Real Estate Insider

DIGStv | Britney Spears’ Home Sells

DIGStv | Market Update

Britney Spears’ Lake Sherwood Estate Sells

Britney Spears sells her Thousand Oaks, CA Mediterranean Estate for $6.995 Million.

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Real Estate Insider: Rochelle Atlas Maize of Nourmand & Associates

As told to Amy Adams | Photo Courtesy of Vincent Vallejo

After a successful career in wealth management, Rochelle Atlas Maize seamlessly made the transition into selling luxury real estate. After starting Rochelle Maize Luxury Estates, she earned wide recognition for her strong financial skills, expertise in the marketplace, innovative selling strategies and unwavering passion and dedication for finding her clients the home of their dreams.

What led you to real estate and the start of Rochelle Maize Luxury Estates?

I came into the real estate business after a successful 15-year career in wealth management. I was Senior Vice President of a well-known investment firm and advised many high-net-worth clients, helping them with their investment needs. When I realized I was ready for a new challenge, real estate piqued my interest, and as a real estate investor myself, I had over a decade of experience buying and selling properties. Transitioning into the real estate industry was relatively easy, and from the start people were impressed with my wealth management background and how I approached the market. The decision to brand myself as a luxury market specialist was an obvious one, and Rochelle Maize Luxury Estates was born.

How do you ensure you deliver the best personalized client service?

To me, it has always been about the service I give to my clients, always providing them with my 100 percent undivided attention. I have an unparalleled and extensive knowledge of the Southern California real estate market, including Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Air, Hollywood Hills, Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu, Laguna Beach and Newport Coast. In today’s world, anyone can be a real estate agent. What sets me apart from my competitors is my service and unrelenting work ethic, which drives me to do whatever it takes to get my clients the home of their dreams. While clients appreciate my expertise and professionalism, the core of my professional values are integrity and honesty.

How does the expertise and knowledge you gained from a career in wealth management inform your work in real estate?

My career in wealth management has given me extra insight in the business world. There is an immediate comfort level when working with me because of my financial acumen.

Throughout the process, I view real estate from a financial perspective and I strive to find my clients properties that will prove to be fruitful investments. My ability to compute very extensive valuations has become invaluable in this process. This strong financial skill set coupled with my experience in the marketplace, ensure the success of my clients’ investments. They find this trait invaluable, as I am able to provide them with sound advice about their real estate investments.

With sales over $200 million last year, what primary factors do you credit to your success?

I think it’s all about sticking to what works best for you. I have always had a client-centered perspective and am willing to do whatever it takes to secure my clients the property of their dreams. My diligence and dedication stand out, and my clients recognize and appreciate this; that’s what keeps them coming back to me.

I’ve never been one to stay inside the box. I was one of the first realtors to hire food trucks for open houses. In fact, I own my own Food Truck, RICHEEZE, a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich truck that has won over the hearts and stomachs of many agents in our city. Smile and say “Richeeze!”

What, specifically, fuels your passion for real estate?

I feel like it’s a natural fit for me. Finding the perfect home is the most important investment in my clients’ lives and I can’t stop until I know it’s the perfect fit! It is so exciting to be a part of that process; to know that I made such a difference in their lives, that means everything to me.

Are there any particular homes you are excited about selling, or past properties that still have a hold on you?

This is a tough question, as there have been many. One standout has to be my recent sale of The Robert Taylor Ranch in Brentwood, the largest property in Los Angeles—112 acres. It holds a special place in my heart because I spent many years attending major charitable functions on the ranch as a young adult. When it came on the market last year, I knew first-hand what a special property it was. At the time, I was looking for a very large private parcel for a client of mine, so it seemed to be the perfect fit. Unfortunately, my client did not live locally, and I needed to secure the property because I knew it would not sit on the market long. I spent days with a drone company documenting every angle of the ranch, its setting and the surroundings. I was passionate about this property and the deal, and my client heard that in my voice. Luckily, the client went with my instinct and secured the property without ever physically seeing it.

What can you tell us about your community and charitable involvements, and what you enjoy outside of selling real estate?

I’ve always thought it was really important to  you’re in a successful career. I founded Green Youth Movement (GYM) with my youngest daughter, Ally, in 2005. We decided to pursue this philanthropic endeavor when Ally noticed a void in environmental education in grade-level schools. One of GYM’s biggest accomplishments has been its successful implementation of environmental awareness into elementary school curriculums across classrooms in California.

I am also a strong advocate of several charitable organizations in my community. I am currently a board member of the Friends of Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles. My engagements also extend to the Director’s Circle at LACMA, Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, Cedars- Sinai Board of Governors, Jewish Federation, Giveback Homes, and Creative Bridge Coalition. I am always looking for philanthropic ways to give back and donate a percentage of each transaction to a charitable cause.

I really value my time with my family and feel grateful to have a wonderful husband and two grown daughters. My husband, Richard, holds nearly three decades of finance, marketing, and real estate experience under his belt: He has a bit of an addiction to complex business puzzles. My younger daughter, Ally, is following in my footsteps as an analyst at Barclays Bank in New York City, and my oldest daughter, Michele, spearheads the human resources department at a public relations firm in New York City.

