we have here are very sexy, and a very sexy lifestyle, and it’s a lot of fun.
Warren Dow: [00:30:35] The general public has an insatiable appetite for luxury, anything in luxury real estate is no, it’s funny, James, I always ask your fellow Titans of real estate peers, you know, kind of what they think of reality TV shows coming out of LA and in this vertical, and I got to say majority, it’s not looked upon favorably in terms of accurately portraying the market and how business is really done.
What are your thoughts on that?
James Harris: [00:31:00] I truly don’t care. I mean that with all due respect because the truth is sadly, everyone has an opinion and if I ended up getting caught up in everyone else’s opinion, I’d be a really miserable guy.
And it goes back to staying in my lane and staying focused. This is what I’m doing now. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. The show despite it being on 12 years, the ratings continue to go up and up and up every single year. So, if I’m going to focus on what a small community of people say, or am I going to focus on what millions of people say around the world, I’m going to go with the millions of people.
Warren Dow: [00:31:41] But can it get confusing for you? So, thinking about it. You’ve been this hardworking, you know, stay-in-your-lane real estate and you’ve been brick by brick. You’ve built your career right now you find yourself on this really successful TV show that’s getting momentum every year.
Do you sometimes wake up and go like, who am I? Am I a TV star now or am I still James-the-hardworking boots on the street.
James Harris: [00:32:04] This TV show hasn’t changed a single thing in my life other than it’s put us on the map even more so in a quicker period of time. The reality is, I’m a father, I’m a husband, I’m a son of a friend, and I put the real estate first because without the real estate, we don’t have the show and David and I have always known that. So no, it’s never been jaded in my mind that I’m a real estate agent that sells real estate and has a TV show.
Warren Dow: [00:32:40] What’s the real scoop, James, on your relationship with Josh Altman?
James Harris: [00:32:45] Frenemies? That’s a great word. Yep. Frenemies would be accurate. Look, Josh is somebody I respect.
He’s a hardworking guy. We are very, very different. And there’s clients that we’ll work with Josh, and there’s clients that we’ll work with David and I, and thank God there’s more than enough business to go around, but our styles are extremely different and I’m sure everything that we do are extremely different.
Though I respect the work ethic and off-camera, he’s actually a good guy.
Warren Dow: [00:33:16] For fun I Googled his million-dollar listing Los Angeles real or fake for fun, James.
Cause how many results appeared?
James Harris: [00:33:25] God, that’s a great question. I’ve never looked that up. How many?
Warren Dow: [00:33:28] 21.8 million. So, but the clue of this show has struck a nerve and found a formula for success.
So, congrats on that, that’s a big, your career trajectory. Is amazing on multiple levels, but now being able to parlay and stay real and in your lane with a TV show as an accelerant is even, it’s really cool.
James Harris: [00:33:52] Let me tell you something about the show to set any misconceptions very straight. The show is real.
It is a TV show, so of course, it has added elements of excitement and drama, but every single deal that you see on that show is real and we are not allowed to put up property on this show that hasn’t closed or hasn’t been negotiated. And these episodes, you see these homes go into escrow, and that’s exactly what happens.
And the reason that this show takes 11 months a year to film a season is because they follow the story from the very start to the very finish. And we don’t know what’s going to happen in the middle or end until we get started on an episode. So, we go into it. Praying that the property is going to sell, but it doesn’t always happen.
And I think to portray the reality of what’s happening, that not every deal closes is equally as interesting as seeing the deal close.
Warren Dow: [00:34:53] You know what’s as real James, I was a reality TV star before you were.
James Harris: [00:34:57] bloody cool. What show was that?
Warren Dow: [00:34:58] It was House Hunters. I was on episode like seven 1999 I’m, I’m teasing.
James Harris: [00:35:05] You’re only 21 so yeah. So you went on the air when you were 3.
Warren Dow: [00:35:09] Yeah. No, it’s funny cause I had my little taste of a reality TV and it was our first house. Story was we bought it, we looked at it at night, so we had to reenact that. So I get the excitement and all that stuff. But it’s fun. It’s a fun world. And that show is been on for a gazillion years too.
James Harris: [00:35:26] And generations too. People love real estate. Think about how many home and design TV shows there are. It goes on and on and on.
Warren Dow: [00:35:34] LA has a high concentration of very high profile top producing agents like yourself, but it seems only a few dozen of you represent the super high end, like the majority of the super and say above $20 million.
Do you find this to be true?
James Harris: [00:35:49] That is true. I don’t think it necessarily should be true, but it is and you do find that if you actually look at all of the major sales, it’s typically the same agents doing them, but you do often see the one-off agent that. Pops that big deal and has that big client and that’s why we will never discourage anyone to show one of our listings. Cause you just never know who might have the client.
Warren Dow: [00:36:17] I want to put you on the spot. Let’s have a little listing presentation role play here. Do you mind?
