As told to Danielle Accovelli
Photography by Andrew Kraus
South Bay native Shawn Dugan certainly knows a thing or two about making a successful sale, having been raised in a family of real estate investors. With his client-driven philosophy and local and international approach to marketing, Dugan has focused his expertise on e Strand, becoming one of the top agents in the area.
Here, the real estate expert shares with DIGS his market knowledge, secrets for success and passion for the South Bay lifestyle.
How did you get your start in real estate? Have you always wanted to work in the industry?
There was a dual purpose behind how I got started, but to be honest, it was not a career I had dreamt about my whole life. I had graduated from UCSD at the same time that my parents needed to sell a couple of their properties. They figured they would be able to save on commissions, and I could get a real-world education if I got my license and handled the sales myself. Well, that’s exactly what happened, and the value I gained from that experience far exceeded the commission they saved. I’m grateful I got that push so early in life. I have to say that I owe my success to the way I first started my business. My first sales were for my family; same thing for my first leases and vacation rentals. I treat my clients the same way I treat my own family. There’s a lot of love there, and a lot of mindfulness to make sure you’re doing the right things. With that approach, success always follows. Personally, I feel it’s important to make sure I do all the things I’m passionate about. Those include spending time with my family, my love for surfing and travel, and my work. So, I think that’s also one of the keys to success for me, finding a healthy balance and prioritizing my life around that balance.
What is your secret to success in the industry?
Well, I don’t think there is any one secret, but there are some key ingredients. I think coupling repeatable systems and processes with a personal connection and really caring about my clients—having that intention as a compass for how I approach any transaction—goes a long way.
With dual citizenship in the USA and EU, how do you take both a local and international approach to marketing properties?
I definitely tailor my marketing campaign so there is a strong push at the local, national and global levels. The basic story on the duel citizenship thing is that I am a first generation American born in Hermosa Beach; my parents moved to the States from France and Italy in the 60s (before they met each other in Redondo Beach). The lifestyle they led, selling museum-quality art and antiques around the world, made me a pretty well traveled person and even gave me an early foundation of sales skills. It contributed to an open mind and to a receptivity for doing things differently, which reflects in my marketing approach.
How do you help your clients realize their goals?
The first step is simply sitting down with them and listening, really understanding what their goals are, not just on the surface, but also on a deeper level. Once I understand what is motivating my client, then it’s just a matter of aligning with their goals and leveraging my skills and contacts to help them achieve that goal in the most direct and efficient way possible.
What sets your firm apart from others in the same industry?
In 2008, at 24 years old, I set the ambitious goal of focusing on The Strand as a niche market. I knew the only way I could compete was to hone my skills and provide the highest level of service, marketing and knowledge to my clients. To me, it was the Mount Everest of our market. It was daunting, but I also felt that my efforts there would spill over to the rest of our local market. That is my standard for every listing I take: every seller is going to benefit with a higher quality presentation of their home and international exposure. The more time, money and energy I put into selling their property, the more they will net at the end of the day. Also, I think it helps that I offer a full-service business model. The core of my business is obviously in resident sales, but I might also help a client sell a property, and at the same time, exchange that sale into acquiring a new investment property. A lot of agents stick only to sales, but I’ve found that my clients appreciate that I can also help them maximize the income they receive from the property for as long as they own it. That contributes to a lot of my repeat and referral business.
What makes the South Bay market so covetable?
It’s so special and unique: to be so close to the rest of L.A. and all that it has to offer, yet have a small town, beach feel that does not exist anywhere else in L.A. People are attracted to the active beach lifestyle, the excellent public schools, and proximity to the airport. The South Bay provides a great balance that many people fall in love with.
What are some of the most important factors to consider when looking for a home in the South Bay?
Knowing your lifestyle and your budget, of course. There are so many variables that it can often be overwhelming to buyers unless they have already spent years living in and studying our market. That’s where an experienced agent who really knows the area well can demonstrate their value to buyers. Helping a buyer clarify their values is an important part of the process. Each neighborhood is ideal for someone, but it’s not always obvious.
What do you love most about the South Bay?
I love that it is my home. So many people vacation here, and I get to call it home. I love that I can surf every day before going to work—that’s a good ritual for me. I believe you need to be sold on something yourself before you can effectively sell it. I am sold on the South Bay! I believe it’s a great place to live an amazing lifestyle and a great place to invest in real estate. That helps make my job easier and even more fun.