Real Estate Insider – Laura Klein of Klein Real Estate

As told to Danielle Accovelli | Photography by Paul Jonason

After 23 years in the industry, independent, full-service brokerage Klein Real Estate remains dedicated to client satisfaction. With a client-driven philosophy, they believe in maintaining a personal, one-on-one relationship approach to achieving their goals. Here, Laura Klein of Klein Real Estate shares with DIGS how her career began, what appeals to her about the Westside, and how communication and creativity play an essential role in success.

Both your parents are real estate professionals. How did you get your start in real estate— was this a career you always wanted?

I have always loved what my parents do for a living. Initially my father was a real estate developer, and my mother an interior designer; in 1993, they began Klein Real Estate brokerage. My original goal was to go into real estate upon completing college. However, during my first year of college, I discovered another area that I wanted to explore first—entertainment marketing and advertising, a career I thoroughly enjoyed for 12 years. Once I got that out of my system, I dove into real estate and have not looked back since. I am currently enjoying my 12th year in real estate.

What distinguishes Klein Real Estate from the competition?

Klein Real Estate is unique because we are an independent full-service brokerage that offers a complete portfolio of services—buying, selling, leasing, investment and property management. We personally handle each of these services for our clients. Additionally, the Klein Real Estate team of experts includes certified negotiators, luxury home marketing specialists, buyer specialists, general contractors, property management specialists, technology experts and design consultants. Because Klein Real Estate is independent, we are able to provide one-on-one client interaction and personally handle every aspect of each transaction, from beginning to end. We believe the result is greater client satisfaction and a high percentage of returning clients. Klein Real Estate has been established on the Westside for over 23 years, and has developed strong relationships with industry professionals, national brokerages and a global client base. Klein Real Estate integrates technology to facilitate and maintain local, regional, national and international relationships and globally market our listings. Yet, Klein Real Estate is able to maintain a one-on-one relationship approach. We are truly the local broker with a global reach!

Describe your real estate philosophy.

Our philosophy is simple: Client satisfaction is No. 1! To achieve this, we work one-on-one with clients to achieve their goals, and obtain the highest result.

What about Westside real estate appeals to you most?

Perhaps what appeals to me most about the Westside are the personalities and lifestyles, which influence the diverse architecture of each community. There is a real sense of community and pride of ownership throughout the Westside. Additionally, the surrounding natural landscape cannot be surpassed. The Westside is truly one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Whether you are hiking around Pacific Palisades, strolling along the beach in Santa Monica or having dinner at one of the great restaurants around town, the beauty is intoxicating.

How has your time as a marketing and advertising executive influenced your real estate career?

My past experience in marketing and advertising helped me learn and hone what I consider to be the most important elements of being a real estate agent: listen and be an effective communicator, be flexible, gain knowledge of a situation, achieve 100 percent client satisfaction, create effective advertising and marketing strategies and, of course—the power of negotiation.

Based on your experience, what are the most essential aspects of successfully closing a real estate transaction?

Many things can happen along the various phases of a real estate transaction. From the commencement of a transaction to the closing of a transaction, I have found communication, prior experience, creativity, and flexibility to be essential elements and key to success.

What factors into your decision as to what properties are the best fit for clients?

Because each client is different, with different needs, I listen to my clients carefully, examine the financial parameters that may affect the situation, and take into consideration their future needs. All of this is necessary to select the best properties for my clients.

Describe your reaction to finding a client that perfect property?

The best feeling in the world!

Any advice for homebuyers looking to purchase on the Westside?

Have a successful buyer strategy. This is a very important step in the property buying process,and we work with each of our buyers upfront to create their own personal strategy.

Will you expand on your community involvement?

Professionally, we are always seeking to expand and extend our real estate services, and also to grow our network of professional relationships. Additionally, as a lifelong member of the Westside community, ‘giving back’ is always a component of Klein Real Estate. There are a handful of organizations that we feel strongly about and participate in, and we are always open to deepening and widening our community reach.

Having grown up on the Westside, what are some of your favorite go-to local spots?

I am a native of the Westside, having grown up in Sunset Mesa. I attended Malibu and Santa Monica schools, and have lived in the Palisades Highlands for 20 years. I have so many go-to local spots and some of my favorites are Happy L.A., Casa Nostra, Will Rogers Beach, Santa Monica Mountains, Susie Cakes, Santa Monica Seafood and Trader Joe’s.

Real Estate Insider: Ari Afshar of Compass

Real estate agent Ari Afshar has set his course with brokerage firm Compass, which merges technology and real estate in a way that allows him to parlay a stint working with startup companies to optimize the client experience—and the real estate industry as a whole. Here, the Beverly Hills-based, tech-savvy agent on upping the luxury real estate game.

As Told To Amy Adams | Photos Courtesy of

Ari, how did you get started in real estate?

I got started in 2006 as a loan officer for a mortgage brokerage. I was prospecting for new clients and helped them refinance their existing loans, and financed their new home purchases. I was working directly with the largest financial institutions in the country and it taught me a lot about the back end of the real estate deal. In 2008, when the market crashed, I started a residential real estate brokerage that later merged with Coldwell Banker in Beverly Hills.

What distinguishes your brokerage firm, Compass, from the competition?

Compass is a technology company that specializes in real estate. It’s that approach to the product and user experience that has made Compass into the success it is today. The engineers and support staff on the tech side make everything from listing presentations to marketing personalized, at the click of a button. What they can do is quite amazing; it also provides me the time to concentrate on the fundamentals of networking to find the right buyers for my clients’ properties.

