“I have a weird belief on money. I believe once your basic needs are met, it should be given away to help others.” This from Anthony Marguleas, who has translated this belief into action at Amalfi Estates, the independent agency in Pacific Palisades he founded in 1995. Every time a home is sold—which is often—10 percent of the commission is given to charity. “I enjoy helping people,” Marguleas says simply.
Since 2014, Amalfi Estates have given nearly $750,000 to charity
150 five-star client reviews across Yelp and Zillow
In 2017, Marguleas’ team was ranked at 143rd in the nation by REAL Trends/The Wall Street Journal for top teams by transaction volume, with $140 million in sales
On each sale, the client selects from one of five charities, each with a different focus, from homelessness and children to animals, health and the local community. “We don’t market ourselves as a real estate company,” he points out. “We’re a philanthropic company that happens to be experts in selling real estate.”
This contrarian bent shows up in almost everything Anthony Marguleas touches and happens to yield terrific results. For instance, he’s never worked at a residential brokerage firm (“I didn’t learn any bad habits,” he says with a laugh), yet his independent firm regularly racks up Best in Nation accolades and sales records.
“I’m not a salesperson,” says Marguleas, who’s nonetheless achieved over $1 billion dollars in sales during his career: “I’m analytical.” It’s a distinction that’s important, given the extent to which data gathering and analysis drive—and differentiate—his business.
“We do things quite differently.” This means having more structures and systems in place than other firms. Example: While the average agent might conduct one or two home inspections during a home purchase, an Amalfi agent will conduct seven or eight.
If common real estate wisdom says the slowest time of year to sell is winter, or the best time to sell is spring, “We question that,” says Anthony Marguleas. “We have some of our best months in December and January, as there are fewer competitive properties to compete with on the market.”
Likewise, he’ll recommend to his sellers not to sell when the market is soft or at the start of a recovery, and to be careful when buying when prices are close to the peak. Why? “Because it’s the truth,” he says.
I have a weird belief on money. I believe once your basic needs are met, it should be given away to help others.
Above, An award-winning architectural home on Old Topanga Canyon Road, designed by Sarah Graham and sold by Amalfi Estates; Below, Two scenes from an Amalfi Estates residential listing, on Charmel Lane in Pacific Palisades.
Giving back and investing in others comes in many forms for Marguleas, including passing his knowledge of real estate—and how to turn its existing conventions sideways—to others. To that end, he’s penned hundreds of articles, taught real estate at UCLA for the past 14 years and co-authored a book, California Real Estate Client Strategies.
“The real estate industry for 100 years has all been trained in very archaic methods,” says Anthony Marguleas. Door knocking. Cold calling.
Our industry is one of the last industries that’s being changed. There’s a lot of newer models that are coming out that are going to shake up our industry.
Getting the real estate community on board with giving back to the community is a change he’s happy to spearhead. While the average agent or firm gives maybe $50 to $100 per transaction, Anthony Marguleas notes, “Our agents give on average about $7,000.”
The difference translates into a real-world impact. His team funds five wishes a year (at about $10,000 per wish) for Make-A-Wish Foundation. They’ve annually paid to shelter 150 dogs up for adoption at spcaLA and each year, funded a week’s lodging for 130 cancer patients through the American Cancer Society. “We’ve been able to touch a lot of lives in a very short period, which we’re very excited about.”
984 Monument Street, Suite 105
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
310.293.9280 | amalfiestates.com
“In my belief, I think my path is pre-determined—and you know when you’re off your path.” Words of wisdom from a man who has reached fresh heights in a career that’s been years in the making, and powered by journeys in law, construction and real estate, along with exploring the globe—56 countries and counting—and playing professional soccer in Europe for Team USA at the tender age of 17.
It’s Scott Moore, founder and CEO of BBS Real Estate and a broker at Douglas Elliman, and these days he gets to be the visionary—pondering new development deals and enacting strategy from a wide-angle perspective—without being too entangled in the everyday minutiae of his firm, which finds promising investment properties, builds them out in high style and sells them to the highest bidder.
Anyone who has tasted hard-won success knows that such a position doesn’t come without having spent hours in often unglamorous trenches.
On the development side, Moore’s roles have included everything from general contractor and project manager to site supervisor and accounting controller. He even has his general contractors license, handy since BBS has an in-house construction arm. In real estate, it’s buying and selling.
“I’ve been able to see all aspects of the industry from different perspectives,” says the native Angeleno, who grew up in Brentwood and attended Pacific Palisades High School before heading to UC Santa Barbara and McGeorge School of Law.
