Roh Habibi may be making big deals week after week on Bravo's latest real estate centric reality series "Million Dollar Listing San Francisco," but that wasn't always the case. Prior to landing a gig as a real estate agent, Roh was working a job at J.P. Morgan Chase that left him feeling unfulfilled. That's when he reached out to a college friend who had struck it big in the real estate industry, igniting the spark that began his successful career.
Although he's quickly become a household name around the Bay Area in California, Roh never pictured his life would turn out this way. The rookie reality TV star came from extremely humble beginnings growing up in Afghanistan and immigrating to the U.S. with his parents decades ago. Now, with a family of his own, Roh couldn't be more proud of how far he's come -- and rightfully so!
International Business Times was able to catch up with the 31-year-old business mogul to get the scoop on his background, his current career, and "Million Dollar Listing San Francisco." Here's what he had to say:
On Why He Got Started In Real Estate:
Initially, Roh planned to cultivate a career in business. He studied international business in undergrad and went on to Berkley for grad school where his main focus was financial planning and wealth management. After earning his degree, the "MDLSF" star went on to work for J.P. Morgan Chase, where he stayed for "a number of years." It wasn't until he realized that he was spending "too many day unhappy" that he decided to make a change.
"A friend that I was in grad school with was a top realtor in San Francisco, so I asked him to lunch and kind of picked his brain about how the industry works and what a day in the life of a real estate agent really is," Roh told IBTimes.
In 2010 Roh got his brokers license, though he did not actively begin working in real estate until two years later in April 2012.
On Making It In The Industry:
While he may make his job look like a cake walk on TV, Roh assured us it has been anything but. He said his career has been "an uphill climb," but he's managed to hang in there, which he says is his greatest accomplishment to date.
"When I first started we had a training course at the former company where I was working at. The trainer actually said to us, 'look to the left of you and look to the right of you. In three years time either you're not going to be there or the person next to you is not going to be there,'" he recalled. "So, when I started there was around 14 or 16 agents that started around the same time as me. Sure enough about two years into it, it was only me and one other gentleman."
The Key To His Success:
According to Roh, the most important thing you can do as a real estate agent is "be accessible 24/7." He notes that since starting his career he's taken on both domestic and international clients, which requires that he be available whenever his clients are.
"I have international clients and they call when they're awake and that may not be sometimes when you're awake," he said. "So, you have to have your phone on all the time."
In addition to making yourself available to clients he said learning about lifestyles has played an important role. Roh said a majority of his clients are in periods of transition in their lives -- they're either looking for a marital home, looking to upgrade to a larger home after having children, downgrading after becoming empty nesters, or looking to sell a marital home after a divorce.
"There's different transitions in life at all times, so the main thing you can do is just be a really, really attentive listener," he said.
— Roh Habibi (@RohHabibi) July 3, 2015
On Landing A Spot On The Reality Series:
Roh was first approached by Bravo about the show in 2012, shortly after launching his career. At the time, he feared he wasn't ready to go up against agents selling multi-million dollar homes on a daily basis. Fortunately, the network decided to pause production on the show and head to Miami for a bit. In the meantime he got busy preparing for a potential "MDLSF" callback.
"In that two year period I was watching every single episode of 'Million Dollar Listing New York' and 'Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles'. I was dressing like these agents, I was talking like these agents, I was negotiating like these agents and I was really doing a huge number of sales," he said. "So when they called me back two and a half years later, the lady was like, ‘Hey, I’m calling about 'Million Dollar Listing.' We wanted to see if you’re still interested?’ I told her, ‘I have been waiting for your call’ and she just started laughing."
While he was initially unsure he was cut out for "MDLSF," Roh has since realized that the show is a once in a lifetime opportunity. He has been able to expand the reach of his business and create a larger network for his brand than he ever thought possible.