What attracts you to luxury real estate?

Property is the building block, literally and figuratively, of our whole economy. Luxury real estate is the pinnacle of that system. Everything else, from your Valentino suit to the Ferrari Cabriolet that you dream of buying, is stored on a property. Luxury real estate is more than bricks and mortar; it’s brick, mortar and everything else that goes into the home.

What do you credit for your success?

I owe most of my success to my wife, for allowing me to continue to aim high and go after my targets. I would imagine most partners would not want to be around for the roller coaster I’ve continued to put us through. She has, and I’m very grateful for it.

Describe your real estate philosophy.

Strike while the iron is hot. Remember that everything is about momentum, and if you don’t use it while it’s on your side, it will slowly fade away, and it’s very challenging to bring back.

What are some exciting changes you see in the market right now?

The most exciting change is the global view of Los Angeles as a premier location for real estate. Before, we experienced a second class or backseat to attention given to markets like New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, London, Paris, etc. Los Angeles has now established itself as one of those markets.

You are heavily involved with the Brent Shapiro Foundation. What attracted you to this charity?

The Brent Shapiro Foundation was created by Robert, Linell and Grant Shapiro after Brent’s parents lost their son, and my best friend, to a drug overdose. The Foundation is committed to helping save potential lost lives due to drug and alcohol-related causes. A saved life is priceless.

You’ve also been involved with startups.How did that experience affect your real estate business?

I worked with a series of startups between 2011 and 2015, and I feel like that experience was like earning a PhD in real world marketing, organization and innovation. While I was still brokering deals during that time, those startups gave me the opportunity to work side by side with graphic designers, computer scientists and engineers. So now, working with a tech-driven brokerage like Compass is the perfect fit because it’s like I have lived through the rough draft of that process. Everything from 3D models, mobile-friendly websites, custom listing presentations and internal organization feels like second nature to me now

DIGStv | Looking Ahead to Design Trends in 2016 at West Edge Design Fair

DIGStv | Episode 8

Looking Ahead to Design Trends in 2016 at West Edge Design Fair

DIGStv was invited to the West Edge Design Fair this year, a place where anyone can wonder and get thousands of great ideas for a home remodel, talk to furniture and appliance makers, and get design tips directly from high end professional interior designers on a potential project. DIGS talked to several of each and got our selection of great products, new trends, and what you can look out for in 2016.

DIGStv | Hollywood Entertainers and a Hermosa Beach Lighthouse

DIGStv | Episode 7

Hollywood Entertainers and a Hermosa Beach Lighthouse

DIGStv sits down with Musician and Real Estate developer Don Caverhill, known for his record “Louie Louie” with the Kingsmen. Film producer, author and television host AJ Benza gives us an update on his new projects. Also, take a look at this Lighthouse inspired home, in Hermosa Beach with Ed Kaminsky of the Kaminsky Real Estate Group.

Real Estate Insider: Kimberly Gold of Gibson International

As told to Danielle Accovelli

Pacic Palisades native Kimberly Gold, representing mother-daughter real estate duo Properties by Gold, part of Gibson International, left an early and promising career in radio to return to her beloved hometown, where she entered real estate with a erce commitment to her clients. Now, 20 years later, the one-time protégé of her partner, mother Beverly, Gold is at the top of her game.

Here, the driven, consistently client-focused Gold shares the industry acumen of a born producer with DIGS.

How did you get started in real estate?

After graduating college I became a top account executive, selling advertising and writing commercials for a radio station in San Diego. I really enjoyed my years in radio and loved living in San Diego, but in 1995 I was ready to move back to my hometown of Pacific Palisades. I knew that I wanted to continue with a career in sales and my mother approached me and said she was going to list a new home development in the Palisades Highlands and was looking for agents to become part of her sales team. She thought I would be a perfect fit. I jumped at the opportunity. In radio I was essentially selling air, so the idea of selling something tangible was certainly more appealing. I moved back to L.A. and got my real estate license to head up the on-site sales team at the Alta Mira development in the Summit. After selling all 56 homes, my mom and I represented another new, gated development in the Palisades Highlands, The Peninsula, which consisted of 49 homes. During this time I was also representing buyers and sellers of other properties, but it was selling these 105 homes in a four-year period that helped me gain my expertise in real estate. Many of the clients I have continued to represent over the years are those I met selling these developments.

Talk a bit more about joining forces as a mother-daughter real estate team.

I was so excited about working in a profession that I loved and working alongside one of the people I admire most in life, my mother. She was so incredibly knowledgeable about real estate that I looked to her for guidance so I, too, could become a successful  agent. She was always so confident in my ability to ‘do the job,’ that I knew my goal was reachable. After selling out the Alta Mira and Peninsula developments, I continued to represent buyers and sellers in Pacific Palisades and on the Westside. Oftentimes, my mom and I would help each other out when our days got busy. This worked well for us because we always knew our clients were well taken care of when the other wasn’t available. We spend a lot of time together socially, outside of work, and developed wonderful relationships with many of the same people over the years. Everyone always asked us why we don’t form a partnership since we worked together so often. So that’s exactly what we did!

Can you elaborate on starting Properties By Gold?

