Graham Stephan has been a millionaire for a few years now. But until recently, he wasn't living like one.
The real estate agent-turned-YouTuber, who has more than 3.4 million followers on his main channel and is on track to earn $6 million this year, majorly upgraded his living situation when he moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in December of last year.
Stephan, a born-and-raised Angelino, decided to leave California during the beginning of the Covid pandemic lockdowns last year. While stuck at home, he had doubled down on his YouTube channel because he couldn't do real estate work anymore and decided that he wanted more space than his 700-square-foot duplex could give him.
While on a trip to Las Vegas to visit a friend who had just moved into a new housing development 20 minutes from the strip, Stephan learned that a yet-to-be-completed home next door was for sale.
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"We're really good friends and we do a lot of work together," Stephan tells CNBC Make It of the appeal of moving to the same complex. "And I could buy this house and we could live next to each other."
He closed on the four-bedroom, 3,900-square-foot home in summer 2020 for $1.44 million with a 15% down payment. However, because Stephan acted as his own agent and collected a 3% fee, he ended up laying out just $172,000 out of pocket. His monthly payment is $5,075 on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.
Because the house was in a brand new development and was still under construction, Stephan made his decision based off of digital renderings, saying he "took a leap of faith that it was going to turn out well."
"I really had no idea what the floor was going to look like, what the kitchen was going to look like or anything like that," he says.
What he did know was that the layout of the house was "perfect" for his growing team and had plenty of room for an office and podcast studio, as well as an extra bedroom that would allow his assistant to move in with him and help him run his five YouTube channels. Previously, Stephan had created his YouTube videos out of a garage office with no air conditioning.
And despite the seven-figure price tag, Stephan feels like he "got a really good deal" on the home.
"Since [closing on the house], property values in this community have gone up 15 to 20%," he says. "A lot of people are moving to Las Vegas, and I don't see that demand stopping any time soon."
When it came to furnishing his home, Stephan didn't cut any corners. He spent about $100,000 on furniture and artwork, including a massive neon sign with his "Smash The Like Button" slogan, as well as an $80,000 piano that he bought used for $16,000.
The centerpiece of the house is the 310-gallon aquarium that sits in the entryway. Stephan has so far invested $45,000 in the tank, equipping it with high-end water filters and lighting equipment and filling it with fish, shrimp and coral. It's also home to around 50 hermit crabs and 70 snails.
While he once worked on videos in his garage, Stephan now has a dedicated office that includes an exact replica of his original set that still sits in Los Angeles. In order to keep complete continuity between his videos during the move, he even got another aviator wing desk and T-Rex skull.
Stephan also spent an additional $115,000 on an outdoor pool and hot tub, as well as landscaping his backyard.
In Las Vegas, he is enjoying more than just the extra space. He says that escaping L.A.'s infamous gridlock has been a massive quality-of-life improvement.
"I love the fact that there's absolutely no traffic in Las Vegas and that I can leave somewhere on a Friday at 5 p.m. and it doesn't take me two hours to go five or six miles," Stephan says. "And the culture here is incredible. The food is amazing. Anything you want is within a 20-minute drive."
When most people think of Las Vegas, their minds immediately go to the gambling and shows on the strip, Stephan says, but he has found peace in the desert.
"Las Vegas has really turned into such a nice, supportive, friendly community," he says. "When you go off the strip you realize it's a totally different lifestyle than people conceptualize."
Nevada's lack of a state income tax doesn't hurt either.
"I'm saving 13.3% [on taxes] by living here," Stephan says. "That leaves me more money left over that I can reinvest elsewhere."
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