Last year was the best 12 months ever for some of L.A.’s top-producing residential real estate agents. The Top 5 agents based on sales volume in L.A. did more than $1 billion worth of real estate transactions each.
Beverly Hills-based Westside Estate Agency Inc.’s Kurt Rappaport held onto the No. 1 spot with a whopping $1.6 billion sold. The Altman Brothers team, led by Josh Altman took the No. 2 spot with $1.5 billion of sales.
The husband-and-wife team of Rayni Williams and Branden Williams and Compass Inc.’s Aaron Kirman tied for the No. 3 spot with $1.2 billion worth of sales. Rounding out the Top 5 was Compass’ Chris Cortazzo. The Malibu specialist did $1 billion worth of transactions.
“In 2020 and 2021, we saw demand for the high-end, all-encompassing family home/compound,” Rayni Williams said. She added that buyers were thinking about what they truly need in a home and what makes a home a sanctuary.
Kirman called 2021 a “record-breaking year.”
“We sold a lot of amazing houses. The luxury market was so on fire. Who expected it to continue for as long as it did? It was an amazing year,” he said. “It’s a combination of things. Obviously, Covid was the precipice for the residential markets to take off and people realized how important the house was and were willing to spend the money. Money was freeflowing but with all of those things going and interest rates as low as they were, it led to a really dynamic marketplace.”
It was a big year across the board with 14 agents or teams reporting more than $500,000 worth of sales volume in Los Angeles, compared with only nine the year prior.
“It was the best year I ever had. It was the best year many agents have ever had and, in some respects, by a long shot,” said Hilton & Hyland Real Estate Inc.’s David Kramer, who claimed the No. 34 spot on the list with $308 million worth of sales.
Mauricio Umansky, founder and chief executive of Beverly Hills-based The Agency, agreed. He ranked No. 37 on the list with $298 million in sales.
“We had an amazing year both (me personally and) at The Agency, we beat our projections and our estimates by a considerable amount. We were estimating $200 million of revenue and hit about $227 (million). It was a very nice year for us. Personally, the same. Crushed it, grew a bunch of franchises and it was a really great year for sales,” Umansky said.
Tami Pardee, founder and chief executive of Venice-based Pardee Properties, said her company also had a great year and sold 30% to 35% more than usual. She ranked No. 7 on the list with $812 million in sales.
Areas of interest
Experts agree that everyone in Los Angeles is seeing high demand now.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest across the board,” said Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Jade Mills. Mills was No. 26 on the list with $351 million in L.A. sales.
Kirman said instead of just being focused on one small region, some buyers have been interested in the San Fernando Valley and even Orange County.
“We’re definitely seeing more people move to the Valley,” Umansky said. “There’s definitely a value play there.”
He added that despite rising home prices, the Valley still represented a “big discount” over other areas in Los Angeles.
Kramer said west of the 405 Freeway was seeing “historic-high sales.”
And experts agree Malibu especially is seeing incredibly high interest.
“It’s still crazy. Lack of inventory, huge price increases, Malibu is up like 35%,” Kirman said.
“We’re getting a lot of attention everywhere but along the coast of Malibu has been very, very strong, so prices have gone up dramatically. If a property goes on the market, it gets a lot of attention and sells really quickly,” said Compass’ Sally Forster Jones, No. 8 on the list with $737 million of home sales in L.A. in 2021.
She added that buyers’ interest in such areas as the Valley and Malibu are a result of people wanting more outdoor living space and being less concerned about being in the heart of Los Angeles as more jobs are being done remotely.
Outside space and a home office are at the top of the list for buyers now, experts agree.
Pardee said office space could take the form of an accessory dwelling unit, finished garage or extra bedroom but privacy was paramount.
And today’s buyer wants land.
“The trend has definitely changed. Pre-Covid we saw people who were really liking the amazing views and houses with a pool. Today’s buyer still likes having a view but is really looking for land and privacy and security,” Kirman said.
Mills agreed that “total privacy” and homes that were “move-in perfect” were expected by buyers.
One other thing that is now in demand is furnished and curated homes.
“When I started in the business, I sold homes ‘as is’ … today’s seller cannot get away with that,” Kirman said. “The buyers are expecting curated lifestyles, they expect curated furniture and curated art and even curated cars and everything in the middle.”
Williams added that many high-end homes now have designers attached to them who curate the house.
Mills added that due to shipping delays, furniture can take a long time to get, which is part of the reason so many buyers want furnished homes.
Demand for homes is outpacing supply, agents agree, which is leading to an increasingly competitive market.
“It was a very, very intense and exciting year for real estate,” Jones said. “The market was so strong on every price point but particularly, the luxury market was very, very strong – multiple offers on virtually every property and there were more buyers than sellers.”
She added that homes sold quickly and those under construction often sold before they were completed. Some homes, she said, saw as many as 20 offers.
Kramer said he was seeing more bidding wars in the $1 million-to-$2 million price range in particular.
Kirman said it can be difficult for buyers to compete. There are “tons of bidding wars at all price points. If you have a house, whether it’s a good house or a bad house, we’re seeing multiple offers,” he said.
Umansky added that he was seeing buyers “who were determined to buy a house. If they lost a multiple (offers situation) on one, they would move on to another.”
Big sales ahead
Agents see a bright future ahead for residential real estate sales in Los Angeles.
“I see another year like we had in ’21. I see the market continuing,” Kramer said.
“The market this year has been very, very strong; 2022 has been a continuation of 2021 and I am foreseeing a very strong market,” Jones agreed.
And while rising interest rates may be a concern for some, especially at lower price points, agents are largely unconcerned.
“In the lower markets, you had about 25 buyers for every house,” Umansky said. “Now if you have 12, you still have more buyers than supply.”
Experts agree, however, that it may cause some urgency for buyers looking to quickly close before rates rise again.
“There’s a big push right now before they rise up even more. People are concerned about them going up higher, so there’s still a push to buy,” Pardee said.
And even though interest rates may be rising, they are still low historically.
The bigger concern, experts agree, is uncertainty with what is happening in Russia and Ukraine. It could make some buyers hesitant to spend a lot of money or drive more to park their money in L.A. real estate, which is seen as a safe investment.
And some trophy sales are expected as homes like The Manor are expected to sell this year and The One recently received a closing auction bid of $141 million.
“There’s still a lot of money out there,” Umansky said. “I expect to see quite a few $100 million sales.”
The Manor is listed for a whopping $165 million.
“I honestly feel like The Manor is priced pretty fairly, it’s a huge piece of land and a huge house,” Mills said, adding that she expects a number of high-priced sales this year.
“It has been really busy. It’s hard to keep up,” Mills said of the pace of sales now. “2021 was amazing but I have to say not as amazing as the beginning of this year.”
“Last year was great, but this year’s going to, I hope, double. It’s crazy, everybody wants to buy,” she added.
“There’s a lot of energy in the market. It’s an exciting time to be in Los Angeles and it’s an exciting time in the real estate business. Buyers seem very optimistic as a whole,” she said.