Afterwards, he worked at an entertainment law firm in Beverly Hills, then transitioned to COO of the family’s business and wealth management firm, Financial Specialists, where he simultaneously ran the real estate division.
Developing properties from a 360-perspective gives Moore and his team an edge on producing cutting-edge homes primarily in Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica and Brentwood—an epicenter of low supply and endless demand that Moore calls “recession resistant dirt” for its ability to fare economic storms that flatten other markets.
After years of development, I started BBS because I can offer everything under one roof to buy, build, and sell in recession-resistant neighborhoods of Los Angeles.”
Among their current projects is 1325 Chautauqua in the Palisades, what Moore describes as “probably the most unique yet complicated build,” but also the most special due in part to its views, which stretch from Downtown L.A. to the mountains and shores of Malibu.
There’s a family friendly California home at 247 20th Street in Santa Monica—North of Montana in Gillette’s Regent Square, coveted for its large lots and wide, tree-lined streets—plus a sleek white Modernist abode they’re putting finishing touches on at 1634 Casal, in the exclusive Upper Riviera section of Pacific Palisades.
“It’s going to be a good ride,” says Moore, who recently joined forces with agent Ally Jaret to form Moore+Jaret Group, a specialty Westside real estate and development firm under the Douglas Elliman umbrella. It’s a lot of business to handle, and Moore welcomes it: “I act best under pressure,” he says, crediting his legal training with his “resolutionist” mindset and the ability to balance total immersion in projects and clients alongside a rational distance, “to make sure you’re providing the best advice.”
That and a strong team, including BBS managing partner Tony Ramsey—who oversees the construction arm of the business while Moore takes care of the buying and selling aspect—are making his effortful ride along new heights an enjoyable one. “I feel the most comfortable being in the space that I’m in now,” says Moore.
“After years of development, I started BBS because I can offer everything under one roof to buy, build, and sell in recession-resistant neighborhoods of Los Angeles. I’m where I’m supposed to be—and now I look forward to the next 20 years of business.”
Photograph Courtesy of Scott Moore
The creative streak that feeds Gerard Bisignano’s real estate acumen can be traced to a pivotal moment in his early teen years. “My dad was a war correspondent in Vietnam,” says the Palos Verdes native.
“On his last trip, which was his fourth, he walked into my bedroom and hands me the 35-millimeter camera that he was using in the jungle. ‘Here,’ he says. ‘This is yours.’”
Bisignano was 15 years old, and the gift sparked an attraction to photography that has persisted since then, and resulted in previous careers as a pro photographer and the owner of an agency that managed them.
When you work with a very successful client—you cannot sell them. All you can do is supply information, the information they want, and guide them through the decision-making process.”
These days the longtime agent is a partner at Vista Sotheby’s, where he’s also head of marketing. “I’m a lousy artist,” he laughs, “but I have a creative side to me, so photography helps express that. Even my marketing and passion for architecture comes from that creative base.” Being fluent in the art of visual language is a handy skill, particularly in real estate.
“We are such a visually driven society that we are keen on making sure that the images that I use, or the company uses, are impactful,” says Bisignano. “Every single photo that’s submitted for a Sotheby’s listing gets reviewed at the corporate level before being approved.”
That’s a lot of images, given the approximately 900 Sotheby’s offices worldwide. It’s a level of scrutiny that makes sense when one considers the brand’s cachet as well as its global reach, particularly in online marketing—a reach that Bisignano ranks as “unsurpassed.”
Another creative specialty that Bisignano has parlayed into real estate success is architecture. It’s a passion that started with a client who owned the Kaufmann Desert House, a 1946 Richard Neutra getaway in Palm Springs that’s considered one of the most shining examples of International Style architecture.
“I realized there was a whole artistic side to architecture that I hadn’t really begun to appreciate,” says Bisignano. From there he began representing architectural homes in the South Bay. Quite a few of them, including designs by Ray Kappe, Thom Mayne, Richard Neutra and Pierre Koenig.
The day we speak, Bisignano is listing another standout property: a $15.45 million oceanfront estate in Rancho Palos Verdes created by Richard Landry, known for designing sprawling star-studded properties, the likes of which snagged Robb Report’s Ultimate Home designation four years in a row.
Even in the hefty priced world of Beach Cities’ real estate, this listing is significant, but not a blue-moon occurrence for Bisignano. (A short time after we speak, he finalizes negotiations on a property in Rolling Hills that, when escrow closes, will represent the highest sale on record in Palos Verdes at just under $16 million.)
