After moving to New York City in 2006 with the dream of becoming an actor, he began selling real estate as a way to make ends meet. “I didn’t get into real estate to be the greatest broker ever, I got into it to pay my bills,” says Serhant. Eventually he made the decision to focus only on real estate and he did it with the conviction that he would succeed.
Fast forward to 2022 and he’s the best-selling author of two books, host of the iHeartRadio podcast Big Money Energy with Ryan Serhant (which recently wrapped its second season), creator of the Sell it Like Serhant education platform, and the star of multiple Bravo TV shows, including the two-time Emmy-nominated Million Dollar Listing New York. He also produces Listed, a YouTube network dedicated to entertaining lifestyle and real estate shows featuring his brokerage firm SERHANT., and its diverse and growing list of real estate agents.
In September 2020, Serhant founded his eponymous brokerage firm against the background of the pandemic—and a particularly uncertain time in New York City real estate. But since its launch, it has grown to more than 105 agents and more than 45 full-time employees. It quickly became a standout in the industry, ranking as the most followed real estate brand in the world with more than 4.3 million followers across all social channels. “Social media is my megaphone and amplification tool,” he says. “I have a team of 17 people just doing my social, video and content across all platforms. It’s a massive lift but it’s incredibly important these days.”
Serhant spoke with Serendipity about the secrets of his success (spoiler: hard work and motivation), his thoughts on where to buy in NYC right now, and the essential career advice we all need to hear. Grab a pen because you’ll definitely want to take notes!
You dreamed of being an actor but ended up in real estate. How did that journey evolve?
It came down to happiness. Being on stage or in front of a camera still makes me incredibly happy, but that’s not really the business of being an actor in New York City. The work is hustling around New York City auditioning, spending money, and trying to survive (that’s why they call bartending and waitressing survival jobs). Real estate was my survival job. It ended up making me hap- pier than acting because the likelihood that I could make a living doing something I was good at was so much higher. I never turned back after that.
You started your new business, SERHANT., in the middle of the pandemic. Did you think NYC was over?
No. In the last 20 years, 9/11, Lehman Brothers, Hurricane Sandy all showed that you don’t bet against New York. It’s not just the finan- cial capital of the world, it’s the intellectual capital of the world. And it’s a rock, an island. The only direction you can go is up. Every build- ing we sell is a vertical neighborhood. Real estate investment is a great place to put dollars and NYC is one of the safest places to do that.
How did you stay mentally positive during such an uncertain time?
One of my secret sauces is that ignorance is bliss. If I had known how hard it was to live in NYC and try to be an actor, I never would have tried. If I had understood what actually went into starting a company—how expensive it is, how much risk there is—I don’t know if I would have done it. So I’m glad I didn’t know! I am also motivated to win. I set goals for myself that are difficult to achieve, but I don’t negotiate with them. I think you have to value yourself and your time and you only have so much of it on earth. I’ve always had to try really hard. I’ve known a lot of people who’ve had the benefit of not having to try hard because they’ve been lucky or were incredibly smart or were given what they have. I never had any of those things so I had to get really used to trying hard and I’ve never stopped.
And now SERHANT. just launched Univers—its own virtual world. Tell us about it.
It is our own virtual reality world that our agents can have access to on a desktop, on a phone or in an oculus system. It is for our ability to expand and our agents to be a part of our culture no matter where they are. There is no culture in a website. It’s just a place to go, not a place to be. The metaverse we are building for our agents is a place to be.
What does ‘Big Money Energy’ mean to you?
It’s confidence in any situation when you might not otherwise have it. How do you start acting today like the person you know you can be one year from now? When I got into real estate, I believed in my core that I was going to be the person I wanted to become. How would that guy—me in the future—carry himself today? What would he look like? What would he dress like? How would he talk? Creating magnetic confidence attracts people to you instead of you having to be the one knocking on doors for the rest of your life.
Advice you give to others trying to find career success?
Be the role before you are the role. If you want a job, be it, assume it, show your boss that you already are this role. The decision to hire you, promote you or to buy your product ends up being an easy choice for whoever you’re in front of. Don’t focus on the money, the success, the endgame—focus on the work. If you take care of the work, the work will take care of you. Where you get to might not be what you planned for, but it’s ok because it’s going to be better.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
I first moved to NYC with no job, minimal savings, and just a pipe dream and an idea that I could make something of myself. My sister said to me, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ I used that quote in my head when I first got into real estate, when I auditioned for Million Dollar Listing and people told me not to do that, and when I started the new business and people said, “DEFINITELY don’t do that.”
Why do people love looking and talking about real estate so much?
People are voyeurs and they want to see what other people’s lives are like. I think it’s fun for people to watch other people buy and sell homes. They can fantasize about what it’s like to be the person who facilitates a 20-million-dollar sale to a crazy person on Park Avenue. That’s a job very few people have.
Favorite property you’ve ever sold?
I sold a house in Palm Beach last year for just under $140 million. Biggest deal I’ve ever done in my career and a testament to why we started our new company. It’s a beautiful home on the ocean at 535 North County Road and it was the most expensive home ever sold in Florida. It was a unique moment in time where people started looking at Florida not just for a vacation home but as a place to move their families and businesses to.
Tell us about your family life. How do you make time for them with your busy schedule?
I don’t. I do the absolute best I can, but I work at least six days a week. We’re really excited about what we’re building and my wife is a great partner in that she understands there is limited time and I’ll never be 37 years old starting a company again.
If you could buy any property in the world where and what would it be?
My wife is Greek and her family lives in Athens. If I had all the money in the world, having an island in Greece sounds like a super selfish thing to spend money on but I would totally do it.
Photographed on location at Jolie (77 Greenwich St., NYC) by Fabrice Trombert. Styled by Jennifer Greene Styles. Grooming by Asia Geiger.