In 2008, we decided to form an exclusive real estate partnership, Properties By Gold. We both had a similar approach to working with clients and they loved knowing they could call either one of us and we would always be available. We were representing more buyers and sellers than any individual agent could handle, so it made sense to join forces. Officially becoming a team allowed for us to expand our business and better serve our clients. With the personalized level of service our clients deserve and appreciate, we felt there was no other company better suited to partner with than Gibson International. It was an honor when Scott Gibson asked us two years ago to open the new Pacific Palisades office. Forming Properties By Gold and becoming a part of the Gibson International family was the best decision we ever made.

How do you work together to ensure you deliver the ultimate in personalized client service?

We work so well together and there’s nobody I can trust more than my mom to give our clients the service they deserve. We share in all the responsibilities and decision-making, from marketing to negotiating, and we love working together; even our most challenging days end with a smile. We consult with each other prior to making any decisions, which is easy for us because 99.9-percent of the time we agree on the approach to take throughout the entire transaction. Our clients love having dual representation and they know that one of us will always be there to answer any questions.

As Pacific Palisades natives, how does your area knowledge contribute to your success?

Having grown up in Pacific Palisades, I can tell you all you need to know, as I’ve seen this town through the eyes of a young child, teenager and now parent. I attended Palisades Elementary, Paul Revere Middle School and graduated from Palisades High School. This year my oldest daughter, Chloe, is graduating from Palisades High School, and my youngest daughter, Lauren, is graduating from Paul Revere Middle School. Over the years, I have volunteered my time at their schools and learned a great deal about Palisades’ public schools. Many of our clients are relocating to the area and don’t know much about the schools, and the knowledge I gained through my involvement allows me to educate them about all the schools have to offer. I have created an extensive list of referrals for my clients over the years, from pediatricians, after-school enrichment, veterinarians, or where to get the best frozen yogurt! While attending Palisades High I worked after school and on weekends [as a receptionist] in the local Jon Douglas office. Little did I imagine I would be working with these very same agents seven years later… selling real estate myself. Getting to know these local seasoned agents at a young age was beneficial when I became an agent presenting offers to them. They developed a level of trust in me as an agent that goes a long way in my business.

Will you expand on your community and charitable involvement?

I am a third-generation Palisadian. Having lived here since 1970, I have come to know my community and its history quite well. My grandparents are some founding members of Kehillat Israel (KI), a congregation my family is still very much a part of. My involvement with KI and the local schools has afforded me the opportunity to meet many wonderful families that have trusted me to represent them on the purchase or sale of their home. I am also involved with the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and their Teen Impact Program. It brings me such joy bringing happiness to these children, as they are our future. We have found that most of our clients are also very involved in philanthropy, which is why we will donate 10-percent of our commission to any Palisades school for any closed sale referred by a family of that particular school. This is one way we strive to improve our community.

As top producing and record-breaking agents, what primary factors do you credit for your success?

We are dedicated to providing exceptional service and getting results for our clients. We know the market, we excel in marketing and promoting our properties, and we have proven experience in negotiating successful deals in even the most difficult transactions. We love what we do, which makes it easy to bring energy and enthusiasm into every one of our transactions. We pride ourselves on always being accessible to our clients, treating them with care and respect as we guide them through every aspect of the transaction. Our clients can trust us to do the right thing for their needs. We personally show all our own listings, sit our open houses, and are the voice on the other end of the line when clients call us. I have a strong work ethic and fully commit myself to every client we represent, no matter their level of affordability. As a result, many of these clients are now some of my closest friends. We’ve sold some homes in the Palisades three, four or even five times and represented the same clients on several sales. It warms my heart to have watched some of our clients start their families in the Palisades and to continue my relationship with them as they go on to become empty nesters. I loved going to work every day when I began selling real estate, and I love it just as much 20 years later.

Real Estate Insider: Rob Freeman & Greg Geilman RE/MAX Estate Properties, Manhattan Beach

As told to Danielle Accovelli

The Official South Bay Realtors of the Los Angeles Kings, Rob Freedman and Greg Geilman have certainly made their local mark, taking the helm of innovative initiatives to elevate the real estate community. At the core of their philosophy is an unwavering dedication to providing a superior client experience and being the best agents possible through learning and teaching, a concept that has earned them numerous RE/MAX accolades.

How did you both come to RE/MAX and what is unique about the company?

ROB: I have been with RE/MAX since 1984. At the time, RE/MAX was by far the most innovative real estate company in the world. The concept was to make each agent a small company unto themselves, charging a desk rent fee rather than taking a large percentage of the agent’s commission. Agents were responsible for their own success with the company as a diligent partner in helping them achieve their goals. This brought only the most productive and professional agents together under one roof. Other companies followed with their own version of this concept, but RE/MAX was the innovator and helped push the real estate community to a new level.

GREG: I moved to RE/MAX because they had the strongest presence in the areas where I wanted to grow my business. We have 18 offices along the beach from Palos Verdes to Santa Monica. Plus, our international reach is unmatched.

Having both lived and worked in the South Bay for some time, why has this area continued to be such a covetable market?

ROB: I have lived in Redondo Beach, Torrance, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach. Each city has its own unique character and personality, but all share a connection to the beach lifestyle and are convenient to Los Angeles. There is no more land to build homes and nowhere to expand, so these cities continue to gentrify in a positive way. Limited inventory is a hallmark of the cities, which always seems to put upward pressure on prices and desirability. Moreover, the families that live in these areas have put a lot of their personal time and energy into local schools, which has made schools throughout the South Bay a big draw.