“He interviewed me by a recommendation and that was enough for him,” says Bisignano of the owner of the Landry listing.
“The fact that he’s trusting me with this enormous asset is very humbling.” It’s a trust that might be inspired by Bisignano’s style, which avoids traditional selling, per se, and often results in an exclusive client relationships that last for decades.
“When you work with a very successful client—you cannot sell them,” Bisignano says. “All you can do is supply information, the information they want, and guide them through the decision-making process.”
Photos: Courtesy of Gerard Bisignano
Vista Sotheby’s International Realty
16 Malaga Cove Plaza
Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274
310.990.4727 | coastalluxuryliving.com
In the late-1980s, Marco Rufo was a Boston transplant attending UCLA and working part-time as a limo driver. One of his steadiest clients was the head of a Japanese conglomerate. After about a year of driving the man, Rufo made his pitch: “‘Listen, I’m not just a limousine driver,’” he told him. “‘If I can help you in your business with real estate’—because he was buying huge properties—‘I would love to be involved.’”
Rufo is president elect of the Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors, and will serve as president in 2019.
He has minimum annual sales of $100 million.
A local Realtor with a global touch sells luxury homes and shapes policy
Marco Rufo is a Broker Associate with GRI and e-PRO designations, which are advanced certifications from the National Association of Realtors
Sold on the idea, the man brought the ambitious undergraduate into his firm. Within the next three years Rufo purchased and sold over a half-billion dollars in commercial real estate domestically and abroad. Office buildings. Hospitality properties. Golf courses. Not bad for a young upstart who hadn’t even received his degree. “We had a run of about 10 years,” says Rufo. “I learned a lot about business and I was involved in a high level of business interaction all over the world.”
Rufo went on to establish his own commercial firm in L.A. before turning his eye to residential real estate. After years of working in the commercial world, an indifferent place of corporate attorneys and boardrooms, selling homes to people captured his heart.
“I started experiencing residential and understanding how happy and wonderful selling real estate can be,” says Rufo, who after years of managing, buying and selling real estate firms on the Westside can be found at his office in Pacific Palisades where he sells luxury residences.
Much of the Rufo experience revolves around making sure clients have a deep understanding of every part of the transaction. “A lot of the time even savvy purchasers don’t understand the process,” he says. “What you get from my signature experience is that I will detail the process to you like it’s never been detailed before.”
The goal, he explains, is for a client to have an eagle-eyed sense of what they are transacting—which Rufo sees as much more than just land with a pretty house on it. “I think everything in the world revolves around real estate,” he points out. “We do what we do because of shelter, and providing for our families.”
Rufo, who was born in Rome and spent years in a global milieu during his commercial real estate years, is at home in Los Angeles with a diverse client base—many of them international buyers, often from Asia—who rely on him for a personal touch mixed with hard-nosed business acumen.
In addition to his duties as agent, Rufo is involved in real estate on the legislative side. There are posts at the local association of Realtors—he’s president elect of the Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors, and currently serves as its director—as well as at the California Association of Realtors (where he’s state-level director), and at the National Association of Realtors. “I am heavily involved in creating and molding the policies that are coming up,” says Rufo, who regularly heads to Sacramento and Washington DC as part of these groups. He acknowledges that this passion involves time away from family and business, but it’s a sacrifice he’s compelled to make on behalf of a greater purpose. “I do it because I care,” he states. “I’m trying to shape our industry for the highest level of professionalism and to protect homeowners.”
Written By: Constance Dunn
Photographs: Courtesy Of Marco Rufo
Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices
881 Alma Real Drive, Suite 100
Pacific Palisades, Ca 90272
310.488.6914 | Info@MarcoRrufo.Com
DIGS dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best real estate professionals. Market Influencer weaves a narrative journey about agents, entrepreneurs and influencers—and what drives them to succeed. This week we tell Cindy Ambuehl’s story, a social media maven & partner at The Agency.
[cs_divider divider_style=”zigzag” divider_backtotop=”no” divider_height=”1″]
Cindy Ambuehl, the LA real estate star points out the power of social media and the forever power of caring for your clients.
