‘Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles’ stars warn ‘not just rich people’ affected by city’s ‘mansion tax’

Just because "Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles" stars Josh and Heather Altman are on television doesn’t mean they aren’t also wrestling with a complicated housing market.

"The main difference that most of the viewers are going to recognize is just the fact that we're not in a crazy market where everything's selling like that. I think that's probably going to be the most obvious difference on season 15," Josh told Fox News Digital.

In 2022, Los Angeles voters passed Measure ULA, a transfer tax nicknamed the "mansion tax," in 2022.

The measure imposes a 4% charge on property sales above $5 million and a 5.5% charge on sales higher than $10 million. The funds from the tax would go toward homeless and housing programs in the city.

"That’s a big deal," Josh said. "And trust me, it trickles down big time. It's not just rich people who have to deal with it. It's going to affect everything. It's going to affect the bottom line with developments, flips, investments. And that will trickle all the way down… to people who work on homes. 

"They're going to be affected because it can be less money to pay. People who saved money their whole life [who are] getting ready to sell the house and retire now might not be able to," he said. "So, in my opinion, I've always said it's a very poor decision to do that. I'm against that ULA measure big time. I think that they hurt themselves, the L.A. real estate market big time without even, really getting a fair shot at it." 

Heather added, "It also affects the values of every property from every price range, because the people that are [in the] 5 to 5 and a half [million range] are trying to figure out how to avoid paying the taxes. So, they're reducing the price of their home, also, because the buyers are going to have to eventually pay that tax whenever they go to sell….And everyone's going to have to end up paying part of that one way or another." 

Josh is one half of The Altman Brothers real estate agency with his brother, Matt, and Heather works as CEO of the company. The company started in Los Angeles, and has since expanded, with offices in Newport Beach, San Diego, Arizona and Las Vegas.

The "mansion tax" is pushing buyers to areas that hadn’t previously been considered, according to Heather, like Beverly Hills or Manhattan Beach, where the measure does not apply.

The Altmans have also been focusing on their business outside the city, primarily in Newport Beach, in Orange County. 

"It was just a very organic, genuine expansion of our business, but now we're really able to capitalize on it. Because so many people are leaving LA, but want to stay in California and end up in Newport Beach," Heather said. 

Others are looking outside California to places like Las Vegas, Nevada and Scottsdale, Arizona.

"There's a couple different reasons people would look there. First of all, for tax reasons, that is going to be kind of at the forefront of that. But at the end of the day, also lifestyle. A lot of things have changed since Covid, as everybody has seen, you see different markets get hot, other markets not, lifestyles changing," Josh explained, adding, "you get a lot more bang for your buck" in those areas.

The real estate powerhouse couple met on camera on "Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles" back in 2010 and tied the knot in 2016. They share two children, daughter Alexis and son Ace.

Heather joked about their courtship taking time but found some of the tools she uses in real estate applied to getting Josh to the altar.

"I always say that real estate and dating are one in the same. It's a numbers game," she explained. "Number one, the more people [you’re dating] the better chance of finding your significant other. And same with houses, going out, looking at as many houses as possible. You'll find your dream house, finally. But also, you know, when we were dating, he wasn't ready to ask me to move in, so I didn't tell him I moved in and got rid of my apartment because he wasn't ready to ask me to move in with him." 

After a year, "he asked me to move in and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, thank you.’ So I had to let him think it was his idea. You also have to do that with your clients as well. So… it's a whole game. But at the end of the day, we're doing what's in the best interests of our clients. We know what their end goal is, and, you know, it's either to sell their home for the most money possible or buy their dream house. And so you just have to kind of work your way back into it."

Of course, houses become very personal for people, and that’s led to the couple dealing with some unusual issues as they’re trying to buy and sell.

"It's the little parts of the deal that are always the ones that hold it up, not the big one, the price, love the house, this and that. That's all easy. It comes to the nitty-gritty when it comes to furniture, personal possessions, art," Josh said. 

Heather recently had a deal almost fall through because of an avocado tree that the sellers wanted to take with them, but the buyers wanted to keep on the property.

Meanwhile, Josh has found himself in the art world.

"I just got an offer on a house today for $7 million. They wanted everything in the house. And you know, one of the pieces of art is an $80,000 piece of art. I'm now negotiating art. I'm a real estate agent. I shouldn’t be negotiating art, but that's part of our job, and that's what we do."

The couple has some advice for anyone facing this difficult market, buying or selling.

Heather’s key tips include pricing your property correctly "otherwise you are chasing the market down and sellers can’t afford to do that right now at all," and concentrate on your first two weeks on the market.

"You can't really make up for lost time. We don't know where interest rates are going. We don't know if there's going to be any more crazy taxes that are coming out or, specifically in L.A., building regulations are constantly changing. And it's making it very difficult to remodel and build, expand, etc., for your property. And, you know, we have the elections going on, so you just don't know what's happening in the world at all and war’s going on. So, who knows what else can come up."

Josh encourages people to meet with multiple realtors, "at least three" and to make sure you have one who is an expert in the market you’re looking at.

"We always say now it's all in the buy, not the sell. You have to buy right, in order to make money when you sell. When you're not in a super hot market, you gotta make sure you're getting a good deal at the start. So the only way that you can - you're doing that is having somebody who really understands the local market," he explained.

A healthy dose of reality is important as well.

"Hit them straight. Just straight in between the eyes. That's it. Hit them with the real price. Hit them with everything. If you're not managing expectations, you're going to manage yourself out of a deal, and you're going to lose the listing," Josh said. 

"I think that's what kind of separates us from everybody else at this point is they know when they call us, they know that…they're going to get real numbers. They might not like it, we might not get the listing, but we're not going to, you know, blow smoke to them and just, you know, we're just going to tell them how it is."

Fifteen seasons in on "Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles," the Altmans are finding that everything is changing, from their own family to their co-stars, Josh Flagg and Tracy Tutor.

"Not only us personally as a family, but the cast [has] kind of grown, into different things as far as business, as far as everybody's approach in business, which is totally different. Our approach is different than the other people on the show on how to stay on top," Josh said. "And just kind of having it meshed with our business. We're a family-owned business. So, you know, everything we do is family and business. And so, to try to separate those two things…"

"Gets messy," Heather said, and Josh agreed, "It definitely does."

Season 15 of Bravo’s "Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles" premieres on Wednesday, July 10. 

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