On His Competitors On 'MDLSF':
For Roh, Justin Fichelson and Andrew Greenwell, the other agents on the new Bravo TV series, are hardly competitors. As an agent, he feels his work stands well above both of theirs. He did, however, note that viewers will get the chance to see him go head-to-head with the other agents on the show for listings and offered a little insight into how he was able to ensure he got what he wanted.
"Whenever my client’s money is on the line or my client’s property is on the line I’m a huge advocate for them. If I have to go to bat for them I will. I will do everything in my power to get them the best price on a property," he said. "You’re going to see some cross between us on a couple different properties in San Francisco and I think I definitely do a very good job for them."
— Justin Fichelson (@JustinFichelson) July 3, 2015
On What Sets Him Apart From Other Agents:
The "MDLSF" star said he finds that real estate is really "based on service." He said throughout his short career he's learned that the thing clients seem to value the most is an agent willing to go above and beyond to make them happy. As such, he's found himself taking on tasks far beyond his scope of practice and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I walk dogs, I do landscaping, I do painting, I do cleaning, I do every single thing possible that my buyers or sellers need because that’s my job," he said. "One thing that I pride myself on is the fact that I’m in the shelter business. You need food, you need water and you need shelter to survive and I’m really happy to be in the shelter business because you’re really making a big difference in people’s lives."
On Balancing His Home And Work Life:
Not only is this "MDLSF" star a staple in the California real estate industry, he's also a family man. Roh, 31, has a wife and a 10-month-old daughter. While his business requires that he work long hours -- at one point he revealed he was clocking in between 70 and 80 hours a week -- he always makes sure to make both special ladies in his life a priority.
"Business comes and goes, money comes and goes, but family and raising a child, for me, is the most important part of my life right now. So I’ve been taking time to make my wife breakfast in the morning and I spend more time at home," he shared. "We always have one family day a week where I don’t answer calls, I don’t answer emails. I spend the whole entire day with my family and we’ll go do an outing somewhere."
Despite his hectic schedule, Roh says he has really made an effort to be able to be around for the important aspects of his daughter's upbringing. Still, he admits that "distinguishing that work-life balance" has been one of the most difficult aspects of his life.
On Becoming A Public Figure:
Accepting a role on a major network's reality TV show meant allowing the eyes of more than 25 million viewers in 140 countries into his personal life. Fortunately Roh was more than willing to do so. For him, having this platform meant having the opportunity to show people "what an Afghan family really looks like and what a Muslim family really looks like." The real estate broker says it has been an honor to "take the veils off what Muslims are really like" while also getting to show people first hand what goes into building a highly successful real estate career.
While he was thrilled to give viewers a glimpse into his personal life, the most important aspect of being a public figure, in his opinion, is giving back. Since making it big Roh has had the opportunity to work with underpriveleged youth in the area, creating a unique mentoring program that allows them to work alongside him in his office. He put together a program in which local kids are asked to write a one-page paper outlining why they should be chosen to work with him. In it, he says a majority of these young people go into detail about wanting to be better for their families or get themselves on a better path in life.
"I see a drastic difference in their faces after they're done with the day," he said. "If you're going to be a public figure being able to give back and help people create positive changes in their life -- I think that's the most important thing."
Advice For Up-And-Coming Real Estate Agents:
Although he's only been in the industry a few short years, Roh's experience has put him on par with some of the most seasoned veterans in the industry. He suggests that anyone looking to get started in real estate seek out a team to work with and work their way from the bottom up.
"My advice for anyone that’s starting out in the business is to join a team. Be their assistant, be there errand boy or girl -- Do anything that they need you to do. Just say look, ‘I will do anything you need me to do, just teach me,’" he advised. "It takes about five years just to learn the business. So for you to join a team, you’ll be able to fast track that learning process. You’ll be able to learn transactions, learn how to do paperwork, you’ll be able to walk the walk and talk the talk."
"Million Dollar Listing San Francisco" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EDT on Bravo. Check out a clip from the show below and be sure to follow Roh on Twitter.