“It’s not for the timid,” says Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties’ Elisabeth Halsted of L.A.’s supercharged market, where many agents are on track to have their best sales year ever and buyers “need to have a strong stomach,” she adds, given the premium prices that blue-chip houses are commanding. Malibu’s average sales price, for example, jumped to $5.5 million in the second quarter of 2021, up from $3.4 million in the same period a year earlier (per Douglas Elliman), while the greater L.A. region hit a new record high median sale price in July of $682,000. “It’s as active a year as we’ve ever had,” says Westside Estate Agency’s Kurt Rappaport. Adds Coldwell Banker’s Joyce Rey, “People have wanted to move up and have a house with a gym, a house with dual offices, have a garden where they can spend time out of doors.” For this list of the top 30 agents in L.A., THR looked at overall sales volume, MLS-listed sales to Hollywood clients and media visibility to make its selections.
Josh and Matt Altman
In the past 12 months, dynamic duo brothers Josh and Matt Altman of Douglas Elliman completed deals for Norman Lear, James Cameron, Kathy Griffin and Justin Bieber (who bought a $25.8 million house in Beverly Park). Their advice for marketing high-profile homes? “Get your own TV show! LOL. We are selling a lifestyle, and that lifestyle happens to appeal to Tinseltown,” says Josh, star of Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles. Adds Matt, “We are having our best year, forecasting to close over $1 billion in sales.”
“It’s a race,” says Compass’ Cindy Ambuehl of the market, which has seen her increase the size of her team as well as bring what might have been off-market sales in years past to the MLS. “The higher the exposure, the higher the price,” she says. Such was the strategy for David E. Kelley and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Pacific Palisades property, which she sold for $25 million in August.
In his 17th year in real estate, Bolivia native Santiago Arana of The Agency (who came to America with only $120) has closed deals totaling $310 million for clients including Anthony and Stella Hopkins, Jennifer Grey, TMG Fresh and Vice Media’s Shane Smith, whose Santa Monica estate sold for a jaw-dropping $48.6 million. He says, “The market has been and will continue to be a seller’s market and very active.”
Rochelle Atlas Maize
NOURMAND & ASSOCIATES
Nourmand & Associates’ forward-thinking agent Rochelle Atlas Maize started in real estate as a hobby. Fast-forward to 2021, and Atlas Maize is embracing technology while closing $121 million this year. “I began to dive further into video coverage and VR while exploring other avenues that had untapped potential,” she says. Her standout project: a listing in Santa Monica where she invited TikTok creators to film content. The gambit resulted in multiple offers within two weeks and a final sale of $5.1 million for a house that had sat on the market for eight months. She notes, “Publicity brings more eyes onto listings, which then translates to sales.”
Over his career, Ikem Chukumerije has cultivated a coveted list of clients like Ava DuVernay, journalist-host Elaine Welteroth and NBA star Chris Paul, with a focus on athletes constantly on the move. “I obtained my California license in 2006 and quickly expanded my reach by earning licenses in Nevada, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Washington, New York and Utah,” he says. “Why work to obtain licenses in these other states? I wanted to build a lifelong connection with my clients, no matter where they reside.”
Jordan Cohen is RE/MAX’s No. 1 seller out of the company’s more than 135,000 agents worldwide. Known for his sports clientele — “I’ve repped about 125 pro athletes,” he says — Cohen specializes in the Westlake Village/Calabasas area. “I work by myself with two assistants. Last year, I closed over $295 million,” says the agent. Among his recent deals: sales for Shark Tank‘s Robert Herjavec, Lakers star Anthony Davis and Poison’s Bret Michaels. In April, Disney CEO Bob Chapek, as previously reported, spent $12.5 million on a six-bedroom residence in Westlake Village listed by Cohen. He also has a strong social game with 527,000 Instagram followers. In 2019, Cohen sold a $6.4 million mansion to WWE star The Miz after the athlete reached out to him via DM.
As the pandemic pushed more buyers to prioritize their space and surroundings, “There’s so many people wanting to live full-time now in Malibu, and it’s really nice to see,” says Compass’ Chris Cortazzo, who specializes in the luxury Malibu market. “They’re coming out for the security, the schools, the ocean, the mountains, everything.” Those high-end clients include Gal Gadot, Ted Sarandos and Paris Hilton. And Cortazzo does on occasion leave the shoreline for client Ryan Murphy, selling the show creator’s Beverly Hills property for $16.25 million and his Laguna Beach home for $10.65 million.
