The shark laughs.
Real estate wunderkind Josh Altman, the most recent addition to Bravo’s reality TV series “Million Dollar Listing” has no complaints; not about his business, the housing market, nor his newfound reality TV stardom. It’s all good. Bring on season five, which begins next Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST.
“They make me look nicer than I am,” joked the man who some critics have compared to Jerry “Show me the money” Maguire, and who refers to himself as a shark and the real estate equivalent of “Entourage’s” Ari Gold. “But they hit it right on the head: I’m 24/7, extremely aggressive, I love what I do, and am really passionate about it. I come from an old school sales approach: My word is gold.”
“Million Dollar Listing” follows Altman (who joined the cast last season), Josh Flagg and Madison, “Los Angeles' hottest, young, and aggressive real estate magnates in the making as they make a fortune selling multi-million dollar properties in the most exclusive neighborhoods –- Hollywood, Malibu and Beverly Hills,” hypes the show’s website.
Altman and his brother Matt are hot properties themselves. In 2011, the Altman brothers sold over $60,000,000 in properties. They have sold $88 million so far this year, he said. A recent condo sale in Santa Monica ($10.5 million) set a record.
Altman had not watched the show before joining the cast, but, he told Millionaire Corner, that he knew the players (high-end real estate is a small, select business, he said). The producers contacted him for an interview, which became seven interviews, during which he saw the candidate ranks dwindle from 400 agents to 300 to 100 to 10, “and the next thing I know it’s between me and a couple of others.”
Any qualms? “Originally I wasn’t going to do it because they could portray you however they want,” he said, “but I just figured that the number one thing as an agent is to be known, and what better way to get known than to sell houses on TV.”
But these are not just any houses, and these tony dwellings, among the most exclusive digs in Southern California, are at the heart of “Million Dollar Listing’s” success, Altman said. “It’s real estate porn. Everybody dreams of living in a mansion (and on this show) they get to see the insides of the most amazing houses.”
This being reality TV, though, Bravo, home to the “Housewives” franchise, pushes the personalities as well, and Altman’s first year was marked by drama involving his budding relationship with Madison’s assistant, Heather. Altman just laughs it off. “If there is a downside (to reality TV),” he offered, “it’s that they do show your personal life. My relationship (with Heather) will be out there a lot this season. It’s a little scary, but you have to have fun, and at the end of the day, our business is the most important thing.
Does he wish the show was driven more by business? “Yes,” he said, “but I understand that drama sells. Nobody wants to watch me close a deal and make money. That’s not fun for anybody else but me.”
Altman said he was perhaps most surprised at the willingness of some of his upscale and elite clientele to be on TV. What of people who aren’t serious buyers but who just want to try and get a little of their own “15 minutes?” of fame?
Altman, a pro, “can smell a rat in two seconds,” he laughed. “The biggest giveaway is when someone says they are looking for something between $2 million and $10 million. That’s too big of a range. People at this wealth level know how much they want to spend. Also, if someone says they are worth $100 million and you can’t find them on Google in two seconds, then they are not telling the truth.”
One of Altman’s mantras is that he is “selling the dream.” With the collapse and painfully slow recovery of the housing market that dream is deferred for millions. Altman remains a true believer. “Absolutely,” he said. “Good economy, bad economy, I think it’s everyone’s American Dream (to own a house),” he said.
His clients are by no means suffering the slings and arrows of the economy’s outrageous misfortune. “We’re seeing tons of overseas money from Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia,” he said. “The high end market is on fire. It’s an amazing time to buy. I’m flipping houses, which I haven’t done in four years.”
And perhaps it’s not so much the American Dream as it is the California Dream that Altman and company are selling. “People do like to show off their money out here,” said the East Coast native. “Bigger is better in L.A.”
With one season under his belt, Altman (you can follow him on Twitter at @joshaltman) is still taken by surprise at his newfound visibility. “I was in Italy a few months back,” he marveled, “and people stopped me on the street to say, ‘You’re the real estate guy.’ That’s the dream for a real estate agent, but that was crazy.”
On the morning of our interview, he said, his garbage man jumped out of his truck to have his picture taken with Altman. “Me and my wife love watching the show,” Altman quoted him.
So what is on the market for season five? “There’s more drama this season than ever,” he teased. “You’ll see everything get sorted out.” Plus, there are some epic sales.
Production for the season is complete. “No more houses,” Altman laughed. “Everything is sold.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.