Heather Bilyeu never dreamed that when she agreed to film for Million Dollar Listing: LA as Madison’s assistant so so much of her life would change. Yesterday Reality Tea had the opportunity to speak with Heather about how she found herself on Bravo, what the show has meant for her career and as well as her personal life, and her craziest experiences in real estate. Heather also opened up about her relationship with fiancé Josh Altman, and her passion for rescue dogs.
Heather had absolutely no intention of being on TV and was even shy about listing to her own voicemail messages! “I definitely didn’t want to do it at first, but I’m so happy I did,” she reflects. “I have no regrets.”
“When I first started working for Madison he was on the show, but he wasn’t aware that he was getting picked up for another season. When I interviewed with him he said, ‘Don’t worry – you won’t need to be on the show.'” Heather says producers really enjoyed the “synergy” she and Madison had and encouraged her to film with him. “I was very reluctant,” she admits. “I had to push myself.”
“It’s really been amazing for me,” Heather shares. “I’ve discovered so much about myself and it’s been great for my business and I found my soon-to-be-husband.”
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Giving the scoop on this season, which premieres next week, Heather teases that it is “unlike any other season” as the realtors are now working in a market which has “improved dramatically.” Josh Altman and Heather are still very much together and their relationship will continue to evolve. “I’m in a good place,” she explains. “There’s a little drama between us, but you get to see more of who I really am this season.”
There will also be a greater focus on her career. Heather and Josh will re-join forces for another co-listing. “It’s a big deal listing, not just for myself, but for Josh as well. It’s fun to see how it plays-out between us working together professionally.”
Working together hasn’t always been easy, however. I asked if Heather ever felt compared to Josh professionally. She confessed that in the past she did, but it propelled her to focus on her own strengths as an agent. “When we first started dating, it was a little difficult because I felt like I was in the shadows of him even though I’ve been doing real estate longer,” she shared. “I’ve been in real estate for 11 years, so it was frustrating for me because it wasn’t shown necessarily [on the show].”
“Since then I have learned to come into my own and really showcase what I do and not compare myself to him,” Heather adds. “I’ve found more confidence in who I am – we’re different individuals and we both bring different things to the table. Since then I feel we’re not compared as much and we’re seen as different entities and different businesses. Together we’re a big powerhouse, and separately we’re also great.”
Heather also discussed how she and Josh handle mixing business with pleasure, but it’s been a positive for the couple. “That’s what brought us together,” she described. “We had that common ground and that was really exciting for us. Then we went through a period where we were like, ‘Do we have anything in common besides what we do?’ and we tried not to talk about it. But that’s what we’re really passionate about!”
Heather continued, “We really love and care about each other, so why not talk about it? It’s exciting, it’s fun for us, we can relate to each, we understand one and other, so why take that out of the relationship?”
However not all aspects of the show have been easy for Heather and Josh. Last season they made the painful decision to call off their wedding, a decision which made them a stronger couple. “I’m really happy we made that decision together to postpone the wedding because it just didn’t feel right. I felt empowered by the decision at the end of the day, as weird as that sounds, and I felt a huge relief also.”
“That was a really, really emotional time for me,” Heather acknowledges. “There was just so much going on and it was really chaotic. I almost went through with the wedding and I feel like if I would have Josh and I might not be together. Or our relationship wouldn’t be where it is now.”
However re-living it as the season aired was stressful. “You don’t want to go down that path again to when you postponed your wedding and had your relationship almost fall apart. But it just reminds you to be happy, and in the moment, and trust your gut.”
While some of her experiences on TV have been hard, it’s been huge positive for her life, particularly the exposure her business gained through the show. “I get the message out a lot quicker and to a much larger audience.” Heather says clients are really open-minded about her being on TV and she’s never had anyone decide not to do business with her over the show.
“There are definitely some people who don’t want to be on TV and are afraid that cameras are with me 24/7,” she explains. She is very upfront that it’s their choice, and both Bravo and the agents are respectful of the clients’ decisions. For Heather the show is simply another aspect to her business. “That’s my separate business,” she explains. “Buying a house is a very private, emotional thing for some people. But there’s a lot of other people who love it and are excited by it. It definitely brings out some characters.” Heather adds that some clients don’t want to be on the show, but are excited that she is and watch enthusiastically.