James Harris: [00:36:24] Assuming you’re the seller,
Warren Dow: [00:36:25] well, no, I want to put you in a different spot here.
Let’s say later today you have listing presentation for a $50 million estate in Bel-Air, and prior to the meeting, the seller tells you that she’s already met with and for fun. I’ll use first names, but I know you’re gonna know who these people are. Josh, Valerie, Aaron, Sally, drew, Joyce, Jeff, Jade. And the list goes on, but you get my point.
Why should they hire you, James?
James Harris: [00:36:51] I think to name people’s first names honestly, isn’t something I would have personally done. But you’ve done it. I would tell my seller that every single person that they’re chatting to and speaking with are great agents, very reputable, and clearly extremely successful.
And I would then go on to explain how and why we do things the way that we do them. And I would try and explain to that seller, several case studies of properties that we have sold and how we’ve sold them. And I NEVER talk badly about another agent because I find it extremely distasteful.
Warren Dow: [00:37:33] And by the way, the example is not meant to do that. It was more like, extracting your value prop, like the core elements of it.
James Harris: [00:37:40] No, no, no. And I understand, I always talk highly of agents I respect because I respect them. And so, I’m not gonna speak badly about someone I respect just to try and win a listing. But I will always tell our sellers that we work hard we’re very creative. We think outside the box, and we don’t give up until the job’s done. We’ll put our presentation forward and then we let the seller decide. We are not these cutthroat salespeople that will go in, talk a ton of shit about everyone else throw a bunch of other people under the table to make a quick dollar, we don’t even want to work with those clients that are going to pin us up against a whole bunch of other agents and put us in. That book’s to put other agents down. So again, we’ll explain what we do, how we do it, and then we let the seller decide on who they want to work with.
Warren Dow: [00:38:24] Perfect. Perfect.
You have an off-market listing in Argentina for $22 and a half million. That is 29 beds, 25 bass, and sits on 2,800 acres. How the hell did you get that James?
James Harris: [00:38:34] That is a great question seeing as I don’t speak Spanish, uh, you know, we team up with other agents. We team up with sellers and the agency have an incredible marketing presence.
And so if a specific seller doesn’t feel as though the local market can help sell their property, they’ll bring us in to help market the property from the US side and we have a lot of listings that we represent in other countries and other States, and we bring the marketing element to the table and get that property press, we get it put on the map and ultimately try and help find a buyer.
Warren Dow: [00:39:12] Enough about real estate for a moment. Let’s have a little fun. Yes. Let’s take a detour. I’m a huge music fan. I’m a musician. The fact that you come from London, England sparks some childhood memories for me of the British invasion, and I’m a huge Kinks.
Well, who’s your favorite band or what? Tell me about, did you have any exposure. Interest to that when you were?
James Harris: [00:39:32] I mean, I grew up, or should I say, when I grew up, my mother was a huge fan of the Beatles. I grew up in an area called St John’s word in Northwest London, which is literally a stone throw from the Abbey Road Studios, and I would.
Pass that crossing like it was very normal but now living in the US and seeing that poster on so many different people’s walls, you realize how iconic they truly are and where, and how iconic the Abbey Road Studios have become over the years. But no, I’ve always listened to music across the board, whether it be eighties pop, hip hop, R&B.
I like a little bit of everything.
Warren Dow: [00:40:12] It’s just amazing to think that the quality. And timelessness of the bands that came out of that era. It’s just, it blows my hazing. So you have two children with wife, Valerie. Congratulations. How did you guys meet?
James Harris: [00:40:23] Thank you. It’s her birthday today. We met actually at a coffee shop. An old office that I used to work at, she was studying business here in Los Angeles. She had just moved from Switzerland and I used to go into that coffee shop every day and I was just mesmerized by her. And, uh, I used to go in every day and order the same thing, but I was really going just to see her.
Warren Dow: [00:40:47] You put your charm on and
James Harris: [00:40:48] She turned me down about 15 times, so I sent my whole office in to put in a good word, and I didn’t give up. I literally asked her 25 times, let’s go out, let’s go out until she actually said yes, and that’s my M-O. Don’t give up!
Warren Dow: [00:41:02] Basically, James, you door knocked your wife.
James Harris: [00:41:04] Told my wife, that’s absolutely a great way of putting it. My, my motto is every time you hear the word no, you’re closer to a yes.
Warren Dow: [00:41:13] How’s the market been this year?
James Harris: [00:41:16] INCREDIBLE! We’ve had a record-breaking year. The market is strong. I think the market’s changing or has changed. Certainly, we’re in a more price-sensitive market today I would say it’s a buyer’s market. But deals are getting done and as long as sellers are reasonable and sensible and asking what their property’s worth, their properties are selling, of course, you’re always going to have those unreasonable sellers where their egos get in the way or they think their property is worth more than it is for whatever reason.
