It’s been 37 years since “My Sharona” first blasted American airwaves, but you can’t go more than a few days without hearing some incarnation of the hit song. The “Sharona” that Doug Fieger, lead singer of the Knack, croons about is a real, living person named Sharona Alperin. Today, she’s a top real estate broker out of the Sunset Strip office of Sotheby’s International Realty.
We sat down with the residential rock muse at the West Hollywood Soho House to talk house and home.
How did you go from being the young girlfriend of Doug Fieger to a top broker in LA?
I got into real estate in a very unusual way. When I was 15 years old, I met somebody in a band and they fell in love with me. He chased me for a year because at the time I was in love with Marty Garfinkle.
You chose the Marty Garfinkel over the lead singer of the Knack?
I wasn’t prepared to break up right away. He chased me and he wrote like seven songs (about me). Finally, a year later, after “My Sharona” came out, I broke up with Marty. So when I was with (Fieger) we began looking at houses. But he had a number one hit single and a number one hit album, so he would go away on tour and I would stay behind and look at houses for us.
At sixteen, in a black leather motorcycle jacket and choppy hair, wearing black shades morning or night.
How did the brokers receive you then?
They were picking me up, sometimes in limousines, from my mom’s house. They would show me houses, and then I would choose which ones I thought Doug would like. When Doug would come back into town, he’d ask the brokers, “Do you mind if she shows it to me? I’d prefer if she shows it to me.” The brokers would tell me, “Oh my gosh, you should be a realtor!”
Do you remember the first home you sold?
My first sale was to my chiropractor and it was the only time I ever sold in Silver Lake, which is a wonderful area and now it’s really on fire. Anyway, this was pre-internet, when the MLS was in a book. I would walk everywhere with that book.
You’ve been selling high-end real estate for more than three decades. What can you say about the market today and how it’s changed in LA?
I’m not an area specialist. I specialize in an industry. Most of my clients are in the entertainment industry so nothing really changes until their accountant or manager or lawyer tells them they can’t buy. That they have to buy within a budget. I welcome anybody and everybody. It used to be that everything was ten or twenty minutes away… Now everything is about twenty-five minutes away or more.
Does that mean you won’t go more than 25 minutes from West Hollywood?
I’ll go to Pasadena for the right number. I’ll sell anywhere from Malibu to Los Feliz, from Venice to Studio City or Sherman Oaks.
What’s the right number?
It doesn’t matter. I have an amazing team and we all work together and go anywhere really. Actually, we just sold something in Mount Washington to a young producer for around $900,000. A really cool three-bedroom.
Not many know how cool Mount Washington is.
It was the first time I was there. When it’s an area that I don’t frequent, or a price range that I don’t typically work with, I have a great team of people who do. I always come to the house that they are considering, and I am the one who negotiates the deal and everything.
Everybody gets the whole Sharona!
I’m everybody’s Sharona. I’m not just my Sharona! I’m your Sharona!
Are you into new construction? We’re seeing a different kind of architecture from the storybook and arts and crafts mansions people treasure in LA.
There is major love for one very specific modern contemporary look. I call it “the Box,” and it’s got this very open lifestyle and open living space. I’ve sold a few of them. My clients make them very warm and beautiful. They have the high ceilings, and if they’re done right they can be absolutely stunning. The problem is many of these projects are cheap. Cheap materials, cheap hardware that doesn’t really work in any style. People love to see architectural integrity intact, or at least brought back.
Where do you live?
I live in a neighborhood by Hancock Park. It’s called Museum Square. I live in a traditional house from the 1930s with some good history. The BBC once did a whole thing about it because some famous people lived in it, including the Philharmonic’s symphony director from London. I love the crown moldings and wainscoting. Back in the day, the kitchens were little. They were for the cooks, and homes had these huge living rooms.
How has that changed?
In new construction, they tend to build smaller, parlor-like living rooms. People aren’t really sitting in the living room anymore. Today, the living rooms aren’t as important as the great room, which is the open kitchen and family room combo that faces the yard. Developers are building these magnificent kitchens, and den rooms where they can put in another flatscreen, so you don’t have to be limited to one screen.
What area is out of control with real estate sales right now?
Doheny (Drive) is so on fire. The Bird streets especially, and Nightingale (Drive), they’re all on fire.
Why are they on fire?
We’ve got a lot of new construction going on along Nightingale right now. The ground is so valuable there. My first question usually about every house is about the lot size. I’m really interested in how much dirt you’re getting.
What’s a good amount of dirt to have to play with?
You could spend $3.5 million dollars and get maybe a 5,500-square-foot lot in West Hollywood, or a 6,500-square-foot lot in the Miracle Mile for $3 million. For the same price, you could get a 4,000-square-foot little lot in the Hills with something on it. Or, you could get like half-an-acre flat in Sherman Oaks, or Studio City for $3 million. It really varies by neighborhood.
What areas should people who want to be real estate pioneers look to buy in?
South is always on fire. Like south of Venice Boulevard, South of Washington.
How much are sales based on word of mouth?
A lot of it is realtor to realtor, one connection to another connection. That’s something that’s really been different in real estate. From the MLS it seems like inventory is low, but I would say there’s a more because a lot of realtors are doing off-market trading. I just did a big star’s house. We signed legal documents to not disclose (the star’s identity).
Does MLS care?
Who’s MLS, what’s MLS, you know? I mean, I care about MLS, I would like them to have the data, but it’s just the way it’s done.
You don’t use social media much, do you think you need it?
I think I really need it, but I haven’t used it and I’ve come this far.
What’s the key to making it as a broker in LA?
We’re spinners here. We spin everything to our advantage. As long as you’re fair and you’re moral, and you don’t lie, it’s really all about how you present it. There’s so much happening that you sometimes have to stop and remind the client that it’s about buying the house. They’re not buying the seller. They get so wrapped up about the seller’s attitude. You have to redirect them and keep their eyes on the prize. Sometimes an agent will complain about another agent. It’s really important to keep the buyer and the seller from negative feelings because they’re doing a huge transaction. You want to eliminate anything intimidating because there’s so much to transferring a title.
What’s the most expensive place you’ve sold?
Can’t talk about it.
What do you do for fun on your own time?
I’m a foodie, so my jam is restaurants. I love Madeo. I love Wally’s. I love Craig’s the most.
How many homes do you own?
I own three, but two are being rented. I own a house in West Hollywood, near Fred Segal over there, and I own a home in another amazing neighborhood by Joan’s on Third.
Where do you vacation?
I try always to be somewhere different. I love the Caribbean water. It’s my favorite water. I love hanging out with my children. There’s nothing more fun than being with Eden and Adam. Eden is 16 and Adam is 12. I’ll be planning a Bar Mitzvah this year.