The cast has also dealt with their share of famewhores, or people who present as wanting to buy a house, but actually just want to be on TV. “We’ve had clients call us and act like they want to buy a $10 million dollar house. They’re able to really fake that they can afford it and they’re really looking. Sometimes we’ve been dragged along the process and then find out later they were just doing it for the fun of it and they don’t have the money, or they don’t have the intentions of buying. Those people have never made it on television. We usually have a very strict screening process of providing proof of funds and doing our own Google research on the individual.”
“There are also people who contact us who are completely legit and want to be on the show.” Heather continues to get business via these clients who have had a great experience on Million Dollar Listing.
I asked Heather about the filming process, given that Million Dollar Listing deals with their real-life businesses. “We film for about 10 months out of the year: we have to list the house, sell the house, get everyone on board to film, so it’s a bit of a process.” That process also takes into account normal ups and downs of the businesses, such as canceled sales.
“Houses don’t sell overnight so it’s a long production process, but they’re not with us every day, it’s a couple days a week and it’s not as invasive as other reality shows,” adds Heather. “They’re very respectful of us.” Heather also says home prices are not affected by the involvement of the show. “I wish,” she laughs. “I’d be able to pick up a lot more business that way!”
One change Heather hopes Bravo makes is including more female agents in the Million Dollar Listing franchise. Other than the very short-lived Miami series, Heather has been the only female agent consistently featured. “I loved when Sam [Million Dollar Listing: Miami] came on; she was authentic, she was powerful. There hasn’t been a prominent female agent on any of the seasons. I hope that, eventually, they’ll be bringing on more female agents – showing that we can do just as good, if not better, than the boys.”
Heather joked that, “Real estate always keeps you on your toes” and shared some of her craziest experiences. “I walked into a house with a buyer, and it was supposed to be vacant, but I walked into a porn photoshoot with feathery boas and sex toys. It was an older, dominatrix couple. It was very odd and uncomfortable,” she laughs.
In another crazy deal, Heather represented a seller who had no idea there was a hidden pool on their property. “During inspection we discovered that there was a pool under the house. It had been covered by decking. It actually worked out for the buyers because it increased their property value.”
Heather also gave her tips for what to avoid and what to look for when buying a property. Her top three tips are to focus on location, views, and a way to add square footage to increase property value. She also cautions against buying emotionally. Things to avoid include not buying single-family homes surrounded by businesses and condos, a home that backs up to a busy street, or has an alley behind it.
Heather’s other big passion, aside from real estate (and Josh), are their three rescue dogs. Josh rescued two of their dogs before he met Heather. In fact, his dogs are one of the reasons Heather fell in love with him. “We went hiking with his dogs when we first started dating and I saw how he babied these two little dogs.” Josh rescued one of his dogs from the side of the freeway and another in an alley! “He nursed them back to health. The funny thing is those are the first two dogs he’s ever had.” Since then Heather and Josh have also rescued a Yorkie. Heather dreams of a future where they have a “huge backyard with as many dogs as I could rescue.”
Heather are Josh actively involved in the Amanda Foundation, which offers free spaying and neutering throughout LA. They also support Angels On The Frontline, a charity which funds research for cervical cancer and HPV. “I’ve had a close call with cervical cancer, so it really touched me and made me want to get involved,” she shared. They also lend their support to Lupus LA.
In the future Heather hopes to parlay her love of fashion into open a boutique or stylist firm that focuses on the needs of professionals. Outside of the show and their dogs, Heather reveals the couple is very close to their families and she’s trying to convince her mom to move to LA to get her real estate license! Altman Brothers meets Bilyeu Women!
The most important thing Heather has learned from her experiences on Million Dollar Listing LA is to focus on the positive. “There’s moments I would have preferred not to be on TV, but it’s gotten me to where I am now and I’m grateful for it. You can’t go through life having regrets.”
Heather was great to talk to – very candid and open – and also truly passionate about real estate.
Million Dollar Listing LA returns September 2nd at 9/8c.
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