When the pandemic reached the U.S. and businesses shut down last year, many were surprised to see the nation’s housing market thrive as enthusiastic homebuyers rushed to purchase their forever homes.
Tyler Whitman, star of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York, also watched in amazement as homeowners in the Big Apple flocked to the suburbs to escape the city. The handsome gay agent reveals that the show’s ninth season, currently airing Thursday nights at 8, is unlike any other—complete with clients who open their hearts in addition to their front doors for this go-round.
The agent, who is equal parts energetic, friendly, and headstrong, explains how he originally got his start in real estate. “I moved to New York in 2006 and got a random Craigslist roommate when I got here. I was 20 years old, and he was a real-estate agent. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and I was intrigued by his lifestyle. He said I should get my real-estate license, and after I did we started doing cheap rentals in the East Village,” Whitman recalls.
“I hadn’t been client-facing for some time, largely due to my weight. I had weight-loss surgery in December 2015, and the weight loss is both fast and slow—you’re losing a pound a day, and your body is changing slowly each day. I was down to my current size by August of 2016, I was getting my confidence back, and I wanted to be client-facing and selling sexy properties again.”
With his new outlook on life, Whitman joined the cast of the hit show in 2019. Today, he explains what it was like watching the pandemic wreak havoc on the city’s housing market in 2020. “Most real-estate markets in this country exploded, in a good way. But in New York, because it’s all communal and we all live on top of each other, people are so reactionary. They thought COVID would be permanent, and everyone moved to the suburbs and bought houses with yards and lots of space. We were dealing with a mass exodus.”
Viewers are used to seeing the show’s agents go all-out to make an impact on potential buyers. Whitman laments that during the pandemic, a lot of that fun had to be halted. “Prices hit rock bottom. We couldn’t throw parties and events. There were a small handful of buyers out there, and we had to capture them using digital strategies.”
The uncertainty of not knowing how long the pandemic would last set Whitman up for some tough conversations, and really put his skills to the test. “I knew in my heart it was temporary, but I also felt like people thought I had my head in the clouds. Here we are today, and New York City is making the most epic comeback.”
When it comes to reality TV, there’s always skepticism as to how real the show actually is. According to Whitman, Million Dollar Listing is as authentic as it gets. “The network had very strict safety protocols that added a very interesting layer to everything. The show is very real, and that’s actually been the biggest surprise for me,” he says. “They do a really good job of keeping things organic. I tell my clients that cameras will be there and what day, but I don’t prep them on anything. We just go and do our thing. Now, the crew had to get there early to disinfect the entire property before we arrived. We were getting tested throughout the week. We usually like to film in-person meetings, and so a lot of FaceTiming and electronics came into play.”
In addition to pivoting due to the new safety protocols, the biggest change this season centers around how vulnerable Whitman’s clients are willing to be in front of the cameras. “In the past, a lot of people have tuned in for ‘property porn.’ You definitely get that this season, but this year we really wanted clients who are willing to be very vulnerable, raw, and real,” he explains. “You’re going to see the homes of our clients, but also their lives and hearts, and what they’re going through. A lot of people aren’t willing to be on the show because they don’t want to share personal details, but this season, people are willing to show that side of their lives and show how their lives were changed by this virus.”
According to Williams, anyone looking for a show about grit, hard work, and heart should tune in. “I feel like there is something inspiring about our show. I used to watch it as a fan and would think, ‘Wow, I could really create a great life for myself if I go out and meet these people and sell them properties.’” That same inspirational vibe is reflected in the messages he receives via social media. “Something about this show gave me, as a viewer, this attainable dream. My DMs are filled with people saying the show is inspiring and they are working harder because of it, or that it pushed them to get their real-estate license.”
Although Million Dollar Listing New York City will always highlight the dog-eat-dog world of high-dollar real estate, Whitman and his cast are making sure there is also plenty of fun and laughs. For the viewer who may have allegiances to other Bravo shows, Whitman sums up why his series is must-see TV: “I think what makes the season so special is that it’s very real, and it’s showing something that the entire planet went through. We aren’t one of the drama-heavy shows on Bravo. We all have quirky personalities, but we are about the stories—and telling them through big, bold, weird lenses.”
For more information on Million Dollar Listing New York City visit bravotv.com.