April 27, 2017

JF968: Million Dollar Listing Stars Began Broke Knocking on Doors


Million Dollar Listing stars, David Parnes and James Harris, share their riveting transition from door knocking to multimillion dollar listings. Their class, their British roots, and their experience makes for a successful and entertaining team. Be sure to subscribe to the show and check out all of their episodes.

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David Parnes & James Harris Real Estate Background:
– Co-founders of premium real estate service company, Bond Street Partners
– Hosts of Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles
– Listing portfolio currently exceeds a staggering $325 million
– Company boasts over 25 years of combined finance and real estate experience
– Based in Los Angeles, California
– Say hi to them at http://bondstreetpartners.com/
– Best Ever Book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


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Joe Fairless:  Best Ever listeners, welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any fluff.

With us today, David Parnes and James Harris. How are you two doing?

David Parnes: Good!

James Harris:  Good morning!

Joe Fairless:  Good morning, nice to have you both on the show. If you don’t recognize David and James, well then you need to watch the Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles Show. They are the hosts, and they’re also co-founders of a premium real estate service company, Bond Street Partners. Their company boasts over 25 years of combined finance and real estate experience, and their listing portfolio currently exceeds 335 million bucks. Based in Los Angeles, California… With that being said, do you two wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

James Harris:  Go for it, David!

David Parnes: Background… We’re both British — well, actually we’re American now… I moved here in 2009. James, when did you move here?

James Harris:  I moved here about 12 years ago now.

David Parnes: Yes, 12 years… And we’re real estate agents. We sell high-end real estate in Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills, and we love it.

Joe Fairless:  Okay. David, you moved here in 2009, James – 12 years ago… What was the tipping point for your company, where you saw massive amounts of success versus when you started?

James Harris:  Dave and I, we started at the very bottom – we had no clients, we had no contacts, and we really worked it… We started going knocking, we started holding open houses, we started getting listings… We got hold of several developers that became our life, and then we just went out and started looking for deals for those developers. As we started those developers these deals, our business started evolving, and as we started door knocking, we started getting listings, then we started building relationships and getting listings…

One thing lead to the other, which lead to the other, and here we are today, about four years later.

Joe Fairless:  Door knocking – that can be a challenging experience, and I’m sure you’ve got some fun stories… What are the keys to success with door knocking?

David Parnes: I think it’s just perseverance, it’s consistency. Like with anything, it’s just consistency… We used to make a spreadsheet — actually, someone in our office showed us their spreadsheet and we copied it. We would literally take it street-by-street in each area, and literally list down every single address, and just both of us get in the car, rock/scissors/paper — have you ever played that before, Joe?

Joe Fairless:  Yes, of course.

David Parnes: Well, we did that quite a lot, and it would be whoever lost had to get out of the car and knock. [laughter] But we’d be playing too many rock/scissors/paper, so we’d have to do it per side of the street, so if you lose, you’re doing that whole side of the street. It was quite funny, because James and I actually pulled up to Dr. Dre’s house, which is now sold, in the Hollywood Hills. We rock/scissors/paper-ed it, and I lost. I got out the car petrified, and door-knocked Dr. Dre’s house, and… No one answered.

Joe Fairless:  [laughs] When someone does answer, you’re standing in front of the door, they open the door… What’s the dialogue like?

David Parnes: Hi, how are you?

James Harris:  Our pitch was that we were always looking on behalf of developers, so our pitch was very much “Our client isn’t so concerned about the design of your home, but more concerned and more worried about the location. Our client loves this location.” That would be how we get in the door, at least, and then we did have developers that would buy it.

For us, it was very much “We’re not trying to be nosy and just have a look at your house.”

Joe Fairless:  So you weren’t as concerned about the design of the home… You’ve got a developer who is more focused on the location.

James Harris:  Yes, exactly.

Joe Fairless:  Right, that makes sense. As far as developers go, it’s a reoccurring theme I’ve heard from really high-performing real estate agents… How did you come up with the approach of working with developers?

David Parnes: We didn’t really have much choice at the time, because our biggest challenge when we started was — it’s kind of like the horse before the cart and chicken/egg. Basically, we didn’t have any track record, so it was very difficult for us to get a listing, because we were competing with a whole market full of realtors, who some of them had sold billions of real estate over their career, and James and I, with no track record, to go and meet with a client and trying to list it with no track record – it was difficult.

