When luxury agents David Parnes and James Harris wanted to get into real estate years ago, they didn’t have a track record, contacts or anything else that agents typically need to succeed, so they hit the pavement. Here’s how that led to success.

When David Parnes and James Harris wanted to get into real estate years ago, they didn’t have a track record, contacts or anything else that agents typically need to succeed. So they hit the pavement.

“James and I would actually get in one of our cars,” Parnes said Wednesday at Inman Luxury Connect. “We’d drive around and we were playing rock, scissors paper. And whoever lost would have to get out and door knock.”

Parnes and Harris targeted the Hollywood Hills, and he recalled losing the game, and at one point having to knock at the home of rap star Dr. Dre (who wasn’t home at the time). And — as many agents who have similarly tried knocking doors might expect — over time, the duo didn’t really get a lot of clients from showing up at people’s homes.

But door-knocking did actually help. That’s because, according to Parnes, it gave them an intimate knowledge of how the market in their area was changing. In their particular case, they realized that developers were swooping into the area to tear down smaller homes and build larger ones. Those developers didn’t care about the budding agents’ track record, or lack thereof, only about deals.

So Parnes and Harris started catering to developers and focusing on properties that could be torn down and rebuilt.

“Our first deal was a $6.5 million teardown that we sold to a developer in Bel Air,” Parnes said. “From that point onward, we started to realize that we were building a track record from developers.”

From that first deal, Parnes and Harris started making contacts with other homeowners in the neighborhood who were impressed and wanted to make similar money from the sale of their own homes. And things took off from there.

“Suddenly we are getting our name out there,” Parnes said. “The $6.5 million teardown turns into a $35 million listing.”

David Parnes speaking at Inman Luxury Connect Wednesday in Beverly Hills. | Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic

Today, Parnes is a director at the famed Los Angeles luxury brokerage The Agency. He also appears on the realty TV show Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles and said Wednesday that he and Harris have a portfolio of listed and coming soon homes worth $1.5 billion.

Door-knocking was a foundation for that success, and had the added benefit of being free — something that appealed to Parnes and Harris early on in their careers when they lacked big marketing budgets.

Parnes and Harris may not need to drive around knocking doors any more, but his comments highlight a tactic that, while physically more difficult and time-consuming than some other approaches, newer agents can use to break into whatever niche they’re targeting. And, if done correctly, Parnes’ experience shows that it can actually work.

“You start to get your name known in that realm,” Parnes said, “and then you can pick up listings.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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