'Million Dollar Listing' Star Josh Flagg Sells More Than Homes
First, let's dispel the rumor: Million Dollar Listing star Josh Flagg is not trading his real estate shingle for a quill writing pen. Actually, not even for a MacBook. Flagg, whose second book was just published -- fueling gossip among some real estate agents that he was abandoning home sales in favor of writing -- says selling houses are his passion. He handled $64 million in home sales last year, which would be a hard paycheck to walk away from to join the struggling legions of book authors.
Flagg, an ambitious Keller Williams Beverly Hills agent with deep roots in the area that he sells, is nonetheless watching brisk sales of his newest book, Million Dollar Agent: Brokering the Dream. It's an autobiography of his life, all 25 years of it. How does such a relatively young guy have that much to say?
"Actually we had to cut hundreds of pages," Flagg says. "I had plenty of material."
Indeed, Flagg's life has been a pretty interesting ride and the book is a worthy read. He grew up in Beverly Hills, Calif., raised in part by his larger-than-life grandmother, Edith Flagg -- a Holocaust survivor known for bringing polyester to America. Josh Flagg's first book, A Simple Girl: Stories My Grandmother Told Me, is the story of his grandmother, a spunky 90-plus-year -old whose influence on her grandson can't be overstated. Net proceeds of A Simple Girl went to charity, a reflection of one of the life values she deeply instilled on Flagg.
Flagg was educated on his grandmother's arm, escorting her around the world from the age of 10 and becoming a constant companion after her husband's passing, when Josh was 13. Edith appears frequently on Million Dollar Listing, providing wise counsel to Josh on matters both business and personal. The two have separate units in the same high-rise condo complex; and he regularly rides the elevator up to Grandma's place wearing his bathrobe and slippers. The two have tea and she dispenses homespun pearls of wisdom in Old World-accented English. It's as charming and genuine as the relationship itself, and these scenes are are cherished by Million Dollar Listing viewers as much as the back-stabbing, hard-driven shenanigans that dominate the show.
Eccentricity, or at least a tendency to push the envelope, is part of the Josh Flagg persona -- both on and off the air. Flagg once rented a helicopter to show a client the aerial view of a property that wasn't available for a showing. "It was a $10 million teardown," said Flagg. "Why did he need to see inside?" The house sold. You can't argue with logic, after all.
Another time, Flagg wrapped an entire house in a red ribbon and bow as a closing "gift" for a open houses, especially those held for brokers (known as caravans where agents tour all the new listings to the market on a given day). At Flagg's open houses, agents are often treated to catered events prepared by celebrity chefs and are entertained by live musicians. Stunts? Perhaps, but no one disputes their effectiveness. On one occasion, he threw a "Jewish open house" that featured kosher deli food from a famous delicatessen for a listing in Encino, a predominantly Jewish high-end area in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. In a recent episode, Grandma Edith suggests that the best way for him to market an unfinished home that resembles a construction site is to throw a lavish open house party with champagne and attractive young women serving -- and just have everyone wear construction hats.
While the other two stars of the popular Bravo show have incorporated their personal lives into their respective story lines, Flagg deliberately kept his principal relationship away from the cameras. This season, he revealed his 3.5 year relationship with interior designer Colton Thorn only in the context of asking Thorn how he felt about being outed in his Brokering the Dream book. Last season, MDL star Madison Hildebrand made a much larger splash when he came out on an internationally broadcast show and this season has featured matchmaking attempts by friends trying to help Madison find the perfect mate.
"I didn't want my sexuality to define me," says Flagg, who has been living openly as a gay man since high school. "I didn't feel any need to declare it. I also like the color red, but I don't need to tell everyone that either." He adds, "I just didn't want to be known as 'the gay one,' or 'the Jewish one,' or anything like that."
Business, at least at the high end of the real estate market, has been stable, said Flagg, who handled about $64 million in home sales last year. But don't ask him to predict where the market is going. He dismisses it as a foolish question, noting that "anyone who tells you they know where the market is headed is lying. No one has a crystal ball. Things are getting a little better, but it still is the best buyers' market right now. You can pick up things so cheap right now."
Being on the show for three seasons now, he says, has been good for business. "But my business has always been pretty stable. I have a lot repeat clients and clients who refer other people to me." The book may not translate into more real estate clients, but writing about things he loves and feels passionate about is part of the equation for him. Next up? Maybe a book about luxury travel, traveling the Josh Flagg way.
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