Long one of the kings of New York real estate, Million Dollar Listing star Fredrik Eklund of Douglas Elliman — co-founder of the Eklund|Gomes team — made what seemed like the natural move to La-La Land two years ago. “I moved to L.A., and the transition was much bigger and [more] difficult than I expected,” says Eklund. “But God am I grateful for the move. It was the best decision for me personally and professionally.” In 2021, the Eklund|Gomes team expanded into Orange County and Malibu, and Eklund repped the seller in Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil’s $13.8 million purchase of a home in Hancock Park.
HILTON & HYLAND
Clearing more than $500 million in the first half of 2021, Hilton & Hyland’s Drew Fenton has repped everyone from Lachlan Murdoch to Chelsea Handler. The Westside specialist’s current listings include Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis’ Beverly Hills home and Sugar Ray Leonard’s $45 million Pacific Palisades compound. His answer when asked where the market is going? “Higher.”
It’s been a banner year for flashy and frank Josh Flagg, who shocked the industry by jumping from Rodeo Realty to Douglas Elliman in August. Not only did the Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles star sell the estate of former studio executive Lisa Greer and husband Joshua (co-founder of RealD) to StubHub co-founder Eric Baker for a Beverly Hills Flats record of $33.9 million, he also sold Suzanne Somers’ Palm Springs compound and Matthew Perry’s Malibu beach house. “Ironically, people woke up one day and, in the middle of a pandemic, counterintuitively said to themselves, ‘Let’s go buy real estate in the middle of a crisis,’ and that’s the tale of one of the best years in real estate and one of the worst years in civilization.”
Sally Forster Jones
“Being true to yourself and leading with authenticity is so important,” says Compass’ Sally Forster Jones, who hit $8 billion in career sales this year. She held the co-listing for a Sunset Strip mansion sold for $20 million to Wondery Founder Hernan Lopez and also holds the listing for Silver Lake’s Paramour Estate, a former convent on the market for $40 million.
With the $88 million sale of Holmby Hills’ Owlwood Estate (a co-listing) in December, plus a $60 million Bel Air compound, Compass’ Tomer Fridman had two of the 10 largest sales in the U.S. in 2020 and isn’t slowing down in 2021 with what is “probably the best market and most important market for Los Angeles in decades,” he says. Recent sales include Khloé Kardashian’s $15.5 million Calabasas home (as the longtime Kardashian family broker) and Pamela Anderson’s Malibu beach home for $11.8 million. His volume over the last 12 months: $539M.
This year has seen Compass’ Carl Gambino and his team expand into the Miami market, and while he’s helping several L.A. clients move to the Florida beaches, “for as many people that are leaving L.A., there’s like tenfold coming,” he says. Now handling the $16.75 million listing for Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’ Encino home, Gambino also sold Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez’s onetime Malibu house for $6.76 million.
BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOMESERVICES CALIFORNIA PROPERTIES
While she works throughout the city, “I end up moving most people to the Westside,” says Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties’ Elisabeth Halsted. In the past year, Halsted has completed sales for Amber Valletta and Taika Waititi (who also is a client of her husband, manager Dan Halsted). A former model, Halsted says houses are selling at premiums during the pandemic because “people want them more. Everybody wants the same thing: privacy, quiet, less urban. That’s why the Westside is so pumped up.”
James Harris and David Parnes
The Agency’s British-born duo of James Harris and David Parnes, stars of Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, have found the magic formula for working with celebrities like Big Sean, Rihanna and the NBA’s Kevin Durant. “When inventory is low, it can become a challenge to find the right property,” says Parnes. “Many times, we have to reach out to a current celeb client to see if they are willing to sell to another celeb client.” Another route is social media. “Everyone wants to see how celebrities live, so these posts often have many views,” Harris says.
“I have never sold houses sight unseen before via FaceTime, let alone homes over $15 million. This year I did,” says Douglas Elliman’s Juliette Hohnen, a former MTV reporter whose clients include Emilia Clarke and director Greg Yaitanes. She’s also found that some Hollywood folks are willing to venture farther afield. “I represent a lot of music composers who rent in town, and they would have given me some serious stink eye had I mentioned Woodland Hills prior to the pandemic. Now they say, ‘I’ll have room to build a studio in the garden!’ “
With clients including Ariana Grande and NFL wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Compass’ Aaron Kirman and his team brought in $748 million of total sales in 2020. This year, he sold talent agent Greg Cavic’s midcentury home in Beverly Hills Post Office to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi for $8.5 million and is listing an $87 million Bel Air mansion that features an NFT art gallery and accepts cryptocurrency, among the first to do so. “Our money dynamics have changed, wealth patterns have changed,” Kirman says. “It’s going in that direction anyway, so why not be a market leader?”
SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY
Eric Lavey‘s past year highlights include Diplo’s purchase of a $13 million Malibu home, Jason Blum’s $11.4 million sale of a house in Fremont Place and Tom Cruise getting full asking price ($39.5 million) for a 320-acre ranch in Telluride. “It’s been a good run,” says Lavey, who worked at William Morris and UTA before getting into real estate. “That was before there were any TV shows about real estate, and people thought I was crazy. Now it’s the thing to do. Back then, it was [like being] a used-car salesman.”
HILTON & HYLAND
With 35 years in the business, Lawyer’s sales have totaled more than $750 million. “I love architecture and the history of properties throughout L.A.,” says Hilton & Hyland’s Brett Lawyer, who approaches his job with old-school discretion and tact. His focus on exceptional, secluded blue-chip properties makes him the go-to agent for A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio, Katy Perry, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Tobey Maguire.
HILTON & HYLAND
Forty years into her storied career, Hilton & Hyland’s Linda May continues to sell many of L.A.’s premier historic estates designed by such legendary architects as Wallace Neff and Frank Gehry. “These architectural masters built the magical backdrop of possibilities that can transpire only in the City of Angels,” she says. In May, she sold the Paul R. Williams-designed Barron Hilton estate in Holmby Hills to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The price was $61.5 million, the third-highest sale in L.A. this year.
“We’ve seen people coming back from Florida, people coming back from Texas and a few people who are coming from Malibu back into the city full-time,” says Coldwell Banker’s Jade Mills of L.A.’s hot market, which she doesn’t see slowing down “as long as interest rates stay low.” Mills repped Bob Greenblatt in the purchase of a $15 million home in Beverly Hills and (in a co-listing with The Beverly Hills Estates) sold Todd Phillips’ Wallace Neff-designed estate in Beverly Hills for $30.7 million. Her offerings include the Stallone estate in Beverly Park (a co-listing with Kurt Rappaport and Tomer Fridman) for $85 million, down from its original $110 million. “It’s a beautiful 3.47 acre lot with city views, which most homes in Beverly Park do not have,” she says. “You feel like you have total privacy.”
In his nearly 20 years in real estate, The Agency’s Josh Myler has never seen a market like this. “The confluence of interest rates lower than we’ve seen in half a century, together with the ‘pandemic shift’ that is occurring right now, has caused a frenzy,” says Myler, whose clients have included Walton Goggins, Halsey and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings screenwriter Dave Callaham.
BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOMESERVICES CALIFORNIA PROPERTIES
“Discretion is one of the reasons why people come to me,” says L.A. native David Offer of staying steadfastly buttoned up about his clientele, which in the past year, per public records, have included CAA’s Josh Lieberman, Tobey Maguire, Geena Davis and Michael Bay. Offer, who got a master’s in architecture before getting into real estate 30 years ago, notes one curious trend: privacy-minded buyers who decide against purchasing pricey trophy houses even when they can easily afford them. “I had a client who wanted to buy a $42 million property in Santa Monica, and they chose not to buy it simply because they knew it would be picked up by the media. They just don’t want that exposure. Yet I warn everybody, you can’t hide the fact that there was a transaction. There are no secrets in real estate.”
THE OPPENHEIM GROUP
In March, Netflix renewed Selling Sunset, a reality show revolving around agents at The Oppenheim Group, for a fourth and fifth season. Co-founder Jason Oppenheim says his favorite thing about the show (which this year garnered its first Emmy nomination, for unstructured reality show) is that “I’m working with my best friends on it.” As for the show’s appeal, he notes: “Some people like the drama. Some people like seeing successful women. Some people like seeing the Sunset Strip and Hollywood. Some people like the real estate.” The broker, who is dating Oppenheim Group agent Chrishell Stause, recently opened a second office in Newport Beach and finalized transactions in the past year for French Montana, Alesso and producer David Bernon. “This year, we’re already 25 percent above our best year ever,” he notes.
