Ryan Serhant: Real Estate Phenom And Champion For Agents

Ryan Serhant

There are seismic real estate industry disruptions on the East End that are memorable — the transformative forces include 9/11, and the recent global pandemic. The pace is punishingly relentless, leaving the industry in a perpetual state of whiplash, as months or years pass before we fully grasp the impact of each disaster while witnessing record-breaking sales as throngs move here to shelter storm after storm.

Several agents came of age during this time of seclusion, some rocketing to stardom to become household names. Ryan Serhant is one such phenom that rose exponentially from the ashes of Covid, but his story really started during the financial crisis of 2008.

Ryan Serhant. Photo: Ty Wenzel
Ryan Serhant. Photo by Ty Wenzel

Serhant was an actor trying to make ends meet living in New York City like millions of others. “I am incredibly, incredibly lucky. I’d spent my whole life up until I got into real estate preparing and training to do theater, film, and TV,” he explained. “I was an actor. That’s the whole reason that I moved to New York City. I was trying to work on Broadway and then I ran out of money. So I got into real estate because it was that or wait tables. I got addicted to it when I had paid my month’s rent and it was only April 5. ‘Holy moly,’ I told myself, ‘what happens if I went to work for another 25 more days?’ I could pay even more rent. I can pay next month’s rent. And then the next month’s rent, and the next month’s rent — insane. The acting business is brutal, right? It’s rejection 99.9 percent of the time. Real estate is rejection only 80 percent of the time. For most people that don’t come from an acting background, 80 percent of the time is brutal and so they quit. But for me the odds were improving.”

He was no longer nervous about money and didn’t have to worry about the rent anymore. Every actor knows what that life is like.

Regardless — television found him.

“In early 2010, I went to an open casting call for real estate agents in Times Square. That was it. It took nine months after that,” he elaborated on how he was cast in Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York. “We started shooting at the end of the 2010 and I don’t think I really knew exactly what I signed up for. TV shows come out all the time, and you’ve no idea what they are or how they’ll do. Ours just happened to work and it put me on an international map that I never could have paid for.”


It didn’t help him close real estate deals at first. He said that no one picked up the phone and called him the day after it aired. “When was the last time you reached out to somebody else on TV? You don’t watch the Kardashians, pick up the phone and say ‘Hey Kim, last night was crazy, huh?’ That just doesn’t happen,” he said with a serious air. “I thought that’s what was going to happen and it did not. But what it did do was to enable me to open more doors — the cold calling, cold emailing, knocking on people’s doors and all the methods that realtors utilize… I just had a new hook. I could use the TV show and I could use the exposure to generate more business, but I still had to go get it.”

Ryan Serhant
Ryan Serhant. Photo by Ty Wenzel

We ask if the pandemic had been the catalyst for bringing his brokerage to the Hamptons, like several others that now have outposts here, but Serhant wasn’t having any of it, declaring that he had been thinking about it for years. He opened his Hamptons branch in April 2022.

“I knew the Hamptons was an important market for us when I got into the business because I saw all of our alliances leave in the summers and go out East. I remember in 2019, I sold the most expensive house that entire year in the Hamptons in Bridgehampton for 40 million dollars,” he reminisced. “The East End has always been an amazing market — it’s a primary residence market plus a secondary market. It’s a region where you can have your third home, where people go to relax. It’s a beautiful environment, great restaurants, great socializing, great beaches. The North Fork is also a great market and currently we’re opening shop on the South Shore of Long Island.”

Serhant’s two-and-a-half-year-old brokerage broadened into six new markets along the East Coast in March of 2022. That includes Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, South Carolina, and North Carolina. “We announced the Hamptons in April last year. Last summer, we had a cool fun, big launch party. It’s been a lot of fun since my initial markets opened,” he continued. “We’ve grown though, announcing our opening in six different states that are on the East Coast that are all strong feeder markets for our core business — growing out of New York, to start, as we grow and become more of a national firm. And then eventually an international firm.”

When asked about the specific regions, some were surprising and he dove in. “So Philadelphia, for example, Pennsylvania, right? Pre-Covid Philadelphia was the number one market for New Yorkers to move to if you just look at the stats — you would probably say it’s Miami, right? Maybe you would say Long Island or New Jersey. If you look at the statistics, Philadelphia was number one and so it’s always been kind of on our trajectory. Parts of Pennsylvania are closer to get to by car than the Hamptons. You’ve got a great housing situation, a great living situation, a great job market, and it’s an easier drive than most of Long Island and definitely the Hamptons.”

Serhant continued, “New Jersey — we already do a lot of business there. We have a new development we’re bringing to market right now, in Jersey City that’s a really cool project. A lot of our clients obviously live in New Jersey already and they buy and sell New Jersey and New York City. And we have a lot of clients from Brooklyn moving to New Jersey. Connecticut — obviously, the same thing. In Connecticut when we started the company we listed a property in Greenwich for 10 million dollars, and I jumped in the swimming pool in a full suit to make content for it. Someone saw that video and bought it for nine million bucks in the end.”

