While the Los Angeles real estate market was exciting enough and filled with enough drama to warrant being the focal point of its own reality show on Bravo, there was unexpected drama found last year in the downward turn that the economy took. As the third season of "Million Dollar Listing" kicks off tonight, real estate agents Josh, Chad and Madison are all dealing with the changes in the market in their own unique way as well as occasionally crossing paths and, of course, clashing over their personal and professional differences. To get at least one perspective on how it feels to have cameras filming while selling houses to the rich and famous, what the state of the market is these days and how he feels about other opportunities in television, our Jim Halterman talked with real estate agent/author/television personality Madison Hildebrand to gain some insight.
Jim Halterman: Now that the show has been on for a few years, is it easier to have cameras trailing you?
Madison Hildebrand: It's really not a big deal anymore. I am reminded that the cameras are there when we go to film with new clients or filming in a public area. Then it's kind of like 'people are watching, there's a camera watching me' but for the most part it's pretty easy.
JH: A lot of the talk in the season premiere is about the economy. How has it hurt your business and what's the status now for you?
MH: The beginning of this season and the market overall was pretty stressful. It was what I called the frozen period and everyone was just sitting around and waiting to see. It put a lot of extra pressure on me and my listings, my sellers were wanting to move during a very uncomfortable and uncertain economic time so it was a challenge but things did get better, things are getting better and we're filming the ninth episode now so trying to capture how much better things are now. I think it takes viewers through the whole cycle of the last year and a half.
JH: During that frozen period, were your clients coming to you for answers when you really were just waiting like everyone else?
MH: Everyone was coming to me with questions. I don't know if they were necessarily looking for answers because nobody knows what is going to happen in the future. History repeats itself or it's going to be a long time or we need to make smart decisions. Forecasters say we're going to be in this situation for x-amount of months or years. What is your personal financial situation like? What is your personal situation in a goal to sell a house? How long can you carry it? And then we need to price and make a strategy according to that. There was much more strategy and thought going into the sale of a home this season than before. It's more challenging and, therefore, it's a little more interesting for me. Don't get me wrong, when buyers just show up when you put up a "For Sale" sign, they come in, you have three offers and the property sells and you get paid, that's amazing. But a lot of people could do that and to survive this last market, I think it took someone who was patient, thoughtful and willing to get their feet and hands wet.
JH: Can you imagine yourself doing anything besides real estate? The show must have at least exposed you to some other avenues.
MH: I imagine that all the time because real estate was kind of a five-year plan for me and I have a lot of other ideas that I want to explore so writing the book and completing that was one thing I wanted to do. I've got another company that I'm semi-getting ready to launch. I think I'm liking the TV aspect a lot more, I think hosting would be a lot of fun and I'm just kind of in the open field right now and just waiting for the right thing to come along.
JH: You're based primarily in Malibu but what do you think is unique about Los Angeles that you can't find in other parts of the country?
MH: There is such a variety of different neighborhoods so wherever you're coming from to LA or if you already live in LA and feel like acclimating to another culture you can move from Malibu to Venice. If you want something less artsy, you can go to West Hollywood. If you want to be very, very artsy and more punk rocker, you can go to Silver Lake. There are so many different boroughs out in LA and people gravitate towards those depending on who they like to be around and what interests them. It's a very spread out city but we've got a ton of different cultures within the city.
JH: In general, what do you think is the biggest trait that you have that has attributed to your success?
MH: I think I'm willing to say 'I don't know but I'll find out and I'll get right back to you.' And I'm accountable. I say it and then I do it but I'm not afraid to say 'I don't know.'
JH: Is that philosophy from the book ("Activate YOUR Passion, Create YOUR Career: No Matter Who You Are") you released last year?
MH: Not particularly from that book but there is a chapter talking about working with buyers and sellers and one of the things I learned from my mentor, more of an observation, and this was supposedly the 'king of Malibu' and he's supposed to know everything but we go to a house and a celebrity asks him how much beach frontage does this house have and he said 'I don't know but I'll get back right back to you.' He said it with confidence and he said it with assurance and he really will get right back to them and every time the client was okay with it so that was something that I learned. Normally I like to have all the answers but when you don't have one and you just say one your client will know it's bullshit and they won't trust you.
"Million Dollar Listing" returns for season three tonight at 11:00/10:00c on Bravo.