We had to get creative, we had to work with what was available to us, and we did notice that more and more development was going on in the locations that we were looking at, namely the Hollywood Hills, Bel-Air, Beverly Hills… We wanted to hit top end straight away, because that’s where the office was based that we joined.

We just thought to ourselves, “Look, a developer has no interest on who brings in the deal, as long as the deal makes sense.” James and I kind of carved that niche, because it was becoming more popular for people to maximize lots, and basically that would be through tearing down an old house and maximizing the lot by building a brand new construction.

Armed with that information, we really had to do whatever we could to get deals to offer to the developers and essentially establish a relationship with them. That was very popular for us, because once we sold a couple of them, we [unintelligible [00:07:45].24] newsletter, we’d promote ourselves and the sale that we did, and then we would get calls from other residents in that area saying “Did you sell that property? That is a teardown for that kind of money?” and we’d be like “Yeah.” They’d say “Do you think you could do it for us?” and we’d say “Yeah”, and we did.

That’s really how we began to establish ourselves, and the best part is that once we sell a developer [unintelligible [00:08:08].15] typically, if they think we’re good, which we like to think we are, they’d give us the listing on the backend once they’ve built the house. So essentially, we were establishing a track record from nothing.

Joe Fairless:  I love that, it’s very strategic. You just mentioned assuming that the developer thinks you’re good – which you two clearly are – then you’ll get the backend listing… What are some aspects that you excel at in your profession?

James Harris:  I think Dave and I are exceptionally good with marketing, being creative, thinking outside the box, looking at what our competition’s doing and doing it differently, throwing a vent to attract buyers and new listings. Honestly, we’re pretty known now for our marketing, and we’ve put a lot of time into that. And as David said, newsletters, being consistent, open houses… Just making something of it, rather than just sitting there for three hours and letting people come; actually creating buzz at an event, and from that we’ve sold properties. From social media now we’ve sold properties.

It’s just about thinking outside the box and trying to be different to the competition, that’s what we’ve done.

Joe Fairless:  And then on that note with the events to attract buyers – if I were to come to one of your events, what would I experience?

David Parnes: We’ve done quite a few, actually. One of them, we met with a client in Hollywood and he was a burner [unintelligible [00:09:37].23] he was like a hardcore burner… He took this thing so seriously…

Joe Fairless:  What’s a burner? I don’t know what a burner is. [laughs]

David Parnes: Well, neither did I… I’ll enlighten you, because he told me – basically, someone that goes to Burning Man…

James Harris:  And takes it very seriously. [laughs]

Joe Fairless:  Okay, I got it. He’s all in. Got it, I’m with ya.

David Parnes: All in, like, this guy was on another level. So we thought, “You know what? Let’s hold a Burning Man theme party at his house in Hollywood.” It was a new construction. So we did that, and we sold it for over asking price very quickly. There was a bit of drama in between, but we did that. We’d partnered up with Lamborghini before and had a whole Lamborghini test drive day at our house in Malibu. We’ve done a private dinner party, invitation-only.

James could probably tell you another ten that we’ve done, but we really liked to tune into the housing question and really create that experience that that house has to offer, targeted to the buyer that we believe is best suited to that house.

Joe Fairless:  That’s beautiful. How would you approach this if you weren’t in Bel-Air, but you were in Des Moines, Iowa?

David Parnes: That’s a great question.

James Harris:  Approach what – throwing an event? Or just marketing.

Joe Fairless:  Take that however you want, either direction.

James Harris:  Honestly, I think no matter where you are in the world, no matter which city or state you are in the world, there’s always someone that’s at the top, and I always personally find — you just have to find out who’s the best in the industry, who’s doing the biggest numbers, and look at what they’re doing. How are they doing it? What are they doing to get where they are today? And then try and recreate their success and make it your own.

I don’t think anything changes as far as door knocking or holding open houses. And maybe you don’t have a lavish event for 500 people, but maybe you do something on a smaller scale, like David said. If it’s a smaller house and it’s a charming, traditional house, have an event that’s gonna be attractive to people that like traditional houses and not a modern house.

I just think you have to tailor it for who your clientele is, and you have to tailor yourself as a broker to who your clientele is, and you have to become the person that you wanna be and look at who’s the most successful, and then, like I said, recreate your success. That’s’ what we’ve done here in L.A., and it’s worked.