Cindy Ambuehl was already accustomed to high-profile success when she hit her stride as a real estate agent. “I had a 22-year run,” she says her former career in front of the camera. “I was very blessed as a sitcom actress, then I ended on JAG for three years. It was fabulous. But while they were all taking their studio bonuses and buying matching motorcycles and jet skies and Aston Martins, I was out buying real estate.” Ambuehl credits her pragmatic streak to a modest upbringing in Orange County with a police officer father and housewife mother. “I was raised that the simple things in life are the important things. I didn’t need all that to make me happy.”
Nowadays, Ambuehl is partner at The Agency and sells top-tier real estate mainly on the Westside, where she creates much of her business due to a robust social network. “My clients seem to hug Sunset Boulevard,” she says with a chuckle, referring to the ultra-luxe corridor running from Malibu to Beverly Hills.
When clients are following my stories and my posts—I do funny videos with my kids and my husband—people feel like they know me. It creates a feeling of familiarity and trust.
Much of her approach to real estate involves a smart melding of new and time-tested practices. “In 2018, it’s done differently and we love that,” she says, referring to the practical benefits of technology. In the process, she points out, sometimes the focus gets blurred on a real estate agent’s most important function—to help shepherd one’s client through an important, often deeply personal purchase. Don’t let that happen is her advice, particularly to newer agents. “Don’t ever attach yourself to the outcome, because then you’re not honoring the process that gets you there,” she notes. “If you honor the process, the outcome will happen.” The process in this case: “Caring for our clients, period.”
Ambuehl’s media acumen can be seen in one of her current listings, a glossy Brentwood showcase. Listed at just under $11 million, and a few minutes north of Sunset on North Tigertail Road, the home has piqued the interest of pop-rock royalty Justin Bieber, who Ambuehl hosted a showing for in early May. The Los Angeles Times pointed out its “It” factor when they listed it as Home of The Week. Much of this is documented on her Instagram feed, along with her live clips from the fun shindig thrown to premiere the home.
Cultivating client relationships is where Ambuehl shines. Her nearly 40,000 social media followers get to know her via frequent postings spanning real estate business, travels and a full and animated home life that includes her husband, actor Don Diamonte, and their seven boys. “Social media gives buyers the chance to put a personality to the name,” she says. “When clients are following my stories and my posts—I do funny videos with my kids and my husband—people feel like they know me. It creates a feeling of familiarity and trust.” Social media was a tool she was initially egged on to use by her sons, and her faith in its business value was cemented when a single post led to a referral from Dallas and a subsequent sale. “He saw one of my posts and within 21 days I had sold the guy a $10 million house.”
DIGS dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best real estate professionals. Market Influencer weaves a narrative journey about agents, entrepreneurs and influencers—and what drives them to succeed. This week we tell Alex Abad’s story, a top producer in El Segundo.
The South Bay’s homegrown entrepreneur talks about the rise of El Segundo and the real meaning of real estate success
Alex Abad was well into adulthood when he selected real estate as his ambitious next act. “It was something I always wanted to do,” says the entrepreneurial Abad, who joined South Bay Brokers in 2005 after selling off majority control of his multi-million dollar janitorial company, which he had built from scratch with his wife and a $5,000 credit card. “We had established ourselves as a very elite company that provided an extremely high level of service,” says Abad, who still owns a stake in the firm. “That carried with me over to real estate.”
Soon after joining South Bay Brokers (since merged with Vista Sotheby’s International Realty), Abad was charged with opening a Hermosa Beach office with colleague Nick Schneider. He then opened another office for them in El Segundo. With the move to El Segundo came a homecoming of sorts and a planting of his flag in what would become the center of his business.
El Segundo, after all, was where his father had worked not long after bringing his family from Argentina in the late 1960s. As a child growing up in the South Bay, Alex spent many happy days doing what South Bay boys do—surfing and hanging out on the beach.
Even after switching real estate firms in 2013—the year that Abad joined Palm Realty Boutique—he stayed focused on El Segundo. From his brick-front office located in the center of the still-charmed town, Abad’s been active not just in real estate but in shaping the town’s future too. In addition to being its high-profile booster, he is a member of EDAC, the town’s Economic Development Advisory Council, along with being former chairman of the El Segundo Education Foundation.
In recent years, the town has blossomed to heights few could predict, and Abad is more than pleased. “In the last couple of years,” he reports, “we’ve had over 170 companies come to El Segundo.” Many of them are in tech or production and seeking sharp-looking creative spaces blessed with El Segundo’s close proximity to the airport, along with other plum bonuses that come with the location.
“The main reasons why a lot of individuals and companies are intrigued with El Segundo,” says Abad, “is the quality of education, the quality of life and the business-friendly atmosphere that El Segundo provides along this amazing coastal corridor.”