“One of the things that I love about Serhant is that the business was conceived from the perspective of an extraordinarily successful agent who wanted to make it better for other agents to thrive. From even before the onboarding process officially begins, it’s about teaching, learning, growing, and achieving. It’s a culture of great support and encouragement, and that comes directly and personally from Ryan himself as well as the rest of the Serhant cohort.” — Dawn Watson

During the pandemic he saw a lot of people had moved out of New York to other regions such as North Carolina and South Carolina. He wanted a presence there after being told by developers that it was difficult to build in New York City. “New York is so anti-business and anti-development, especially during the pandemic? Their projects totally stalled. Also high interest rates, thanks to the Fed, and so you’ve got a situation where New York City makes it so hard for them to borrow money and build business,” he explained. “Where do I go? I’m going to Raleigh, right? I’m going to Bluffton and I’m going to do multifamily in a way that’s never been done before. North Carolina and South Carolina were next. And then, obviously, Florida — I’m going to go to Miami, Tampa, right? I’ve done a lot in Florida, up and down the East Coast. One of our agents just opened our market in Delray. He just opened the office this morning.”

When others are not invested in certain regions, Serhant is paying attention. He’s following the volume, and asking where the population is buying and selling. “Where can I provide the absolute most value?” he asks. “Eventually, my goal is to be everywhere. But I like markets where my major competitors, who are heavily funded, are not paying attention because they think the market is too small — I look at it as the exact opposite. I think those are great markets to be in.”

“It’s not enough to be ‘on’ social media anymore; we need to make the most of it. I’ve followed Serhant from its inception, and I’ve followed Ryan for years, so I could see they know how to put social media to its best use. Plus, they were very supportive of the podcast, Brew’s Café, both as a personal interest and as a way to build my business. What it ultimately came down to though? Face to face, Ryan and I just really hit it off.” — Kieran Brew

Serhant attracts a devoted following of agents and brokers alike with his magnetic presence. His adept utilization of social media platforms such as TikTok, where he has 703k followers, and Instagram, boasting an impressive 1.8 million followers, reflects his pioneering spirit and unwavering commitment to advancing his trade through innovative means. Between creating anecdotal fun stories about his travels, family, and work, he promotes his real estate school named, “Sell It Like Serhant” on a separate account with 77,600-plus followers that provides a mastermind summit, courses on negotiations and other topics, industry newsletters, and a global referral network. He says he meets a lot of salespeople through his education business, which has surely converted into agents for his offices. He has developed a famous on-boarding process that is in-depth while their Chief Technology Officer, a self-proclaimed “tech nerd” named Ryan Coyne. He developed systems for AI integration and even a Serhant Universe — a metaverse world where clients and students can come over and explore Serhant World digitally.

The on-boarding process of learning the system can be a learning curve but the goal is to help agents focus on what they do best. “It is not the agent’s job to be tech-savvy, that’s our job. Their job is to sell homes. We want to be the wind beneath their wings, not the tech that’s in their way, you know?” said Coyne. This includes training materials for the CRM and marketing toolkit, the Viva platform to send praise to colleagues, a productivity tracker, and even recommended playlists.

What Serhant does masterfully is he stays ahead of the curve technologically and he is leveraging it all to grow not only his own business, but his agents’ businesses — something he is passionate about.

Kiernan Brew, Ryan Serhant, Dawn Watson last Spring with the new office sign.
The Serhant Hamptons office with Kieran Brew, Ryan Serhant, Dawn Watson. Photo by Ty Wenzel

“We met amazing teams and independent brokerages that we brought under the platform, all through education. Unlike some of my competitors, who are buying their ways into the market, we’re earning our way in targets,” he explained. “It is an online education platform for sales training. There are multiple courses, hundreds of hours of content, live webinars, full-time personal coaching, mentorship, brand strategy, templates, webinars, guides — everything, you name it, for salespeople, led by sales people. Sell It Like Serhant is the platform that I needed coming up. Not a sales training led by somebody who last sold something in 1985. In the same way that Dawn Watson, one of our Hamptons agents, and I can talk about a deal and I know exactly what she’s going through because I’ve gone through it or I am going through it. I know exactly what it means to prospect. I know exactly what it means to also lose deals. I know what it means to have a great month and then to have a bad six months. Whereas a lot of my contemporaries, other CEOs of other companies, whether it’s brokerage or education, they think they know but they really have no idea. They’re just fund managers or they’re just CEOs but they’re not really in it because they’ve never really been in it.”

Serhant explained that they have six million followers and subscribers across social media platforms and that number is growing every day. They also have TV shows, books, a podcast, and other platforms that he produces “all to the benefit of the agents that are here.” He is generating business for his agents and helping them grow their brand personally.

“If you don’t have a CEO who’s out there every day, generating business for you and helping you grow your brand, why are you there? It’s like going into battle without a general. I’m running out there by myself every day, not hanging out in Florida on a boat,” he expounded. “I worked for somebody like that and I will never be that person.”

He believes that real estate is not as inclusive as it should be. “We have a core desire to build the most inclusive and diverse company possible, not just racially diverse, but also ability diverse. I’ve given speeches before and talked about my excitement about metaverse technology and our virtual workspace not as a place that’s going to change the way people live their life every day but it could change the way a quadriplegic could become a real estate agent, or the way an amputee coming out of the Army to no longer feel insecure or self-conscious because they get to look like whoever they want, whenever they want. They can get on any device and sell real estate anywhere in the world,” he said.

Ryan Serhant is a young man, husband, and father growing a business with what feels like passionate integrity — and a champion for the agent who is willing to learn and work hard. Just like he did himself.

Ty Wenzel

Co-Publisher & Contributor

Ty Wenzel started her career as a fashion coordinator for Bloomingdale’s followed by fashion editor for Cosmopolitan Magazine. She was also a writer for countless publications, including having published a memoir and written features for The New York Times. She is an award-winning writer and designer who covers lifestyle, real estate, architecture and interiors for James Lane Post. Wenzel is also a co-founder of the meditation app for kids, DreamyKid, and the social media agency, TWM Hamptons Social Media.

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