Ryan Serhant wants 'Owning Manhattan' to be 'the greatest real estate show that people have ever seen'

“People were ripping off microphones. I had people quitting on me," the NYC broker said of the Netflix show's first season.

Ryan Serhant, CEO and founder of Serhant real estate, poses at a board table for his Netflix show,
Ryan Serhant's new Netflix series, Owning Manhattan, gives an honest take on the high-stakes world of New York City real estate. (Winnie Au/Netflix)

What does it take to make a reality TV show about buying and selling New York City real estate? Broker Ryan Serhant, who is the CEO and founder of Serhant real estate, says you need gorgeous penthouses, high-stakes negotiations and lots of drama.

“I wanted the first property we walked into on the show to be the most expensive penthouse on earth,” Serhant told Yahoo Entertainment about his new series, Owning Manhattan, out on Netflix June 28. “This is New York. You gotta go big or go home.”

The eight-episode series follows Serhant as he builds his brokerage with a team of 12 ruthless real estate agents — all of whom are hungry to sell the most exclusive luxury listings in the city, at least at first.

While filming the show last year, Serhant said there were certain points when he fired people “live on camera” during a time when home real estate sales were at the lowest in 30 years.

“People were ripping off microphones,” he said. “I had people quitting on me because, one, the world changed and they couldn't make money anymore, and two, they were getting poached left and right [by other brokerages]. It was all-out warfare.”

Serhant is no stranger to reality television. He starred on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York from 2012 to 2022, and as well as his own show, Sell It Like Serhant, which aired for one season in 2018. He followed those up with 2021’s Million Dollar Listing: Ryan’s Revolution, a limited series that featured his family as they renovated their Brooklyn home.

Owning Manhattan, however, is a different kind of beast. Serhant described the show as an “honest portrayal” of the industry with cutthroat competition, high-stakes deal-making and the raw emotions of buyers and sellers.

“I’m the boss. I’m the CEO — and that’s major,” he said of his brokerage, which he launched in September 2020 during an era when real estate professionals were leaving New York City amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Serhant said he jumped at opportunities to expand his business during that time. “A lot of my competition left,” he said. “But I made a bet on New York, and everyone said it was totally crazy. I was like, ‘I think there's just good deals right now.’ I wasn't in New York City during 9/11, but if the city can come out of 9/11 stronger than ever, I thought it's pretty common sense to say we can come out of COVID stronger than ever. And that's exactly what happened.”

The show chronicles the highs and lows of Serhant’s business in a changing city.

“We want to show [viewers] the greatest real estate show that people have ever seen,” he added. “I want to show New York as the gorgeous, amazing city that it actually is. It’s built on a ‘get up and go’ attitude. It's gorgeous on the left, it’s got warts on the right, and there’s everything in between.”

Serhant said Owning Manhattan is “more documentary than it is reality” and hopes the show’s ethos can help to “redefine” the reality TV landscape.

“I see so many reality shows out there that are heavily watched, but they're simple and can be kind of lazy,” he said. “If I'm going to take up someone's time, I want to earn it.”

All eight episodes of Owning Manhattan start streaming on Netflix on June 28.