News on the residential side might have you kicking yourself for not scooping up that $500,000 charmed shack you were eyeing 10 years ago. Inventory is low and prices are soaring. “There’s an average of eight to 11 single-family homes at any given time,” says Abad. “This makes it extremely competitive for buyers, who find themselves often dealing with multiple offers on any given home.”
Scarce inventory is not unusual in the South Bay, but demand has stepped up with the number of new companies coming to town—which means, prices are rising at the pace of a turbo-charged elevator. “In 2016 the median price home in El Segundo was about $950,000,” says Abad. “In 2018 it’s roughly $1.4 million. This growth has made El Segundo the city with the fastest increasing land value in California for 2017.”
It’s a wave Abad has been riding with ease. After all, he was that kid with a penchant for making others happy, and in business, the entrepreneurial self-starter with no qualms about rolling up his sleeves to get a job done. It’s a lifetime of experience that makes for a clear-eyed assessment of what his current vocation is really about: “I start every day by being extremely grateful for everything I have,” says Abad.
Then a challenge: “How can I do a better job today?” It’s a mentality that Abad adapted from his earliest work history—to perpetually bring forth an increased level of service, with the goal of being the go-to guy. In the South Bay’s sea of agents, how does one even stand out, much less be selected as the right one for the job? Being highly knowledgeable, likable and reliable are good places to start, he says, “If I’m chosen it means I’m trusted—and to be trusted is the greatest reward you can have in this business.”
Palm Realty Boutique
201 W Grand Ave, El Segundo, CA 90245
310.877.6488 | alexabadrealestate.com
Written by Constance Dunn | Photography Courtesy of Alex Abad
DIGS dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best real estate professionals. Market Influencer weaves a narrative journey about agents, entrepreneurs and influencers—and what drives them to succeed. This week we tell James Respondek’s story, an A-lister agent at Sotheby’s International Realty.
James Respondek, the A-lister muses on a nearly four-decade real estate career—starting when a fixer-upper could still be had in the Palisades for $200,000
James Respondek was 18 years old when he made his first real estate transaction for the princely sum of $5,000. “I rode up on the back of a friend’s motorcycle, up to this little subdivision,” he recounts. “We looked around, and I found a lot. The real estate agent said, ‘Why don’t you buy it?’ and I said, ‘How can I?’ and he said, ‘Well, just give me a $20 deposit and go back and figure it out.’” Respondek did, and a few years later sold it for a $3000 profit. It felt good.
“Real estate had always been appealing,” says Respondek, who made his career choice official in 1979 when he got his license, settled into the Westside and started selling homes. It was a time when the MLS was available only in print, computers were hardly mainstream and national cell phone service was still a glint in a developer’s eyes. “When I first started,” says Respondek, “the first computer was a matrix line computer in the back of the office that peeled off listings.”
Nowadays, if one is looking at the high-luxe real estate in coastal communities from Malibu to Marina del Rey, and inland to Bel Air, it very well might be listed by Respondek. It’s the seasoned agent’s home turf, with the core of his business located in Pacific Palisades, where he’s had offices since the 1980s. “The Palisades is just a great bedroom community,” he says. “It’s a great family area.”
He’s particularly positive on Palisades Village, developer Rick Caruso’s 125,000-square-foot development that will bring over 50 shops and eateries to Sunset Boulevard and Swarthmore Avenue this summer, along with a reconfigured Bay Theater. “It’s going to give the Village a fabulous facelift,” says Respondek. “As charming as it was, it was kind of tired from an architectural and amenities standpoint. This is going to be a huge plus.”
Ask Respondek if he, decades ago, could imagine the run-up of prices in his market and his answer is swift: “No. Never.” But price prophecies are a tricky thing, he says. The moment you’re sure the sky’s the limit, you might get hit with an unexpected downturn. And vice versa. “As soon as you say, ‘It can’t go up anymore’—it goes up some more.” His advice? “Stay open and let the market flow.”
It’s counsel coming from a learned place, considering Respondek has been witness to a sea change in local real estate since starting out nearly 40 years ago. “The [Malibu] Colony was still relatively cheap,” he recalls. “You could get a little fixer-upper in the Palisades for under $200,000.”
A lifestyle change that Respondek muses might be coming to the market in the next couple of years relates to the size of homes, challenging the concept that “bigger is better.” “People might put less emphasis on the size of a property,” he points out, instead placing greater weight on ease-of-living variables such as efficiency, comfort and being within convenient proximity to everyday destinations. “The mega square-footage thing is nice,” he says, “but it’s just more stuff to take care of.”
