Originally from St. Johns Wood in northwest London, James Harris is taking the California real estate industry by storm as one of the stars of Bravo’s hit reality show Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles (MDLLA). The series is now in its 10th season and follows the personal and professional lives of six real estate agents as they navigate the high stakes and drama of luxury real estate in the City of Angels.
Outside of filming MDLLA, Harris is a successful agent and director at the world-renowned luxury real estate brokerage The Agency. Last year, he and his business partners David Parnes, Mauricio Umansky and Christopher Dyson launched ThePLS.com, the first private listing service for agents to consolidate, share and search exclusive pocket listings in their area.
We sat down with Harris to learn more about this exciting new initiative, his life in front of and behind the cameras and how he got his start in the industry.
BuzzBuzzNews: Tell us a bit about your background. Where did you grow up?
James Harris: I grew up in area called St. Johns Wood in northwest London. I was very fortunate to have an incredible group of close friends that I still call family today. I’m an only child raised by my very daring mother who had to deal with me being asked to leave eight schools growing up. It’s safe to say school wasn’t for me. At the young age of 16 years old, I decided to take the leap into real estate and this is where my journey began.
BBN: What made you make the move to the United States and when did you enter the real estate industry?
JH: I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and started studying real estate and investments at age 16. I knocked on the doors of real estate companies until someone gave me a job. I sold both residential and commercial property and after five years of selling in London, I decided to come to America to continue living my dream in 2005.
BBN: In addition to being a top agent at The Agency, you are also the co-founder of luxury real estate firm, Bond Street Partners with your colleague David Parnes. How did the two of you meet and what inspired you to start the company?
JH: David and I have known each other from day one. Our mothers until this day are best friends. We have always been passionate about real estate and always dreamed of moving to Los Angeles and building our own real estate empire. It was a lofty goal, and we are grateful that our real estate careers have far exceeded our wildest dreams.
BBN: What is it like working together on Million Dollar Listing LA and what would you say is the secret to your success?
JH: We love working together on MDLLA. The show captures our real life in the fast-paced world of Los Angeles real estate and it has been a really incredible experience. I think the secret to our success is hard work, determination, and never giving up. We started out our careers door knocking to find listings, and played rock, paper scissors to determine who would knock on the next door. We got lucky and landed our first listing and built from there. We think outside of the box, and most importantly, we are loyal, and dedicated to our clients. We pride ourselves on doing whatever it takes to achieve our clients’ goals.
BBN: Between starring on Million Dollar Listing and working at The Agency, how do find time to balance work and family? What do you like to do in your spare time?
JH: It has been challenging to juggle two jobs, however, family is more important than anything else. Having balance is one of the hardest things for me to master. Especially in the world of real estate where your expected to be available 24/7. Any spare time I have is spent with my wife and daughters. We love the outdoors, swimming, painting at Color Me Mine, hanging out at the beach and just having fun together.
BBN: With a portfolio that currently exceeds $275 million, you’ve listed quite a few high profile properties in your career. Is there a particular property or client that stands out for you?
JH: 2017 was a year of milestones for David and I. We sold over $500 million in real estate, and I had the good fortune of representing so many spectacular properties. It would be hard to name just one, each property is special and unique in its own way.
BBN: How would you describe the state of the luxury real estate market in the US and how does the LA market compare to other cities like San Francisco, New York and Miami? Do you have any predictions for the remainder of 2018?
JH: On a national scale, during the last few years, 2014 to 2017 we saw the emergence of a new generation, Millennials, as well as a marked increase in the number of ultra-wealthy, forming a distinct shift of the spending power of money from “inherited money” to “self-made money” as well as new emerging markets. According to a recent report from Wealth-X, these new high net worth individuals are pushing the trend of business globalization through increased and unrelenting technology development and lifestyle mobility – they are the contributors to many of the world’s emerging markets and regard property as part of their wealth portfolio. Other trends have also emerged on a national level, including buying activity in new markets such as the major cities of Texas and Colorado, the tech industry cities of Silicon Valley and San Francisco, as well as increased push into more Asian populated cities such as Seattle.
The Los Angeles, and Southern California Luxury market in general, continues to do well. In the ultra-luxury space, the top 10 sales in Southern California in 2017 combined amounted to roughly $549.7 million. I predict that the rise in wealth in 2017 will bring new buyers searching for an excellent quality of life to Los Angeles. Also, wealthy buyers buy their real estate with cash, and they will not be impacted by the limit on tax deduction for interest on mortgages.
Lastly, the legalization of marijuana in California has created new business opportunities, attracting entrepreneurs that want to get in on the ground floor of this new industry, and a new demographic of buyers to help bolster the real estate market in both the commercial and residential sectors.
BBN: Last year, you started ThePLS.com in partnership with Mauricio Umansky, David Parnes and Chris Dyson. What was the driving force behind the launch of this service?
JH: One of the trends that has recently emerged from wealthy buyers is their increased demand for privacy. That organically led to an increased interest in off-market deals. My business partners David Parnes, Mauricio Umansky, Christopher Dyson, and I developed ThePLS.com as a solution to service this growing trend. We work with many high-profile clients at The Agency and they love the privacy that ThePLS.com affords them. ThePLS.com is now used by real estate agents across the country, and is a massive success, capturing over $3 billion in listings since its inception in 2017.
BBN: Can you explain what a “Pocket Listing” is and how they differ from regular MLS listings?
JH: Pocket listings are off market listings, and listings on the MLS are public. If you are searching for homes online, you are seeing homes that are listed in the MLS. Listings on ThePLS.com will not end up in online searches on platforms like Trulia or Zillow.
BBN: How can real estate agents sign up for the service and what can they expect from it?
JH: Simple, go to ThePLS.com and click on become a member, fill in your details and that’s it. It is still free for a limited time.
What can they expect? ThePLS.com is quickly becoming the most comprehensive and fastest growing database of off market inventory available, anywhere. It gives sellers, who want to adopt an off market strategy an effective place to do so, and agents are able to leverage this “pocket” inventory to give themselves a competitive advantage when offering buyers properties to which they do not have access. It’s a total win-win. Obviously, the more agents that embrace the site, the more effective and relevant it becomes for everyone.
BBN: What’s next for you in 2018? Are there any major projects you’re working on that you can share with us?
JH: The Los Angeles real estate market is on fire and Dave and I are seizing the moment, building on last year’s success and working on some huge deals. We have several upcoming listings which will be completed and ready to hit the market in 2018 totaling over $300 million.