For top LA resi agents, it’s strictly posi vibes

Aaron Kirman, Sally Forster Jones and Santiago Arana say pandemic means shifting but not devastated market

Los Angeles /
May.May 12, 2020 08:00 AM

Aaron Kirman is meditating and infusing himself with positive energy.

Sally Forster Jones is brushing her hair and putting on lipstick for thrice weekly Zoom meetings with her team of 30.

For these top Los Angeles residential real estate agents who appeared Monday on TRD Talks Live, The Real Deal’s ongoing series of web conversations with real estate industry leaders, the coronavirus has meant lifestyle changes but, they hope, no long-term business disruptions.

Panel host and TRD Associate Publisher Hiten Samtani noted that no guest acknowledged serious challenges to their operations due to the pandemic.

The agents did give nuts-and-bolts insights about a residential market opening up again, with private home showings recently reallowed.

Forster Jones of Compass, the broker behind a recently posted $100 million Bel Air listing, said there’s as much activity as ever around homes going for less than $1.5 million.

“Interest rates are so low that buyers with jobs are absolutely going out buying,” Forster Jones said, asserting she fielded “30 to 35 offers” on a sub-$1.5 million home shown via virtual tour.

The ultra high-end luxury market, which has featured multiple $90 million-plus sales in the past six months, is full of “buyers looking for deals,” the agent said.

The segment between $1.5 million and the high end is cooler, though, she noted.

Santiago Arana, managing partner of The Agency, warned agents “to be conscious of what the state of the market is when we get back,” which he predicted to be, “more of a buyer’s market.” He noted that financing new spec mansions had gotten trickier as banks reconsider their bets.

“There were a couple developers who had plans, permits and everything to go on several spec projects,” he said, “but the banks are pulling the loans off their hands.”

Forster-Jones added agents may have to fend off bargain hunters. “It’s a slightly different dance we’re doing,” she said.

These elite agents voiced less concern about an economy in freefall than nettlesome industry rules.

Kirman, who operates an 83-agent team at Compass, blasted the National Association of Realtors for their crackdown on “pocket listings,” that is, homes sold off-market. A lawsuit was filed against the trade group’s pocket listings ban in federal court Monday.

“I will be the number one person to fight the new laws and regulations imposed upon us,” Kirman said. “I have always tested with pocket listings before I launch” a new property onto the market.

The panelists also downplayed “coronavirus clauses” such as the Coronavirus Property Entry and Declaration form the California Association of Realtors advises agents to include in home sales.

Kirman said he might use the form for buyers, but scraps it if he represents the seller.

The agents saw silver linings amid the pandemic.

Perhaps channeling “Marriage Story,” Kirman and Arana discussed how L.A. ‘s space and sun would attract buyers from vertical cities like New York, which has a far higher per capita coronavirus infection rate.

Kirman also disputed that networking is lost amid the pandemic.

“These Zoom meetings are amazing,” Kirman said. “I’m more close to my clients and my community than I ever have been before”

(The panel was sponsored by the Viewpoint Collection. Please see a message from them below)

Viewpoint Collection is the largest luxury residential real estate developer in Los Angeles, with an expansive portfolio of luxury homes in the iconic neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Holmby Hills, and Hidden Hills. Located on panoramic sites and designed by renowned architects, the Viewpoint portfolio epitomizes and integrates the Southern California lifestyle with sophisticated contemporary design that offers an unparalleled living experience.

Among Viewpoint’s past projects are the $35M sale of Noah Walker’s “Carla House” in Trousdale, and the $60M “Sky Garden” in Bel-Air. Coming soon will be Standard Architecture’s “Forest Knoll”, a one-of-a-kind barn house design situated on a prominent site in the Hollywood Hills with unparalleled 180-degree views of the City.

Viewpoint has eight other contemporary homes currently under development that will be completed in the next year. In addition, Viewpoint’s crown jewel is the fabled 10-acre “Owlwood Estate,” which is the largest and most prominent landholding in Holmby Hills, located adjacent to the storied Los Angeles Country Club.


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