It might be an emotional attachment. But if you are reasonable and sensible and listen to a knowledgeable broker that advises you on a price, there’s no reason your house shouldn’t sell. The fundamentals are strong. Interest rates are low, the stock market steady, and the market’s great.
Warren Dow: [00:42:00] We just had a record sale in LA, $150 million.
James Harris: [00:42:02] Isn’t that great?
Warren Dow: [00:42:03] Crazy. Do you think we can get over $200? Absolutely. Like two What do you think? Is there a limit?
James Harris: [00:42:08] The number of homes being built right now from $200 to $500 million that we’ll see in the next two years. Suddenly there’s one coming out next year, which they’re calling the one which will be half a million dollars or $500 million.
Hundred thousand square feet. Who knows what it’s really worth cause that buys it knows.
Warren Dow: [00:42:26] Have you started door knocking there yet?
James Harris: [00:42:29] No, but we know the setup on the construction side, we’ve walked the property.
Warren Dow: [00:42:32] So it’s good. Good, good, good. So, some closing thoughts. I want to know one thing. I want to know a lot of things about you, James, but we’re, we’re going to be out of time here.
What do you do for fun? What’s a typical day look like?
James Harris: [00:42:42] For me, it’s with my children and my wife, you know, I like to spend time with them wherever I can. This job is very, very full-on, and so I like to spend time with my wife and children. Go to the mall, go see a movie, go for lunch. Dinner. I love which nobody can believe, but I love fishing and no one understands cause I can’t sit still for 3.2 seconds, but for some reason you give me a fishing rod and a boat and I’ll sit there for five, six, seven, eight hours, and just relax.
Warren Dow: [00:43:12] Oh, cool. Very cool. I was going to ask you what, what do you think people would be surprised to hear about you?
James Harris: [00:43:16] You don’t understand why or how I like fishing, but I love it.
Warren Dow: [00:43:21] If you could have one superpower, what would that be?
James Harris: [00:43:24] Wow, that’s a good one. To read your mind.
Warren Dow: [00:43:27] Mm. All right. Finish the sentence for me, James. If I wasn’t in real estate, I would love to…
James Harris: [00:43:33] …be in real estate.
Warren Dow: [00:43:38] I like it. I like it. If you could invite three people to your dream dinner party, who would be there and what would you serve?
James Harris: [00:43:44] Wow, that is so random. Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Kobe Bryant. Yeah, I would serve lobster and steak.
Warren Dow: [00:43:55] Hmm.
James Harris: [00:43:56] Bloody go choice
Warren Dow: [00:43:57] Could I come to that dinner? Absolutely
James Harris: [00:44:00] Not three powerful creative people that set records and dumb things that people said they could never do.
Warren Dow: [00:44:07] Yeah, absolutely. I’m with you. What’s your favorite vacation spot?
James Harris: [00:44:11] Oh wow. I’m really, I have to say Capri. Italy. Absolutely love it.
Warren Dow: [00:44:16] Do you have a funny-can’t-believe-it happened in real estate story. I know you’ve probably got dozens.
James Harris: [00:44:22] But is there one that comes to mind? There’s about 150, but I’ll give you a quick one.
I was walking back from a showing in London with two guys. I just shown them an apartment. They absolutely loved it, and walking up Hill and there’s a lamppost, and I walked straight into the lamppost and there was about a foot behind them, and I looked up and I was in agony, but I noticed that they hadn’t seen that I had just walked into the lamppost.
So, I shut my mouth and I just kept walking and I got to the top of the Hill and these two guys looked at me in disbelief and they just said, are you all right mate? I said, yeah, I’m fine. Why? My entire forehead and head was covered in blood? And I said, Oh God, I’m so sorry. I just didn’t want to tell you. But I walked into a lamppost. So, there’s one for you.
Warren Dow: [00:45:15] That’s great. Our last question, what are two pieces of advice you would give to your younger 18-16-17-year old self?
James Harris: [00:45:25] Join a team. And truly understand and figure out who you are and who you want to become and learn this market inside and out whilst you’re learning who you want to become, so that you can utilize that information to your absolute advantage and go and become your own person in this business and be the best version of yourself.
Warren Dow: [00:45:45] That’s great. Well, with that, James, I want to thank you.
James Harris: [00:45:48] Thanks.
Warren Dow: [00:45:49] Thanks so much for your time. I think our audience will enjoy this podcast. Congratulations on all your success, and it was great to get to hear your story from perhaps a different sort of elevation.
James Harris: [00:46:00] Um, my friend, I appreciate your time and having me on and uh, it’s been a lot of fun.
Warren Dow: [00:46:05] We’ll do this again soon. All right.
James Harris: [00:46:06] Absolutely. Thank you everyone for listening. I hope you will enjoy that.
Warren Dow: [00:47:02] And that wraps up this episode. Thank you for tuning in and we hope you found some value. Please share, subscribe, and leave a review. Find us on iTunes and your favorite podcast provider. Until next time.
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