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Ryan Serhant, star of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York and Sell It Like Serhant, has a lot going on. In between leading his still-young brokerage, SERHANT, which launched in September 2020, he helps his own clients, films TV shows, creates content for his podcast, does speaking events and also makes time to spend with his wife and toddler daughter.
The New York power broker will be speaking at the 25th Inman Connect New York in April alongside a rockstar lineup of other industry leaders. Inman recently spoke with Serhant on the phone about the exciting things he’s doing in his business now and reflections on some of his fond memories of Inman Connect events in years past. What follows is a version of the conversation, edited for brevity and clarity.
Inman: Your brokerage launched about one-and-a-half years ago now — how’s it going?
Ryan Serhant: This month is actually the anniversary of one of our first closings. So it’s been a cool year, that’s for sure.
What I set out to build is the first content-to-commerce real estate company. We have an in-house film studio that creates content all day, every day for all of our projects, our developers, our agents, their clients, everything. We also grow and recruit through education. We train all our agents — I think we have the best sales training … ever.
And [our] content isn’t just social and cinematic — it’s entertaining, it’s educational, it’s personal and storytelling. It’s creating results for our clients and agents. We’ve been able to have agents create content for properties and have sold them through Instagram in a day. We’ve sold entire buildings down through content. If you’re in sales, but you’re not in media, then I don’t know what you’re doing. So, we are actively at the forefront of that and it’s been super exciting.
What have you learned since launching your brokerage?
The biggest piece of advice I’d give out to any CEO, founder, entrepreneur, salesperson is, if you notice you’re swimming in the same direction as all the other fish, you’re probably going the wrong way. And it’s time to turn around and go a different way. And that’s what we’ve done, and it’s pretty amazing when you do that, because then all the other fish are like ‘Wait, what do they know? Where are they going?’ and then they start to follow.
Another thing that, obviously, is a bit different about us, aside from all the content creation and all the digital media, is our house model. We have no desks, [breaking with tradition]. Our first location is a clubhouse in SoHo, it’s 15,000 square feet. All of our agents are based out of this space and they come when they need to, they work from home, they work from their cars, they work from listings, they work from buildings. The entire brokerage is built into the cloud and they work however they want, whenever they want. We have a lot of fun things in store for our agents and our clients this year.
We announced it a couple weeks ago — we call it UNIVERS. — and it’s our virtual world that we’ve been building for quite some time. It’s a virtual representation of Serhant House and what our world looks like for agents anywhere, with anyone, to be able to interact on any device. View documents, have meetings and be whoever they want to be at the end of the day. And [soon] we’ll be releasing our first in-world footage of what it looks like.
Also, we haven’t released it yet, but we’re about to start beta testing an app with our agents that we’ve been creating for a long time that allows agents to … put together property tours on the go in a way that no one else has been able to do yet and it’s very exciting.
Sounds like things are going well. It seems like you’ve recruited a lot of top agents and brokers recently. Are you still in heavy recruiting mode?
We are invite-only. We do not take everybody. All agents who come here have either been invited or referred from other agents who are already here. And it’s been a big success. We’ve been able to attract some of the top talent in New York and I think we’ll see the same attraction as we move into different markets.
It’s good to remember — one of the big differences about us is, I do this. I’m a broker. I know what it’s like to be at an open house that no one shows up at. I also know what it’s like to be stuck in a bidding war and wishing that your buyer was going to get it for the 15th time and you don’t know what to do. I also know what it’s like to be in New York City with no money — that’s where I started and I grew up in this business. My first deal was a $1,000 a month rental in Koreatown. I bled for this business, I cried on the street for the business when my client told me I sucked and walked away from me and I had nowhere to go. So I know what agents go through.
The biggest thing is, I went from leading a real estate sales team to running a three-pronged business on top of everything else. I go from my at-home office, to my mobile office or the back seat of a car, to my actual office in between appointments, and then fly all over the place for speaking engagements, for filming, for the books, for the podcasts, for the social channels and the YouTube channel where I tour insane properties all over the world, back to New York where we’re running the education business, media company and real estate brokerage. It’s a lot. So, effective time management and a real strong discipline and understanding of minute structure is really important.
And you have a family on top of all that?
Yes, they’re actually the most important. They’re really, really awesome. I have a baby — if I FaceTime her, she says, ‘Daddy at work — when’s Daddy coming home from work?’ And my wife is incredibly supportive and is really excited about the business and all the risks we’re taking at the end of the day. Not all crazy ideas are great, but all great ideas are crazy.
We’ve been talking a lot about your brokerage. What exciting things do you as an individual have lined up in the next few months?
There are some things that haven’t officially been announced yet … I’m also doing season 3 of the Big Money Energy podcast. I’m just excited about more life. I’m not fulfilled unless I do more today than I did yesterday and that’s the way I felt when I got into the business. I may not have been born into it, but I’ll outwork absolutely everybody. And if you look at my career, I’ve done that thus far.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Inman Connect New York. What are some of your favorite memories from Connect events in years past?
Brad [Inman] is so funny in his Hawaiian shirts. He’s always been such an inspiration in this industry and a true champion of Realtors everywhere.
My memories are of the most recent Inman in Vegas, from winning [the Golden I for Best Sales and Marketing Campaign for a Luxury Development in 2021 on The Library]. Everyone was so calm about the awards. I won the award and I think I jumped up and was like, ‘Let’s f*&$ing go!’ I was super excited — someone on my team took a video of it — I ran up, I jumped up on stage. If someone’s going to give me an award, I’m going to be there and accept it. That’s what my parents raised me to do, to be thankful and grateful. Everyone else in that room was not grateful. I’ve got these awards in a prime location in my office here.
Also, what I love about Inman is these panels — we did this panel and everyone was so rip-roaring. It was like me, Mauricio [Umansky], a few other people, and everyone was so excited about the market. ‘It’s amazing, everything’s great.’ And I tried to be honest and the realist in the group and I was like, ‘Ok, but everybody in this room who’s listening to this, just FYI,’ because there’s a lot of Realtors in the room who were new and trying to plan their lives and their careers and listening to these top brokers saying how everything’s amazing forever. I said ‘Listen, eventually the music stops. Things don’t go on forever.’
And the headline that Inman wrote was: ‘Serhant calls end of market; doom and gloom.’ [The actual headline was “‘History repeats itself:’ Ryan Serhant warns of an impending luxury slump”.] And I had like every broker and every client emailing me saying that, so I had to do a rebuttal video. It added up into my digital Inman beef from 2021.
Email Lillian Dickerson