In a business not known for lacking in competition and hungry newcomers, Respondek has kept his place on top by staying engaged in his market. “You have to stay active,” he says. Spot emerging trends. Have good product knowledge. “Always be looking at property and keep your ear to the ground with what’s going on—who’s selling what and who’s buying what.” Anything else? “Some of [success] is probably going to be an innate intuition, talent, and gift of the gab.” For Respondek, who has transacted over $1 billion during his career so far, there’s also the visceral excitement that comes with striking a deal. “When you get a deal and it falls together—that’s exciting,” he says. It’s a rush that’s not abated for him since the day he hopped on the back of a motorcycle and bought his first property with a $20 bill. “It’s probably more exciting to me than getting the check.”
310.255.5411 | jamesrespondek.com
DIGS dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best real estate professionals. Market Influencer weaves a narrative journey about agents, entrepreneurs and influencers—and what drives them to succeed. This week we tell Ed Kaminsky’s story, a top 100 producer in the South Bay.
It was the mid-1980s when Ed Kaminsky, a transplant from Ohio who was working in the jewelry business, decided to try his hand in real estate. It was a good time to get involved, doubly so if you were a hardworking, up-from-the-bootstraps type accustomed to the long hours of retail and intent on grand success, despite not having a college degree or any personal contacts in the business.[/cs_dropcap]
“I came in as naked as I could be,” recounts Kaminsky some 30 years later. A mainstay of luxury real estate in the South Bay who sells over 100 properties a year (top producing agent at Strand Hill, Christie’s International 2017, and Trendgraphix’s top agent in the Beach Cities are among his awards), Kaminsky employs a team of 10 and is engaged in businesses beyond selling properties.
The South Bay is extremely ripe for significant appreciation over the next 10 years. I say that because of the amount of job growth that is happening in Playa Vista and areas like that with the tech industry. It’s heavily influencing this market.”
“I don’t run around and call myself an entrepreneur,” says Kaminsky. But it fits. “I work for myself,” he adds. “I create revenue streams with different companies, and that’s what an entrepreneur is.”
Staying on top for decades requires more than just smarts and dedication. A knack for knowing what’s coming around the corner and how to properly optimize it continues to be essential to Kaminsky’s success. The state of the local market, for instance, has him bullish, and jobs are the prime reason.
“The South Bay is extremely ripe for significant appreciation over the next 10 years,” says Kaminsky. “I say that because of the amount of job growth that is happening in Playa Vista and areas like that with the tech industry. It’s heavily influencing this market.”
Twine that with an increase in the quality of education in the South Bay, particularly in Beach Cities, where star-school status is spreading beyond Manhattan Beach to increased rankings in neighboring communities like Redondo Beach. “You’re seeing a strong buyer demand for the other Beach Cities that were not always as sought after as Manhattan Beach has been in the last 10 or 15 years.”
Education has been a draw for moneyed global buyers, mostly from China, who in recent years have been coming in large numbers to the local area, particularly Palos Verdes. Kaminsky notes this trend has hit a snag of late due to difficulties some of these buyers face moving their funds out of their native country. “It’s slowed the pace down quite a bit.”
Real estate trends that go beyond the South Bay? Connection. Shorter commutes. Walkability.
“People are less interested in commuting very far to work, and having a sense of community—shops, restaurants, coffee places, within a short distance—it’s becoming incredibly important in every community in the U.S. right now,” says Kaminsky. Another tendency in the local luxury market that has Kaminsky “a bit nervous” is the expectation of buyers when it comes to style and design.
“Buyers are walking into homes expecting a certain look today,” says Kaminsky. It’s an expectation built on television’s flurry of home flipping and real estate programs that show even modest homes as sleek, contemporary hubs packed with the latest bells and whistles. “Not every house is going to fit that shape and color that television, or friends, are trying to portray,” says Kaminsky, noting that it’s made it a challenge to sell homes that don’t fit this bill aesthetically.
Surely Kaminsky will find a way to capitalize. “I’m constantly looking for problems and creating solutions for the problems. Competitive desire fires the idea. Delivering on the service is what creates the results.” Case in point: His company SportStar Relocation, which handles moving duty for pro athletes, was initially based on Kaminsky’s desire to have a bigger slice of the burgeoning sports market. How to accomplish it? Provide something that no one else is; in this case, an all-around concierge service.