GREG: Great people in a great place will always create a covetable place to live. The South Bay just has the perfect blend of beach and luxury and great weather.

Greg, with your favorite childhood game being Monopoly, it is clear that you developed a passion for real estate early on. What about the business most appeals to you?

Although I really enjoy the ‘game’ aspect of Monopoly, I definitely don’t treat people’s real estate deals lightly. I love coming up with creative solutions to problems. Every deal is so unique and often requires us to think on our feet to keep things moving in the right direction.

How has your extensive background in technology helped you pioneer the online real estate community?

GREG: I’m always thinking, ‘How can we do things better? How can we improve the status quo for the customer?’ Sometimes technology provides that solution. I love how technology and the Internet have dramatically changed our entire industry. People are always asking if I’m afraid of the big third party websites taking over, and I say, ‘No!’ Zillow hasn’t been in every house that’s sold in the last three years. Trulia doesn’t know the floor-plan or the quality upgrades of a remodel. That’s part of the value our team brings to clients.

Greg, talk about your role as Technology Director of Leadership Manhattan Beach?

I like streamlining and efficiencies. I also enjoy volunteering to give back to our community. I was on the Board of Directors for the last three years and was able to help Leadership Manhattan Beach become paperless and build their digital archive.

Rob, you studied architecture at Cornell University, then moved to California to pursue a music career before settling on real estate. How have these transitions helped inform your work today?

Goethe once said that architecture is frozen music. I also believe the contrary is true— music is melted architecture. I have been blessed with a balanced left and right brain; I enjoy the creative and the analytical aspects of this business. Being creative with the knowledge to back it up has literally made and saved my clients millions of dollars throughout the years.

Clearly, my architectural background from the top architecture school in the country provides benefits every day to my clients. I can help them visualize the possibilities in spaces that seem limited.

Rob, what can you tell us about Villa d’Arte Development Company?

A natural outcropping of my background in architecture is development. I have been building and assisting others in building high-end homes in the Beach Cities since 1986. My wife and I founded Villa d’Arte Development in 2003 to continue this legacy. We are proud of the homes we have built and lives we have touched. Most of these homes broke price point records for the areas in which they were located. More recently, we expanded the company and became general contractors with some amazing building partners, forming First Light Development in 2012. We currently have some 14 projects in various stages of development. Greg and I are pleased tobe able to complement our cutting-edge brokerage with all of these varied value added services under one roof. This is entirely unique in our business. Buy. Sell. Build. Manage. Invest. This is our manifest.

Can you elaborate on your “Add value to everything you touch” approach?

ROB: Our business is quite simply based on the concept of trying to help the greatest number of people possible achieve their piece of the American Dream. We hire, train and teach our team members to think about their actions this way. We seek to make our customers’ experience superior. A very wise real estate trainer once told me that if you want to make more money as an agent, just be worth it. I think about that every day. I want to be better every day, learn and teach every day, provide superior service to our customers and clients, and help other real estate agents elevate our role as professionals.

Rob, you won RE/MAX’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. What are the cornerstones of your success?

I have worked diligently over the past 35 years building a business of which I can be proud. I have achieved every award RE/MAX has to offer with uncompromising dedication to my clients’ interests, and an ability to achieve their objectives. I realized long ago that if agents bring nothing more to the table than listings from multiple listing services, they better find something else to do. We are consultants for our clients… We edify, and help them make the best decisions under a specific set of circumstances. We continue to be innovative in the negotiation process, creating wins for our clients without causing others to lose. The two reasons why Greg and I make such good partners is we complement, but do not duplicate, one another, and we always try to help.

Real Estate Insider: F Ron Smith of Partners Trust Real Estate Brokerage

As told to Danielle Accovelli | Photos courtesy of Cindy Gold Photography

F. Ron Smith, a founding partner of Partners Trust Real Estate Brokerage, focuses on innovation and effective collaboration within the real estate industry to consistently provide his clients with the very best service. With his considerable market and community connections, Smith has earned a loyal following of repeat clientele, many of whom have become close friends, making him one of the area’s top producers.

Here, the talented agent talks with DIGS about his many roles in the industry, passion for new construction and why the Westside is the perfect place to live.

How did you get started in real estate?

I had an entertainment background, working at William Morris, when I first came here from Texas, then started in real estate in 1989…and never looked back.

How did you become a founding partner of Partners Trust Real Estate Brokerage?

We started Partners Trust in June of 2009. I was working at another real estate company and four of us who eventually became founders had been having conversations about creating a company that really took care of the financial interests of individual associates. One of the challenges with the real estate industry as a whole is that it creates great autonomy, so individuals are largely working on their own; there’s something great about that, but there is also something challenging if you don’t have the resources or  the connectivity. We said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we put together a company where people wanted to work together and help each other out, while also having a good time selling real estate?’

When we first started, it was the four of us with a temporary space on San Vicente, and within about a 90-day period, we opened up a permanent office [on that same street]. Six years later, we have nine offices, 240 associates, and we’re on track to do $2.4 billion in sales this year. It’s just a really good group of people and I’m really proud to be a part of it.

Having lived and worked on the Westside for your entire real estate career, what makes the area so covetable?