David Parnes: I think the only think I’d add to that is if we’re talking about Des Moines, Iowa, for example… At the end of the day, there is another glitz and glamour and prestige associated with closing big deals, but it’s still a grind; it’s the same basic formula.

James Harris:  Right.

David Parnes: It’s about your marketing, and as we both said, newsletters are very important, [unintelligible [00:12:13].10] very important. When you hold an open house, make sure you have more open signs that anyone out. That doesn’t really cost very much. Door knocking. And then just really having a great listing presentation, because once you get your foot in the door with that client, now is your time to shine. You’ve gotta really, really sell them on your ability to present and represent them, and really sell them on why you are the best person to sell their house. If you believe it and you really work hard enough, it’s gonna happen.

From there, it’s just that basic formula of grinding and not giving up, giving the best representation… Imagining what you would want from someone selling your own house, because for most people it’s the majority of what they have, and that’s a huge responsibility. As long as you really believe that you are good enough and you can step up to the plate, then you will sell it.

James and I are grinders, we’re grafters, and that’s what we do, but we never give up until we get a result. I think that basic formula applies to not just where geographically you are, but also whatever business you’re in.

Joe Fairless:  You two have talked about a lot of really good insights. If you had to condense it into one thing, I’m gonna ask you the million-dollar question… What is your best advice ever for real estate professionals?

James Harris:  Go for it, Dave.

David Parnes: We’re not reinventing the wheel. This is the beauty of this industry – it’s a proven formula, like James said earlier. There are people at the top of their game. In the high markets, they’re selling billions; in the not so high markets, they’re still selling tens of millions, hundreds of millions of real estate. We already knew going into it that it is a proven formula. If someone else can do it, then so can I, and I think it’s self-belief, it’s perseverance, and it’s really making the most out of any situation… Just believing it, whether it’s your first listing — market it, go crazy!

A lot of marketing is word of mouth, is business cards, is [unintelligible [00:14:12].04] is newsletters, is just-listed cards… It’s pretty much anything that can be used to get the word out there, because we’re a marketing organization and that’s what we do – we just heavily market and promote, and be grafting.

Joe Fairless:  I love it. Are you two ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

James Harris:  Yes!

Joe Fairless:  Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:14:35].28] to [00:15:18].01]

Joe Fairless:  What’s the best ever book you’ve read?

James Harris:  Oh, god… [laughs] Charlie And The Chocolate Factory!

Joe Fairless:  What’s the best ever deal you’ve done?

David Parnes: There’s quite a few, actually… A lot of them confidential.

James Harris:  Yeah, I was about to say… The Hustler Building on Sunset Boulevard.

Joe Fairless:  What’s the best ever way you like to give back?

David Parnes: I like to donate to animals, that’s where my heart lies. Because I don’t have kids at the moment, I have a lot of dogs, so for me it’s animals… And we also do give-back homes; we actually help families in need build houses, which is with an incredible organization that the agency is very strongly associated with.

Joe Fairless:  And thinking back on how your business has evolved, what’s a mistake you’ve made along the way?

David Parnes: We make them all the bloody time! [laughs]

James Harris:  Our website – we spent an absolute fortune on creating our website, and then the reality of the world, we really didn’t need to go all out. But you learn from your mistakes. We were trying to launch our business and brand our business, and we probably spent $60,000 on a website, which in hindsight was a mistake. But you learn from your mistakes.

Joe Fairless:  And lastly, where can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you or your company?

David Parnes: We have a great web presence, we have a great social media presence @DavidBondST and @JamesBondSt. We put all our properties up. Feel free to drop us an e-mail. We do public speaking, just look out for the next that we’re gonna be speaking at.

Joe Fairless:  Outstanding. Well, Dave and James, thanks for being on the show, talking about really the evolution of your company and the foundation that you mentioned: the self-belief, the perseverance, the making the most out of every situation, that is being as scrappy as door-knocking (one example, on Dr. Dre’s house). Then also the way that you two 10x-ed your growth, which sounds like having the developer connection. As a real estate agent, I’ve heard that multiple times from successful agents, so I’m glad to hear that.

Lastly, catering your focus to the house and the ideal target buyer, the events that you two host are certainly examples of that. Thanks so much for being on the show, I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon!

James Harris:  Lovely, nice to meet you! Thank you so much!

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