The Afghan native was once a professional breakdancer

By Jeff Nelson
July 08, 2015 07:15 PM
Andrew Eccles/Bravo

Bravo’s smash Million Dollar Listing series is launching its latest franchise, San Francisco, Wednesday night.

PEOPLE caught up with one of its stars, Roh Habibi, who goes head-to-head against fellow real estate agents Justin Fichelson and Andrew Greenwell as the show explores splashy Bay Area and Silicon Valley properties.

Here’s five things to know about the rising real estate star.

1. He’s living the American Dream
The son of a successful businessman and a schoolteacher, Habibi was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. Due to turmoil caused by the Soviet-Afghan War, his family had to flee their home in 1985 – escaping to neighboring Pakistan with sherpas on donkeys before ending up in the Bay Area.

“We definitely went through some tough times. I think any foreigner does when you’re starting a brand new life: you don’t know the language, and all your expertise and education you did back home doesn’t translate over here,” says Habibi, whose mom pursued cosmetology in the U.S. while his dad worked labor-intensive jobs.

Habibi, now 31, grew up on government programs like Section 8 housing and food stamps, and says he didn’t realize his family went without until he grew up. However, he says his parents’ sacrifice is his main motivation today.

“We were just like all the other kids, asking for the newest shoes and clothes. It was very hard for them to provide that kind of stuff, and we didn’t understand we didn’t have any money,” says Habibi. “I didn’t realize it until later because I was a young kid – I didn’t realize what type of a sacrifice they truly made.”

2. He’s only been in real estate for three years
Habibi’s life wasn’t always consumed by listings. He originally studied international business and went to grad school to become a Certified Financial Planner. (In other words, he was working with stock investments and in asset management, but decided to leave despite a more-than-comfortable salary.

“I just found that I was going into the office too many days unhappy because I’m not a big money guy,” says Habibi. “So after a while, I just felt like: If I’m gonna be spending 70 to 80 hours in the office, it would be wise for me to do something that’s a little bit more beneficial to my feeling of fulfillment in life.”

Three years on the job, “I enjoy the fact that I’m helping people start their lives, build their lives in the tangible asset that they get to actually enjoy for a very long time.”

3. He’s a family man
Habibi has been with his wife, Shugufa, for nine years, and the pair welcomed their 9-month-old daughter, Zahra, right before Million Dollar Listing San Francisco began filming.

Although he’s able to give his daughter more than he had growing up, “I want her to be a very well-rounded individual,” says Habibi, who plans to send her to public school.

“I want her to understand the other aspects of life for the people that really don’t have anything.”

4. He had no hesitations about sharing his religion (he’s Orthodox Muslim) on the show
Habibi isn’t shy about his religious beliefs, and hopes his role on the show will give viewers another perspective on Islam.

“From what I’ve seen from the past is there’s a big sense of Islamophobia going on in the nation, and people feel like Islam is the boogieman, whereas it’s not,” says Habibi.

“[MDLSF] gives me a good opportunity to show people: Look, this is a young Afghan-American that lives here in the States, that is a high-level real estate broker, that has a family, that works, that has fun, that laughs and enjoys life – and just so happens to be Muslim.

“For me, just to be able to show people that Islam is just another religion is pretty cool.”

5. He used to be a professional breakdancer
Habibi began breakdancing in college when he started a club to foster urban arts like rap and dance on campus. The pastime brought him all over the world – from London to Dubai – and the real estate agent shows off some of his slick moves in the season premiere!

“It was a really cool time in my life and a great opportunity to meet a lot of fun and interesting people and express myself and let my personality shine through dance,” says Habibi.

Million Dollar Listing San Francisco premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo.