By Vic Gerami
When L.A.’s wealthiest put their multi-million-dollar properties up for sale, they sometimes learn that the house of their dreams isn’t all that popular. And as a result, their ultra-custom builds end up sitting on the market for years. In CNBC series, “Listing Impossible” which premiered last Wednesday, January 15, superstar real estate agent Aaron Kirman and his team come in to fix up these homes and attract the right buyers. They’ll need to tell these owners the cold, hard truth – something the rich and powerful don’t always like to hear.
I had the opportunity to chat with Aaron to discuss opulent real estate, his hit show and get some tips.
VG: Tell me about your background, both personal as well as professional.
AK: I’m a relatively modest kid from the valley. I grew up in a lower to middle income home. My mom was a school teacher, my dad was a truck driver. Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money, so I really understood the value of a dollar. . (need to go back to the recording
The crux of my background is, I had a very bad speech impediment. I couldn’t’ talk. I had learning disabilities. I couldn’t read. And I was gay. So growing up was a real challenge and a struggle for me from all sides. Psychologically. Emotionally. I had very Low self-esteem. It wasn’t until I got my real estate license that I was able to build my own business, gain a lot of confidence and grow into the person you see today.
VG: You grew up in the valley, Encino specifically. How do you reflect on your early years and how it has shaped you?
AK: I reflect on my early years with gratitude. Because I had a mom and dad that cared about me, when they realized I couldn’t speak well, they worked really diligently to help get me to a speech therapist. My mom spent hundreds of hours to help me read. They really took time to make sure I was alright. They may not have been able to help with my social skills, my lack of friends and my lack of identity, but they did everything they could and really fought for me to be a success, although they never really thought that it would lead to where we are today. So I reflect on that as a hard time personally, but I’m also grateful that my parents recognized that I had issues and took the opportunity to help me.
VG: Despite having learning disabilities, you were able to convince USC to admit you. Is it fair to say that tenacity, determination and persistence are some of the ingredients of your success?
AK: 100 percent. I took a meeting at USC with one of the deans of admissions. I explained how I’d had struggles growing up, and yes, my test scores suck and probably my grades aren’t on par. But I know that I’m worthy of it. I can get through this school and make USC proud.
VG: To what do you attribute your immense success in luxury real estate?
AK: Not any one thing, but I think it goes back to always being tenacious and grounded and knowing that I could do it no matter what. When I started, I realized I needed to be different. I didn’t just want to be a real estate agent. I knew that I needed to set the bar apart. And by the way, at that time, the business was different. Now, everybody wants to be an agent, but back then, it was a mom and pop business.
I individualized myself by selling architecture. I met people in fashion and in art, people who wanted to buy cool houses. I was able to build a name in that world. And once you’ve built a name, it’s really easy to do it again. Maybe it was a little bit of luck along the way, too. I met all the right people. I met billionaires and the people that knew them. Through all of that process we really were able to excel.
VG: You appear regularly on CNBC’s ‘Secret Lives of the Super Rich’ and star in CNBC’s real estate reality series ‘Listing Impossible’ premiering on January 15. What can we expect from your new show?
AK: You can expect the truth.
I wanted a television show on real estate because I got frustrated watching other shows that don’t seem to show the wins, losses, the realities of real estate. On our show, you’re going to see the realities of real estate, how difficult a business it is – how people can really win and how they can really lose through real estate. The very dire states. You’ll see the emotions, background and history of those decisions, and the emotions of those sellers. The show is also a gateway into what’s really the finest real estate in world. It’s a combination of learning and entertainment. It’s all real and it’s all accurate.
I told CNBC that I can’t be an actor. I don’t know how to act. I told them they’ll have to follow me through the course of my day. And through that, the show really is about people who made bad decisions – and mitigating their losses and helping to fix them. It’s about some of my own clients and how you can really win in real estate. It also follows my team through their evolution as well.
VG: With Lachlan Murdoch’s recent purchase of a one-of-a-kind Bel-Air mansion for a record setting $150 million, the second most expensive residential property sale in the U.S., do you think that we are at the peak of real estate for now?
AK: No. I think that $100+ million sale is an anomaly sale. It in no way, shape or form defines our marketplace.
The uber-duber luxury market has had a record-breaking year. We’ve had four sales over $100 million, which is incredible. But our marketplace is actually a very complicated, tricky one. I think it’s based on a lack of definition. Buyers think our market is low, sellers think our market is high. The media has different opinions on what they believe. All this leads to a complicated real estate moment that’s based on price points and where you are.
The luxury segments are actually suffering in New York and Los Angeles, and by that I mean homes between $10-50 million. The homes in Los Angeles in the $1-5 million range are selling well. So it’s fragmented, more fragmented than I’ve ever seen it, based on city, state, location, house and price.
VG: If you feel generous to divulge some valuable tips, what city or cities are the hottest for real estate right now, in the USA and worldwide.
AK: Again, it becomes very fragmented, based on what it is that people are looking for. There are a lot of cities in certain mid-American states that are doing very well because they’ve never seen the appreciation that we’ve seen in Los Angeles. Even areas in southern California are doing quite well if priced correctly. It’s a very fragmented market based on price points, which again leads to an individualistic approach.
VG: Do you prefer to work with celebrities or is it challenging due to their special privacy and security needs?
AK: We like to work with anybody who is nice, who is kind, and who we can help. It doesn’t have to be a celebrity. We like all people, from first-time homebuyers to celebrities to kings and queens of countries. We believe that we provide a value and that we tell it like it is. We sell houses that enrich people’s lifestyles. We like to make sure that they’re living well. Every buyer has challenges. Celebrities have their own challenges. Each client is interesting.
VG: Countless real estate agents want to be in your shoes. What advice would you give to other agents and aspiring agents about making it big in real estate?
AK: I’d say my advice to people that want to be in this business is that this is a tough business. It’s an incredibly lifestyle-driven business, in that it’s seven days a week, 24 hours a day. If you really want to get to that level, be committed to the cause. Treat yourself well. Take time out of your day every day for yourself. Focus on the energy that’s going to get you there. Be authentic – to yourself, to the people that you like.