‘Million Dollar Listing L.A.’ star James Harris says Season 12 is a ‘crazy, emotional season’

'Million Dollar Listing's James Harris attends the Habitat L.A. 2016 Los Angeles Builders Ball at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Oct. 13, 2016 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles (L.A.) is returning, and that means viewers get to join buyers through every step of their luxury house purchases.

This season, agents must think outside the box to generate interest and navigate an ever-changing market dominated by unrealistic sellers and softening prices.

Josh Flagg, Josh Altman, Tracy Tutor, James Harris and David Parnes return as agents on Season 12, and Fredrik Eklund of Million Dollar Listing New York stirs up major drama between the agents with his L.A. arrival.

Harris brings his charisma, intellect and wit as co-founder of luxury real estate firm Bond Street Partners to Million Dollar Listing L.A.

In Season 12, Harris and his business partner, Parnes, learn that the key to staying at the top of the real estate game is expanding their territory.

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Global News spoke to Harris about the new season, what the coronavirus pandemic has done to the real estate industry in Los Angeles, the most outrageous thing people have asked to get signed into the offer and more.

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Global News: It’s safe to say you are a fan favourite on the show. How does that make you feel to have such a huge following behind you supporting you, the show and your work?
James Harris: Absolutely amazing! I think the show is so incredible because not only does it actually showcase our real estate lives, but in some capacity, it showcases our personal lives. I think having the love from the fans just makes it even more special. It’s a great feeling and it kind of motivates you to want to do better and to do more. But more than anything, it actually motivates you to want to give back and help others through it. It’s a great, great feeling.

What can fans expect from Season 12? Is there any drama or anything super exciting we can look forward to seeing?
I don’t think this would be a show without the drama (laughing). Yes, there is lots of drama out; there seems to be a lot somehow every season. There’s actually amazing properties this season. But what we saw in L.A. was a shift in the real estate market, which was so interesting because it went from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. The deals were getting so tough to do and then see through from opening a deal to closing a deal. Plus, we had some really terrible fires in California this year, one of which was our own clients’ homes burned down. We captured the fires, we captured coronavirus. It’s just a really crazy, emotional season.

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Speaking of the coronavirus, how has the pandemic affected the real estate industry in L.A.?
That’s a great question because the market generally is down, but for David and myself, we have been slammed. In fact, our sales are up from January through June of this year compared to last year. We’ve just been, I don’t want to say fortunately, but we’ve just been very well placed. It seems that our clientele are just buying. We’ve been slammed and haven’t personally experienced a slowdown.

If I really identify every single deal I’ve done since the coronavirus pandemic started, it’s been super interesting. I’ve done several deals with investors that are buying properties to lease them out. I’ve also sold several homes to people who realized they can’t live in a small apartment or condo and they need a house with a backyard. I’ve also sold homes to people who had too big of a house and wanted to downsize. Then we’re trying to navigate through this with a mask on, with gloves on, having two people in the house, having all these forms to sign every time you show a house. It’s super weird, but we’re making the best of every situation.

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It’s like people want to buy a house they know they can quarantine in now.
But for real, like, it’s so interesting. I’ll just give you a quick example: I was in a deal with a first-time homebuyer who is a musician, and he was buying a brand-new house. I represent the buyer and I could tell the seller was terrified that the deal was going to fall through because all of this was happening and the pandemic and the bank was giving a problem. The seller really thought he was going to lose the deal. But the reality was the buyer was just desperate to get in the house because he’s a musician. He’s in this small studio in an apartment, and this house even had a little guesthouse. On one hand, you have the seller terrified, but the buyer was desperate and said, ‘Get me in this house. I need a garden, I need a pool, I need to make music, I need the space.’ It’s a really weird dynamic right now, but it’s rocking.

What is the most expensive custom thing you’ve seen inside all of these houses?
Oh, boy. The most expensive custom thing I’ve seen… I’ve seen everything. I’d probably have to say it was a state-of-the-art wellness centre that had a sauna, steam, Heumann, cold plunge, infrared sauna, like a legitimate wellness centre. About a year ago we saw in the house, if you can believe this, a surgery room in a house in Bel-Air. The surgery room was to get Botox and fillers and any type of surgery you can imagine. That’s probably the craziest thing I’ve seen. I thought seeing tanning beds was weird and then I saw a bloody surgery, but I couldn’t believe my eyes.

What’s the most outrageous thing people have asked to get signed into the offer?
A client of ours in Beverly Hills owns a very famous painting that was worth more than the house. They wrote it in the offer very seriously that they wanted to buy this painting, which was quite literally 30 per cent more than the house was worth. They tried to include it in the offer. That was probably one of the craziest, but I’ve truly seen it all.

Do people ever question your work in the real estate industry now? You’ve been on the show for a while, and some people think all reality TV is full of fake storylines.
That’s such an interesting question because our show takes 11 months to shoot a season. If I’m not mistaken, our show is the longest TV show in the world of reality TV to shoot a season because they follow the deal from start to the middle to the end. When you see something that’s truncated into a one-hour episode, you’re not seeing the other 15 scenes that we’ve actually shot because we only have so minutes in an episode. Everything we do on the show is absolutely real. People are entitled to think whatever they want, and I respect that and appreciate that. But this show takes a lot of hard work to put together, and they follow every single thing in each transaction. For example, this season, there’s certain properties that literally took 10, 11 months to shoot. We have jokes because there’s always a house every season that just never seems to go away. We seem to be filming there all bloody year. It takes a lot just to film one episode or one story.

What would you say your secret to success is? 
Honestly, it’s just being who I am, being transparent but creative. I think if you want to be successful in this world, you have to think outside of the box, be creative and be prepared to work harder than all of your competition. By working harder, I mean working smarter. For both David and I, it’s always been about putting in 110 per cent focus and passion into every single thing that we do. I think that goes a long way, especially in this business, when your clients see that you’re willing to go to any length to get the deal done.

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What is the most expensive house you’ve ever sold?
It was $120 million, and it closed last year and it was the Spelling Manor. That was a record-breaking sale for us and the third largest in America, which was a really cool achievement. I’m super proud of it.

Million Dollar Listing L.A. airs Tuesdays on Slice at 10 p.m. ET/PT and Wednesdays on hayu Canada.

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