The Real Deal Los Angeles

Sally Forster Jones on Chinese buyers and life after the Spelling Manor sale

Broker once had priciest listing in the world

March 03, 2016 02:30PM
By Marcie Geffner

  • Print
Sally Forster Jones Spelling Manor

Sally Forster Jones and the Spelling Manor

Sally Forster Jones’ name was at the tip of many tongues in 2011 when she co-brokered the $85 million sale of the Spelling Manor, owned by Candy Spelling and built by the late TV producer Aaron Spelling. It was originally listed at $150 million, the most expensive listing in the world at the time.

Jones, who is president of international luxury properties at the John Aaroe Group’s Beverly Hills office, isn’t just a one-deal wonder. The owner of the firm, John Aaroe, told The Real Deal she was the brokerage’s top earner, bringing in $300 million worth of business in 2015.  Jones got another “most expensive” notch on her belt in late 2014 when she represented young billionaire Markus Persson, who had just sold his videogame “Minecraft” to Microsoft, in the purchase of a $70 million home in the Trousdale section of Beverly Hills. It was the most expensive house ever sold in that city.

The Real Deal sat down with Jones to talk about her relationship with wealthy Chinese buyers and her not-so-secret desire to handpick the agent and client on the other side of the deal.

DOB: April 4

Hometown: Munich, Germany

Family: Married, 6 children, 11 grandchildren

When did you close the Spelling Manor deal?

July 2011. I can’t believe that has already been four-and-a-half years. The property was a 56,000-square-foot home on about five acres of land in Holmby Hills. It was beautiful, fantastic, great location, an amazing property.

How do you beat something so spectacular?

It was definitely a highlight, particularly at that time, when the market was not as robust as it is right now. The property was marketed throughout the world and was famous throughout the world. There was so much interest, so much hype, so much marketing, so much attention. To beat that is really difficult.

What would be your dream listing today?

The super contemporary sexy view properties in the hills are very much in vogue. I sold one of those last year (to Markus Persson). That was also a major, major sale, $70 million, the most expensive ever in Beverly Hills. Having another one like that one would be a great listing.

You work with some of China’s wealthiest families and you’ve spent some time in China. How is real estate culture different there?

We have more of an appreciation for older properties here. In China, anything that is even somewhat used, even ten years old, is considered old. 

Has the turmoil in the stock market affected the Chinese buyers you work with?

There have been fewer Chinese buyers lately. The economic situation and the stock market has some type of impact on that, I’m sure.

What’s your favorite area of Los Angeles?

The Trousdale area, right now, is my favorite, that is the hills of Beverly Hills.


The type of home that you build there, taking advantage of the views. I currently am not living in a view property, and I picture myself in a view property.

What’s your biggest pet peeve about selling real estate?

I can’t always choose who is on the other side. I wish I could handpick the other side.

The agent or the buyer or seller?

Either. Sometimes you can’t tell because frequently the agent is voicing the concerns of their client.

Who’s your favorite type of customer?

The ones that listen to me, obviously!

Who’s your customer from hell?

The ones that think that they know best. I work with people that I have a good rapport with. Every now and then you have someone that you don’t have rapport with and that really makes it a challenge.

If you weren’t selling real estate, what would you be doing?

I was a psychology major, so something that is people-oriented. Something where I would be meeting and talking and working with people.

What keeps you awake at night?

Figuring out how to get everything into my day. I love my work, but I also work out everyday, I have kids and family, and I’m trying to pack 48 hours into 24.

And you stay awake at night figuring that out?

I do.