“Become insanely educated about everything in your marketplace.” “Deliver more than what is expected from your clients.” These orient Kaminsky’s work ethic, which he’s driven at a dogged pace for decades, broken for hours devoted to family (Kaminsky is a grandfather of two and a father of two daughters with his wife Cindy) and small pleasures.
“My favorite experience is to drive up to the top of the crest of Manhattan Beach Boulevard,” says Kaminsky, who’s been a Manhattan Beach resident for nearly 20 years. “You see the downtown district. You see the pier. You see the Pacific Ocean. You see it on a clear day with blue skies and I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful or welcoming than that view.”
Kaminsky Real Estate Group
440 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, CA, 90254
310.798.1277 | itzsold.com
Written by Constance Dunn | Photography by Kieron McKay
As a young boy growing up in Los Angeles, in a family of modest means, real estate entrepreneur Aaron Kirman used to ride his bike to an upscale neighborhood in the Valley just to glimpse all of the expensive homes for sale. He also begged his parents to take him to open houses. Despite suffering from severe learning disabilities—including dyslexia and a speech impediment that prevented him from saying the letter “R”—he entered the real estate ranks at age 18 while attending USC and never looked back.
Fast-forward to today, and the 39-year-old is one of the most successful real estate agents not only in L.A., where he is based, but across the globe as well, amassing an exclusive client roster rife with CEOs, celebrities and royalty, selling $3.5 billion in homes to date. He also appears regularly on CNBC’s Secret Lives of the Super Rich, and was named the 12th top real estate agent in the U.S. by The Wall Street Journal in 2016. Here, Kirman, president of Aaroe Estates, the luxury property division of the John Aaroe Group, divulges to DIGS how he got into real estate, his personal abodes, the secret of his success and more.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE REAL ESTATE BUSINESS?
I put myself through college selling real estate. When other kids were in school and partying, I was working and obsessed with real estate and doing deals. I fell into a cool niche selling architectural homes by R.M. Schindler and John Lautner, and people started to recognize my name. Then I was an executive and ran the architectural division at Hilton & Hyland for about nine years, and shifted into the estate division at John Aaroe Group about five years ago. Now, we have the largest market share of the most expensive homes in country.
WHAT IS YOUR REAL ESTATE FOCUS NOW?
It just continues to grow with some of the country’s most expensive estates. We recently sold the Danny Thomas estate for $65 million, which was the second-highest sale in Beverly Hills. I now have about $650 million in active inventory. We have five estates above $50 million; I like to specialize in uber-high-priced and very unique homes. I’m also working on building my team, which has been a fun challenge. We have about 30 on our team. I’ve been selling solo for many years, and now have the dynamics of a team. I like to call them my kids, even though some are 60 years old. I like to watch their careers grow; it’s been inspiring for me. They need me, and my portfolio and contacts, and I can teach them.
TELL ME ABOUT SOME OF THE HOMES YOU HAVE IN YOUR INVENTORY RIGHT NOW. Some of my actives include the Edie Goetz estate in Bel Air for $79 million (where the socialite lived and hosted extravagant parties), and an $85 million mansion in Beverly Hills that both Cher and Eddie Murphy lived in at one time. From there, I have a stunning $60 million compound on the ocean that was in a TV show and has been leased by some of top celebrities in the country, and a gorgeous, uber-modern $49 million house owned by fashion designer Charles Park of Sugarlips. I also have a bunch of beautiful moderns priced from $20 million. I still love listing some of my old stuff, like a beautiful [Richard] Neutra in Hollywood Hills. It has significant architecture, and I’m looking for the right buyer who’s going to restore it.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE MOST MEMORABLE PERSONALITIES YOU’VE WORKED WITH?
I’ve worked with sheiks from the Middle East, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia; celebrities from Orlando Bloom to Rihanna to Nicki Minaj; and fashion designers like Jeremy Scott. Everyone is so interesting, and they all have a unique story. What’s fun is the diversity, from royalty to celebrities to CEOs to just ordinary people. I also love helping my friends buy their houses and seeing the growth of some of my friends. I’ve represented some friends who were buying starter homes 20 years ago and now they’re in $15 million houses.
IS THERE ONE TYPE OF ARCHITECTURE THAT PARTICULARLY APPEALS TO YOU? I’m personally a big fan of Mid-Century homes. Houses done in the 1960s, and sometimes ’50s, were so advanced and ahead of their time, with walls of glass and indoor-outdoor spaces. Some of those architects were masters at figuring out the right house to put on the right site. Lately, I’ve been a fan of transitional architecture, where you have a traditional style and more modern interiors. I’ve seen a lot of that during my travels in Europe.