Anthony “T.J.” Paradise
SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY
In the past year, Anthony “T.J.” Paradise of Sotheby’s International Realty found new residences for Jackass‘ Chris Pontius, Anwar Hadid and Emma Roberts and netted Ashley Tisdale a notable profit, selling her Los Feliz home — purchased in 2019 for $4.1 million — for $5.78 million. “I have a really great referral system — celebrity clients referring me to other celebrity clients,” says Paradise, who moved into real estate after working in TV production, including running the art department at Scout Productions (Queer Eye). “With my design background, it’s easy for me to go in and say, ‘Let’s throw some paint on the walls. Let’s get a staging company in here and do a partial stage.’ It’s about getting your house magazine quality.”
WESTSIDE ESTATE AGENCY
“Tell me an address, and I’ll tell you who owns it. I have my finger on top of everything that’s going on,” says Westside Estate Agency co-founder Kurt Rappaport of his deep knowledge of L.A.’s wealthiest neighborhoods. The son of an entertainment lawyer, Rappaport repped both sides in the third-biggest residential sale in California in August 2020, when Jeffrey Katzenberg sold his Trousdale estate to WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum for $125 million. “It was the best property in Trousdale and had the best views of L.A.,” he says. “It had every fundamental. We sold it within the first day pretty much.” A torrid pace of big sales through the rest of the past year included repping Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi in a $47 million Beverly Hills sale; David Geffen in the sale of 1 acre of land for $33.75 million in Beverly Hills; and selling Koum a house in Malibu for $87 million. Current mega-listings include the Paul Allen estate ($55.5 million) and Ryan Seacrest’s Beverly Hills residence ($74.5 million, originally listed at $85 million). With inventory tight, off-market deals — which Rappaport reels in by “having relationships and knowing what’s out there” — are “a large part of my business. A lot of clients like acquiring something that hasn’t been offered to anyone else. Sometimes if you give somebody the first bite at something great, then you are adding real value and you are a dealmaker, not a real estate agent.”
Joyce Rey of Coldwell Banker repped the buyer who paid $16.8 million for John Legend and Chrissy Teigen’s contemporary in Beverly Hills Post Office in July — “The buyer got his piano,” she says — and has been active in Santa Barbara, selling four properties there, including Owenshire, once owned by Rob Lowe, for $19.1 million. Her listings include Helen Mirren and Taylor Hackford’s compound in the Hollywood Hills ($18.5 million). Rey says the current “unbelievable” market is on fire because of an intense desire to trade up: “Whatever they can do with their circumstances, they have tried to do.”
THE BEVERLY HILLS ESTATES
Although he recently moved from The Agency to The Beverly Hills Estates, Angel Salvador continues to know what high-profile clients like Doja Cat are looking for: eye candy. “Celebrities like to be wowed by homes they’re buying and selling,” he says. This year, he repped The Weeknd in the singer’s purchase of a $70 million Bel Air mega-mansion, one of the largest transactions of the year. “There are so many moving parts when you’re dealing with high-profile clients and ultra-high-end homes that organizing every moving part, communicating to every person involved, is very challenging — stressful yet exciting all at the same time.”
Branden and Rayni Williams
THE BEVERLY HILLS ESTATES
Branden and Rayni Williams, the married power couple behind the new brokerage The Beverly Hills Estates, continue to woo clients including Lily Collins, Channing Tatum, Jason Statham, Danny Elfman and Bridget Fonda with their boundless optimism and SoCal spirit. “L.A. is the greatest place in the world to live. People from all over will always want to be here, no matter what,” Rayni says. The couple sold more than $500 million in real estate in the first half of 2021 and represented the seller in The Weeknd’s $70 million Bel Air purchase. “We have had our biggest year to date in the most challenging time in our history,” Rayni says. “Humanity pulled through, family values have become more apparent, and the home is and always will be the single most important asset. We learned this a hundred-fold this year.” The couple is on track to clear a billion in sales in their first year as brokerage owners.
HILTON & HYLAND
A 31-year veteran, Hilton & Hyland’s Jonah Wilson is not interested in splashy displays, despite being the son of Carl Wilson, co-founder of The Beach Boys. “If you’re attracting a real buyer, the quality of the product itself should be the driving force,” he says. “Focusing on celebrity … will attract attention from the general public … but that brings no value to my client who needs a discerning buyer for their multimillion-dollar property.” This no-nonsense attitude continues to draw entertainment industry clients, including Priscilla Presley, Korn’s James Shaffer, Liam Payne and Trevor Noah (who purchased a $27.5 million stunner in Bel Air). “Celebrities and successful people are accustomed to getting what they want when they want it,” he says. “So it’s simple: You provide what they want immediately and seamlessly without a lot of fuss.”
This story first appeared in the Sept. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.