Luis D Ortiz left Puerto Rico with his twin brother at 16 years old to make his fortune.
Within a decade, the runaway teen was selling high-end real estate in New York.
He became a multi-millionaire property mogul and a reality television star on a show about the high-pressure, high-paying, high-adrenaline life of the Big Apple's cutthroat top-end real estate brokers, reports News.com.au.
And then, at the top of his game, he walked away.
The 31-year-old former star of Million Dollar Listing New York has done millions of dollars of property deals, but only ever rents the places he lives in.
"I have personally always rented," says the man who has stitched up property deals for everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Marc Anthony.
"I believe that sometimes owning things means that things end up owning you," says Ortiz.
"I'm not saying renting is right or wrong — but it's the way it worked for me.
"The way I live my life, I want the ability of mobility. I want to have the ability to make a decision at short notice and act upon it."
"But then again there's the question of renting and buying — can you buy investment properties? That's a different thing.
"I have a lot of investment properties that I renovated and sold for profit. Those are different kinds of purchases."
'IS IT WORTH IT?'
In 12 years in New York selling to the rich, and the impossibly rich, the superstar real estate agent saw clients hamstrung by a place they couldn't sell when they wanted to.
"If a place became unsellable for them, it became a big obstacle and a huge barrier because of an idea or a fantasy they had," he says.
"And because they couldn't get rid of that apartment, they ended up selling it at a loss or missing an opportunity. Their dream was either lost, or squashed."
Luis would wonder if it was worth it.
"My point is, is having the house worth more than the ability to move quickly and change yourself, to not be attached to something in particular?
"For me, personally, renting is freedom.
"If I rent I can easily decide I want to move to Paris tomorrow."
Which is exactly what Luis did in 2016 when he hit pause on more than decade of wheeling and dealing in multimillion-dollar figures and quit real estate, and the show which catapulted his already stellar real estate career into the stratosphere.
He abandoned the lot. And went to live in Paris.
'I CHOSE HAPPINESS'
Ortiz and his brother left Puerto Rico the day after Luis finished school.
They aren't really clear on what they wanted, but they knew what they didn't, and were feeling suffocated at home.
They told their parents they were going to the beach, and instead hopped on a plane to Florida.
Luis left a note for his parents saying: "If I don't do this, how do I know if it's going to work or not?"
He got his answer. The USA worked a treat for him.
In 2006, he moved to New York City to study film directing, and won accolades as a young director at Cannes. Then he fell into real estate — ironically, to pay the rent.
He started out selling rentals, but his energy, confidence and quick-wittedness fast saw him rise through a string of boutique real estate brokerages.
When Million Dollar Listing New York came calling in 2013, he was ready.
He was young, rich, brash, and successful and the high-end clients were rolling in faster than ever thanks to his new-found TV fame.
And then he realised he'd spent 12 years chalking up milestones and the next big deal, but something was missing.
"I realised that for 12 years I was in a hurry. I was going somewhere even though I didn't know where I was going," he says.
"We go at life doing everything we can to try to succeed. And sometimes we don't even know why we do it.
"I never asked myself if I was happy doing what I was doing because in the eyes of the world and people around me I was successful and I was doing well as far as money was concerned.
"So there was nothing wrong. It was like, 'If it ain't broke, why fix it?'
"And one day, I realised there was something about my day to day that wasn't the same.
"In the last couple of years, sometimes I had to force myself to go to meetings, respond to calls.
"When I finally asked myself, was what I was doing making me happy, the answer was very clear. I wasn't.
"I had become defined by what I was doing and I was a slave to the perception created around me by success, media, television. I was no longer in control and that was the one thing that had got me to where I was."
He took control. He left real estate — and the show. And headed to Paris.
Scary? Yes, but "it was the only thing to do".
"We should be more scared of the life we will not see if we choose not to leave what is comfortable to us than the things we will lose if we do so," he says.
Basing himself in France and spending a year travelling on and off, he got to know himself better.
"I didn't find what I am looking for, but I did find the understanding that what I'm looking for constantly changes," he says.
"I am a very happy person. More content. More aware, Little bit more wisdom. And I'm in much less of a hurry now. I'm not in a hurry at all."
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM LUIS
The man who spent 12 years of wheeling and dealing in the world's toughest real estate market will be in Australia next month to share some stories.
He'll be here with two other stars of the reality property franchise, Josh and Matt Altman, speaking at a big bucks seminar, Million Dollar Evening.
He'll give his thoughts on real estate, the show and a few life lessons.
He hasn't studied the Australian market in great detail, but knows enough to understand that some pockets — like Sydney with its struggle for housing affordability and skyrocketing prices — are similar to New York.
"In New York in 2008 and 2009 after the [share market] crash, prices became cheap and it was easy for people to buy," he says.
"It was a new trend, which was new development, and developers were buying, using big-name architects for big dollars.
"In 2013 a lot of foreign money was being parked in New York and prices were just jumping like crazy.
"Eventually you started to see these developments were cheaply built, there was nothing valuable about it.
"Now you realise you buy something for a million today, you maybe sell it for $1.2 in five years, and once you roll in brokers fees and things, you lost money."
Luis will share market trends, marketability and branding products and how to sell a property at a better price, but he will also talk about life lessons he has learnt after more than a year away from real estate, travelling, even spending 10 days in silence at a meditation program.
"This time there are other factors that are more relatable. I will speak about the show, and the reasons I succeeded in business — and it had little to do with a business education or experience," he says.
LOVED UP LUIS
Luis will then return to Los Angeles, which he's now calling home (renting of course) to reignite his passion for film directing, and to star in his own, yet to be announced, reality show.
The incurable romantic — who on Million Dollar Listing struggled to find true love — will also spend time with his new love interest, who he met four months ago.
"We are taking it slow," says the man no longer in a hurry.
"It's the first time in 10 years I've been attracted to someone so much. Nikita and I are very intellectually connected and I like that," he says.