The thing that is so cool about the Westside is that it feels like a village. It’s got the same social quality and structure of a European village, and you definitely get a unique community vibe in each area. I’ve worked and lived here for 30 years and still really enjoy it.

How have your local expertise and strong community connections contributed to your success?

I think it’s my connection to the community; about 80-percent of the business that I do comes from people that I currently know, real estate agents both in my company and other companies; there’s an ease and comfort, where people know that if I’m doing business with you, I’ve got the knowledge and I’m going to be representing your best interests at all times.

What can you tell us about your role as co-founder and president of Leverage Global Partners?

Leverage is designed for independent real estate companies to connect, share business practices and exchange and refer business, yet still have the ability to maintain their autonomy. What differentiates Leverage from say, a referral network you would have at a larger real estate firm is the way that we have the network structured, president-topresident, where you can pick up the phone, call and say exactly what your needs are and be immediately connected with the right fit for your client. It’s also the ability to be able to share market knowledge without having to worry about competition. It works out really well; we have a great group of members.

What, specifically, fuels your passion for new construction?

What makes me passionate about new construction is the daily evolution and change in the design of real estate. If I wasn’t in real estate, I would have a massive Pinterest account and follow three or four websites just to see what’s new in the field. You know how some people are really into fashion or movies? I love architecture and design; and it’s wonderful to be able to follow it from year to year, observing the changes in styles and what people are looking for. The thing that is also exciting about new construction is that you have the opportunity to observe from the ground up, to watch a house come together and become a home. I have the opportunity at any given time to oversee or be involved in eight to 10 homes at a time, and it’s one of the best parts of my job.

In your opinion, why is it important to advise your clients on home staging, color schemes and landscaping?

Because of the amount of construction and remodeling that I deal with, I have a perspective that most realtors don’t have. I can give insight on the cost of remodeling and design choice options that clients may not be aware of. I can sit down and talk about who to go to for architectural plans and designs, or for flooring or painting or landscaping. I just really enjoy talking about the process.

What can you tell us about your work at USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate?

I have an opportunity to be on a board where, even though I have been in this industry  for almost 30 years, I get new insight and the chance to learn. Being a part of USC Lusk, I have the ability to interact with some of the brightest minds in the Southern California business community and in the country, where I can find out about commercial trends, industrial trends, economic trends, and then relate that back on a micro-level to residential real estate on the Westside. I feel very fortunate to be able to participate in this level.

You are also very involved in charitable endeavors on the Westside. Will you expand?

My wife of 27 years, Tracy, and I have always felt the importance of giving back. I’m a self-made person and I feel that it’s a privilege to be able to help others when you can. I have to give a lot of credit to Tracy for that, because she is actively involved in numerous charitable organizations, including the Children’s Burn Foundation, Concern Foundation for cancer research and many others. I’m really proud to say that Partners Trust has a charitable division, with 100-percent company participation; it means a lot to me that our company shares that same passion to give back to our community.

Real Estate Insider: James Sander of RE/MAX Estate Properties

As told to Danielle Accovelli | Photography by Andrew Kraus

Growing up in a family heavily involved in real estate, James Sanders learned the industry’s many ins-and-outs at a young age. After earning a degree in real estate finance from USC, Sanders quickly rose as a top agent for RE/MAX Estate Properties, where he has been a consistently high producer for over 20 years, earning numerous accolades, including induction in RE/MAX’s Hall of Fame.

Here, Sanders talks with DIGS about his passion for selling real estate, key values as a broker and involvement with the South Bay community.

How has growing up in the South Bay area helped shape your real estate career?

I grew up in Palos Verdes in the late 70s and was part of an active real estate family. There was never a dull moment; it seems like there was always a real estate emergency while we were on the family vacation. From a real estate development perspective, I have seen the physical landscape of the South Bay change dramatically over the years. Most of the fields in Palos Verdes that I grew up playing in are no longer there, and there were only beach bungalows in Manhattan Beach. I love development as long as it has a concise, long-term plan for the community. The Peninsula has done a great job of maintaining open space, but Manhattan Beach has seen the most dramatic change.

You are known for your determination to produce results. What fuels this inner drive?

I have a competitive spirit and was taught to always do the best I could. I have been involved in sports from a very early age and became involved in extreme sports after college. I have flown over 100 miles in my hang glider and have swum the 1.5 miles from Alcatraz Island to the aquatic park in the San Francisco Bay. Giving up has never been an option. We all have a limited number of days and I always try and make mine a perfect ‘10’!

How has your business background contributed to your success in the industry?

I received my real estate license in the late 80s and my broker’s license in 2001.  Becoming a successful real estate salesperson taught me the fundamentals of the business. We have seen major changes to the real estate transaction and the way the consumer shops for homes. Having a good understanding of the real estate transaction has helped me respond to the needs of agents, and more importantly, consumers. This experience has helped me in leading one of the largest RE/MAX franchises in the United States.

In what way did receiving the President’s Award in the first year of your career impact its future?

Rewards are nice, but helping people is really what this business is all about. Once I understood that this business is about serving others, my work no longer felt like work! I truly believe the more you give, the more you receive.

What are some of your key values when it comes to working with clients?

Honesty, fairness, calmness, enthusiasm, persistency and, first and foremost, always serving the best interest of clients.

