Million Dollar Listing fans are going to get even more of the high end real estate drama they crave when Bravo debuts Million Dollar Listing San Francisco. OHSOGRAY recently attended a press conference with featured San Francisco real estate agents Justin Fichelson and Roh Habibi, where they previewed some of their daily challenges and what viewers can look forward to.
Million Dollar Listing San Francisco premieres Wednesday, July 8th at 10pm on Bravo.
What are some other benefits for you all to do this show?
Roh Habibi: When I was thinking about doing the show—I’ll tell you the story. It’s an interesting story. So I’ve watched the Los Angeles show, the New York show kind of religiously ever since it’s been made. I’ve really enjoyed watching it. I was working at JP Morgan before doing financial planning and assets under management and things of that nature. So watching the show really inspired me to be a broker in reality. I actually took the leap of faith. I quit my job at JP Morgan and I began in the real estate industry some time ago, about three years. Everything that I’ve done in my real estate career ever since then has been catered to a “Million Dollar Listing” agent lifestyle. I’ve been hash-tagging MDLSF for three years now. The show hadn’t even come to San Francisco. It was unheard of. But I dressed the part. I acted like they acted. I negotiated the way that they negotiated. It’s made me a very successful agent, and it’s really ironic and crazy that two-and-a-half, three years later the show came to San Francisco and I got on the show. It’s an unbelievable experience.
What kind of clients are the most difficult and what kind of challenges do they give you that you need to work around?
Justin Fichelson: Well, I think that some of the wealthiest clients, they could be billionaires and they can be ‑‑ it’s a game for them to get the price down. So even though money means nothing to a certain degree ‑‑
Roh Habibi: Ego.
Justin Fichelson: Yeah, it’s ego.
Roh Habibi: Very much.
Justin Fichelson: So they’ll fight over $200,000.
Roh Habibi: They’ll fight over a washer and dryer. I’m not joking. I almost lost a transaction recently because they’re paying $400,000 over asking and the seller will not include a washer and dryer in the sale.
At that point, were you like I’ll give it to him?
Roh Habibi: I did. Anything to get the deal done, baby.
Justin Fichelson: Sometimes you have to pay for the washer and dryer.
Roh Habibi: No.
Justin Fichelson: It’s better than arguing about it.
Roh Habibi: It’s a very egocentric thing. I mean, when the negotiating table begins, the seller wants something. The buyer wants something. But then again, at the same time, everyone wants that quote/unquote feeling of winning. So now, as the brokers in town, our job is to facilitate both parties feeling like they won, even though you just paid $400,000 over asking.
What’s your favorite San Francisco neighborhoods that you would personally want to live in?
Justin Fichelson: Every neighborhood is totally different. In terms of my personal favorite, I’m kind of like an older soul. I like Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights. I like the classic architecture. I like antiques. But Mark Zuckerberg, for example, he purchased near Dolores Park, which you hang out at Dolores. You know, there’s people going around selling pot brownies, things like that. It’s very low‑key and casual, needless to say.
Roh Habibi: You know, I’m a big fan of Nob Hill and the Mission. The Mission is like ‑‑ the Mission is like a urban/gentrified barrio. It’s like six years ago, you wouldn’t live in the Mission even if someone paid you to live there. It was a very ghetto ‑‑
Justin Fichelson: It’s kind of like Williams‑ ‑‑
Roh Habibi: ‑‑ very Latin influence, gangs, and all that type of stuff. But now, what happened is the Mission has every single boutique shop, restaurant, cafe, lounges. It’s the area that every single one of the tech shuttles — for Google, Twitter, MySpace, everything you can think of ‑‑ the tech shuttles, they pick everyone up from over there.
Justin Fichelson: It’s like the lower east side.
Roh Habibi: Yeah. So all these tech, young, very wealthy kids all want to live in the Mission. You could walk everywhere or bike everywhere or skateboard and everything’s outside your door. So the Mission is a place that I like to hang out. I like to eat there. They have amazing food. And Nob Hill is just one of the gems of San Francisco. If anyone has ever been to Nob Hill, that’s like where the Fairmont is, the Mark Hopkins Hotel which has like a 360 panoramic view of the whole city, Huntington Park and the Grace Cathedral. So that’s a place where I really like hanging, too, and it’s cute.