WHAT IS THE HOT AREA RIGHT NOW?
Los Angeles is the hottest real estate market on the planet; it’s crazy how hot our market is. There is so much wealth all over and so many people from across the globe—from Europe, Asia and the East Coast—are pouring money here. L.A. is hotter than New York and other markets that used to be bigger. We have some of the most expensive sales in the world right now in Bel-Air, Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills. The price increases we’ve seen to date are astronomical. We have had four sales of about $100 million, and that’s crazy. We never would have been close to demanding those dollar amounts 10 years ago. It’s amazing, and it’s only going to go up. L.A. is cheap, according to the world market. You get so much bang for your buck here for whatever your budget is: more land and space, and that’s what’s driving our market to be so good.
WHAT ARE THE MOST VALUABLE AMENITIES PEOPLE ARE SEEKING?
One is privacy, which is the most important desire for people with wealth, and the second is grounds or view. We have sold homes with almost every amenity possible—from theater-sized media rooms to wine cellars that could hold 80,000 bottles—but, primarily, people want land, privacy and a view.
DESCRIBE YOUR DREAM PROPERTY?
I sell really big, gorgeous, opulent homes…and I like simple, beautiful homes. I live in a high-rise, and I just bought a house in Beverly Hills with walls of glass. It’s a modern house with a pool, great indoor-outdoor flow and an open floor plan, and it’s great for entertaining and living a happy life. I personally don’t have a desire to live in a huge house, although I do love to sell them.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR HOME?
I love my master bedroom; it’s my retreat—my space where I have my privacy and my time alone. There’s nothing like being able to go home and rest in your room at night. In my high-rise, I love my view. I’m on a high floor and can see the entire city—from Downtown to Century City—and that’s also pretty great.
WHAT DOES LUXURY MEAN TO YOU?
Being able to live the life I choose to live. That doesn’t necessarily come in the form of material objects. I’m blessed to have pretty much any material object I desire, but it really means to live a great life and to spend time with friends and family, to eat well, and to travel and see the world. I live a very wonderful life that is well-rounded, and I’m proud of that. It’s not easy to do that at the level of real estate I do. I take time for family, friends and myself.
TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR SUCCESS?
In general, successful people are very strategic; you have to be. You have to be ahead of the curve, and able to make the curve. You have to be creative. Successful people don’t want to follow the pack, but they have to be ahead of the pack. Strategic alliances, partnerships and team work also are important. Marketing and advertising are super important as well. Even print; people say print is dead, but I disagree. People still love to read, and that’s what sells. Tech is uber-important in the national and international world; we’re spending more energy and money on that. Social media is super important, and continuing to develop contacts and the networks we have. Taking time to tell stories about the properties and clients, even ourselves, is important. I always like progressing and finding bigger and better ways to do something.
WHAT’S YOUR BEST PIECE OF REAL ESTATE ADVICE?
The world has changed, and it’s a really competitive business. But, if someone wants to get in it, they need to be passionate and prepared to work super hard and find what is going to make them different so they will stand out from the crowd. The main piece of advice is you should specialize in something and be unique, and if you do that, you will have a great chance at success. For me, I like to tell the story of someone with a modest upbringing who had challenges growing up, and for the grace of God and luck, has sold $3.5 billion of homes to some of the most famous people in the world. I like people to know that they can do whatever they want to do with hard work. It’s not always based on who you know and having a privileged background. I look back and I’m super grateful, and sometimes I pinch myself and say, ‘Wow, I did it.” But I always knew I would and I feel like we’ve just begun. I’m not sure where we’re going, but we’re just beginning.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING WHEN YOU AREN’T WORKING?
I love to travel and explore the world, and I mediate every day. I love dinners with friends; I just spent a Sunday by the pool with lots of friends. I love to be by the water, whether it’s a pool or the beach. I also love to bike ride. I just like to live.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR YOU?
We’re doing a lot of TV these days. I’m a spokesperson for CNBC’s Secret Lives of the Super Rich. I love getting interviewed on TV about where the market is and where we’re going. I also love building a team that’s already one of the most knowledgeable and successful in the country, and getting bigger and better every day. I’d like to expand our market share. We have the best inventory in L.A. and abroad, but I would like to develop more international and national alliances.
Photography Courtesy of Matthew Momberger and Michael McNamara