Can you expand on your involvement with the RE/MAX Nautica Malibu Triathlon?

Last year our company gave over $100,000 to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and I’ve been participating in triathlons since the early 90s. When I found out the Nautica Malibu Triathlon raises over $1 million per year for Children’s Hospital, I formed a RE/MAX team to support the cause. We had over 20 RE/MAX agents participate this year and raised over $13,000 at the event. It’s nice to be able to give back!

How about your involvement in the South Bay community?

We support all of the South Bay communities. We have recently sponsored everything from drought tolerant gardens to all sorts of sporting events. We also tend to support many local community events and school functions—our education system not only helps our kids, but helps bolster property values, too.

What is the most important lesson you’ve taken from the real estate industry thus far?

Be honest, be kind and be courageous!

Words to live by when selling real estate…?

Come on, we live in paradise! Location, location, location!

Real Estate Insider: Juliette Hohnen of Douglas Elliman Real Estate

As told to Danielle Accovelli | Photo courtesy of Juliette Hohnen

With an international perspective on sales and a keen eye for interior design, Juilette Hohnen has quickly risen as one of LA’s consistently top-producing agents. Combining her business savvy with innovative marketing strategies and impeccable design skills, Hohnen creates an enjoyable and truly one-of-a-kind experience for her clients.

Here, Hohnen divulges to DIGS her inspiration for becoming a real estate agent, passion for interior design and what she loves most about selling properties in LA.

How has your London upbringing and international perspective influenced your real estate career in the US?

Having lived in London, New York and LA—I also spent time in France (where my mother lives) and Australia (where I have more family)—has given me an incredible network all over the world. LA has become a major destination for international buyers, and knowing how to find, relate and connect to those buyers gives me a great advantage over other agents selling houses in LA.

 I studied interior design at the Inchbald School of Art and Design in Eaton Square, London, and part of the course included traveling to beautiful houses all over the country and studying their design and architecture.

What prompted you to pursue interior design?

My mother was a nursery school teacher, but she was also the bread-winner of the family and put all three of her daughters through private school. She supplemented her income from her business (The London Montessori Center—an international teacher training college) with house flipping, which she basically put me in charge of. I would preview all the homes and only show her the best ones, then we would move in and I would decorate them. When I left stage school and realized that I didn’t have the ‘look at me’ gene you need to be a performer, I wasn’t sure what to do, so she said, ‘You seem to love design, why don’t you study that?’ Honestly, if you could give me my dream job it would be finding a dilapidated house, completely renovating it, designing and furnishing it down to the towels, sheets and the flatware then selling the whole lot. I did this while I was having children and I have never been happier.

You describe yourself as a true “houseaholic.” What initially fueled your passion for homes and real estate?

I guess deep down I am a homemaker. I love finding properties, seeing their potential and figuring out how to improve them and make them beautiful. There is a creative and business side to this, so it is really the perfect combination. I used to flip houses, and then my friends would ask me to help them find homes. I found Madonna Cecil Beaton’s house in England, which now belongs to Guy Ritchie. My clients will tell you how passionate I am about houses. I want to buy at least a house a week, and luckily I can channel my house lust through my clients. I get into their heads and then find the house I would want to live in if I were them. It’s a fun job!

How did you come to join Douglas Elliman Real Estate, and what is unique about the firm?

I moved to the firm because it allows me to offer my clients much more in terms of marketing exposure and networking—both locally, nationally and globally—than any of the other companies in LA. There are two types of firms in LA: the big firms like Coldwell Banker, which are large and corporate, or the boutique firms that have one or two offices and a small collection of agents. Douglas Elliman is the best of both worlds: it is a huge national company with offices all over America (New York, Miami, Aspen, the Hamptons, Connecticut, Westchester, Long Island), and has true international reach as a result of its association with Knight Frank from Europe. There are 17,000 agents across 441 offices, 55 countries and six continents. When you list a property with Elliman, you are really getting that listing great exposure, certainly more than any of the other agencies in LA. Half of the other companies say they offer this type of global reach, but having worked at some of those companies and having friends at those companies, I can tell you they do not. At Elliman, I am part of a national networking team who represent the most affluent and well-connected people in America. If I have a listing, I can personally pitch it to these agents on our bi-weekly call. This type of networking really does work.

Why choose to base your real estate career on the Westside—what draws you to work in this area?

I actually work all over LA. Right now, I have listings and buyers in Venice, Marina del Rey, Brentwood, Santa Monica, Malibu, Silverlake, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Ojai, Studio City and Encino. I do not have a firm where I bombard people with my flyers and postcards. I am referral based, so I work everywhere. I don’t have a battery of assistants who show my houses, I do it myself, and that means whoever hires me knows the job will be done properly. I turn up early and make sure the houses are shown and presented in the best possible way. Working all over LA is a lot more fun, although it does put more miles on your car!

Will you elaborate on acting as an entrepreneur to create new and innovative ways of marketing properties for your clients?

I used to be a journalist and produced a weekly TV show called The Big Picture on MTV. I would have to come up with different ways to cover the same topic each week. Same thing when I worked as an editor for various magazines (Tatler, British Harpers, Esquire) writing covers on stars who had already been written about year after year. I would have to come up with another way to sell that film or star to the public. This is the same with houses. If the house does not sell immediately you have to come up with another angle to entice buyers through the door. Most realtors just plop their sign up, put an ad in the paper and wait for calls to come in. I look at who the sellers are and actively go out and find the buyer, because chances are the buyer and the seller are going to be similar in some way. In Venice, houses over three million take 90 days to sell. The last one I sold took 30 because I found out who the buyers were that were looking in the area and I literally dragged them to the house until I sold it!