Justin Fichelson: Pacific Heights is kind of like they have a street, two blocks, called Billionaires Row. And that’s the end of Broadway and that’s where Larry Ellison, the Gettys, a lot of heirs live there. The houses are really the most beautiful there.
If I wanted an Edwardian or Victorian home, what could you do for me?
Justin Fichelson: Well, those houses right there, that’s typical of Noe Valley, Castro district, sometimes the Mission district, Alamo Square, which are the famous row houses you see in the background of “Full House.”
Roh Habibi: From “Full House,” yeah.
Justin Fichelson: Those houses, I have one of those that’s coming up in the Mission district and it’s 3,000 square feet and that’s coming up for $3.2 million and that will sell right away. And it has no backyard, pretty much.
Roh Habibi: So what’s happening is — the younger generation love the exterior, beautified facade of the older Edwardians or Victorians. But what they’re doing is after they purchase them, they completely gut the inside and make it modern and contemporary and updated. So that exterior, they’ll leave, because some areas in San Francisco, they have rules to where you cannot change the exterior facade. It’s a historical building. So they’ll leave the exterior and they’ll just gut the whole entire thing and redo it.
Justin Fichelson: Well, I think most buyers who are spending a lot of money, they tend to want ultramodern inside.
Roh Habibi: Yeah. And the Chinese that we deal with want brand new. They want something that no one’s lived in, high‑rises, full amenity buildings, all cash. I love dealing with them.
Roh, did your religion factor into your decision to do the show?
Roh Habibi: This is one of the reasons why I did the show. With what’s going on right now in the world, you know, from a broad perspective, Islam for the past year, maybe since September 11th, has gotten a really bad rap, I would say. There [are] 2 billion Muslims out there in the world. Most people are following, you know, the boogeyman syndrome of Islam and terrorists and ISIS and this and that. But in reality, I’m a practicing Muslim. I was born in Afghanistan, in Kabul. My whole entire family is from Afghanistan. We’ve emigrated here. I’m a top broker in San Francisco. I’m 31 years old. I have a wife. I have a kid. I have a house. Like, this is what is Islam really is, right? So it’s not what you’re seeing on television. It’s not the negativity that’s going on in the media. These are small groups that are tarnishing the name of a 1400‑year history. So I am no role model. I just want everyone to know that. I’m not a role model. I’m not a good example of Islam. But for people to get an idea on how do Afghan‑American Muslims live, what is the culture? — are there benefits, are there negative things? ‑‑ for them to see that in real life over the course of this eight months, and we’re still filming right now, I think that could be powerful. I think if even a couple people’s minds change. Like, ‘hey, my next door neighbor or my colleague is also Muslim and I never really knew anything about them, but I saw this guy on TV and I learned a little bit more,’ I think that would be awesome.
Have you ever found property that was so specific to the owner’s taste that it was a tough sell?
Justin Fichelson: Yes. There is actually one and you’ll see it this season. He has a very bizarre taste in art. And one thing, I’m trying to tell him what the property’s worth, and he was arguing, ‘well, what if I throw in my art collection — that’ll be included in the price and we’ll increase the price.’ And the problem is I wanted him to get the art out of there, because, if anything, it was kind of hideous, so ‑‑Yeah. Definitely. And people, they think what they have on their walls ‑‑ for example — they think it’s beautiful. You know, it’s hard to ‑‑
Roh Habibi: There was just a home actually in San Francisco in Noe Valley, if you can imagine this. So the master bedroom, what they did is they turned half of the master bedroom into a huge rain shower bath with no doors with a pole down the middle. And this is something that they’re marketing for sale, right? So it’s really bizarre to walk in on a broker or bring your clients in and they see that literally half of this huge master bedroom has been converted to this extremely sexy shower, spa sauna room. You know what I mean? And it ended up selling for $100,000 over asking. So people in San Francisco are interesting.