Do you still dabble in interior design while selling real estate? Does one pursuit inspire the other?

Yes. I love designing houses and being inspired by other people’s designs. I am doing several houses at the moment. It is the way I express myself creatively. My style is eclectic…I love wallpaper, I hate upper cabinets in kitchens and I love using natural materials. I am building a house in Venice, and because I have so little time to really focus on it I keep putting it off, but it is my true love. I feel really lucky that most of my clients are creative people and so their homes, which I get to sell, are incredible and unique.

Are there any particular homes you are excited about selling, or past properties that still have a hold on you?

I love all the homes I sell, but right now I love my Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. house that I have listed on Benmore Terrace in Brentwood. It is so unique and beautifully restored. Not only are you buying a home, you are buying a piece of art that will appreciate over time. It is so ripe to be taken to the next level with the addition of a pool and guest house. I have a fabulous house in Beverly Hills in the Hidden Valley Estates area, designed by Scott Mitchell, and every realtor who came to my broker’s open loved it. This is a very hot area at the moment, as every other house is owned by a movie star. I also have a fantastic traditional house in Brentwood Park for $12 million on a huge lot. One of my favorite houses that I sold was one of Ron Radziner’s houses on Glencoe, east of Lincoln. The house is really a beautiful example of modern architecture.

Real Estate Insider: Nick Peterson & Ben Larson of Engel & Volkers Realty

As told to Danielle Accovelli | Photographed by Andrew Kraus

With over 40 years of combined real estate experience, Nick Peters and Ben Larson decided to take their South Bay market knowledge and expertise and join Engel & Volkers Realty. The result is a winning combination: the firm with an established local and international reputation and the duo dedicated to providing premium client-based services, which have earned them a steady flow of referrals and new clients for a promising future.

Here, Peters and Larson discuss their new Redondo Beach location, numerous charitable involvements and what’s ahead for Engel & Volkers.

When was Engel & Volkers Realty—EV—established and what is it known for?

Engel & Volkers started in Europe in 1977, and now has over 650 locations in 39 countries around the world, and almost 7,000 Advisors (i.e. agents). EV’s reputation is built on being a classy, highly respected, client-oriented real estate firm. Quality of agent, rather than quantity, is a consistent theme at EV.

Why did you close your own firm to join Engel & Volkers?

Dozens of family members, friends, clients, and even competitors, said we would regret not doing it. We were honestly shocked at the consistency of their encouragement and support. We have noticed that more clients, and agents, prefer to work with an international brand rather than a South Bay only firm. We can see it happening and we think it is a permanent trend. Also, we loved the international boutique model—and EV is the only firm of its kind in that regard.

Tell us about your new location in Redondo Beach. Why is it the ideal address for the business?

First, EV calls its offices ‘shops,’ a term that pays homage to the original goal of each location being designed as an inviting place for the public and clients to stop by, and for Advisors to prosper and enjoy working. People can comfortably check out listings from around the world and from local neighborhoods, or just pop in to say hi, grab a coffee and a homemade treat.

We love that ‘vibe.’ This shop is in a great location, looking out into the heart of the Riviera Village. It’s also a conveniently central location in the South Bay, with our plan to open an additional three shops along the South Bay coastline by 2020. This will allow Advisors to serve our key cities—from El Segundo, through the beaches, to Torrance, San Pedro and the entire Palos Verdes ‘Hill.’

What distinguishes your firm from others in the same market?

Our small office environment consisting of serious, producing agents. We purposely don’t have big offices, so we have to be selective with the agents that we invite to come on board. Everything about the firm reflects premium service, so we have to have premium agents. EV has also always had a focus on great service and market knowledge. We strive to continue that tradition by continually providing useful education and concierge-level services to both our clients and Advisors. For sellers, we have a deep international reach, with marketing materials and special marketing opportunities in premium publications. Through a combination of local expertise and an established international network of Advisors, we sincerely feel that our company can service a seller like no other. For buyers, we are the only firm with its own website for off-market properties.

The two of you share 40 years of combined real estate experience. What are your specialties?

Ben: Besides residential brokerage, I have an expertise with trust sales, probates, flip deals, short sales and apartment buildings.

Nick: I have sold over 150 income properties, and have handled literally hundreds of remodels and ‘flip’ deals, plus developments. I am also an expert on short sales and foreclosures.

Describe your involvement with the community and charities?

We have always been heavily involved with local charities. It’s a passion, not a business tactic—we want to emphasize that. The organizations range from the YMCA, Pediatric Therapy Network (Nick is on the Board of Directors), Walk with Sally, Education Foundations, numerous local schools, the VA in Los Angeles, countless cancer events, Children’s Miracle Network, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, etc. As you can tell, this is a serious portion of our lives.

Any pleasant surprises with Engel & Volkers?

Yes. We have already received a lot of referrals, and new clients coming to us that we were told only happened because we were specifically with EV. This includes some significant homes and projects that will be coming on line in the near future. We did not expect that kind of windfall business, but we are really happy about it happening!

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