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The Interview: Aaron Kirman, Broker, Star of CNBC's Listing Impossible

Aaron Kirman Group

For the many who see luxury real estate and broker’s work from the outside, it all looks so easy, so glamorous.  Brokers get listings, sell the property and make a good commission, and move to the next. 

But what looks easy, rarely is. And those who rise to the top of the field usually give their lives to the profession, in this case, the luxury real estate bandwidth.  This level of commitment, a rarity yet a necessity, makes work a 24-hour discipline, especially if the broker has international listings. They are always on call, making their personal lives, and sleep patterns, complicated and capricious. Sleeping with one ear open, and one eye open is not only the territory of new parents, it is the territory of the successful luxury real estate broker as well. 

Aaron Kirman, after being in the luxury real estate field for 25 years, is still a young man in his early 40’s, and is an acknowledged leader in luxury residential real estate, both in the U.S. and abroad. As the top agent in Los Angeles for the past decade and a top ten agent nationwide, he has amassed as of this writing, over $6.5 billion in career sales.  This year, 2020, not a great year for anything, he and his company has amassed over $700 million in sales. And the year is not over yet. 

A broker with this degree of success has an extensive client base – those who know what luxury actually is: heads of industry, celebrities, royalty, major lending institutions, sports figures, and foreign investors. Mr. Kirman crafted his career by representing both buyers and sellers, in the most prominent architectural and luxury estate communities around the globe. He has sold the Danny Thomas Estate, the Eddie Goetz Estate, Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House, Richard Neutra's Kaufmann Residence, Frank Gehry's Schnabel House, Lions Gate by Paul Williams, and the only Oscar Niemeyer home in North America. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, BBC, Forbes, Fortune, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, the London Times, E Entertainment and CBS.

And now, Mr. Kirman also stars in the CNBC primetime show, Listing Impossible -- which showcases homes that have been lingering on the market and often transforms them into saleable properties.  In addition, his expertise in selling exclusive properties helped him produce some of the highest prices in Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills, Santa Monica, and Malibu, and holds the record for the highest price per square foot in Hollywood, at $4,722.   His company, Aaron Kirman Group, is located in the heart of Beverly Hills. He also serves as President of the International Estates Division at Compass Realty. 

Aaron Kirman Group

JustLuxe recently communicated with Mr. Kirman in a phone interview. We discussed the professional challenges and advantages of leading the luxury real estate field, working with complicated sellers, and what luxury buyers look for in multi-million dollar homes. 

JustLuxe: It’s often been said that being a successful real estate broker — especially one of the consistently successful few in the luxury bandwidth — involves being a psychologist, an economist, a mathematician, and an architect who understands and can use provenance as a selling point.   Have you had to be all these things to high end sellers and buyers?  Which is easiest for you, and which is most difficult? 

Mr. Kirman: Yes, it is really true. You have to be all these things at once, and you have to be an active listener, being able to pick up the subtleties of emotion that many sellers have also. Some sellers are more attached to the home they want to sell than they are really aware of, and we have to be sensitive to that.   As regards being a mathematician, I do know how much my commission is, but sometimes I have to use my calculator to figure out other costs in staging and marketing. As an economist, I have to know how the market is doing, and make sure the seller knows, truly, that the market has a lot of influence on the final selling price. 

The most difficult, much of the time, is being totally honest with the seller. I mean, we are always honest, but many times, as you may see in Listing Impossible, other brokers – not us – and/or often  the sellers themselves --have set the selling price too high, and that is often due to the seller’s needs, maybe the seller’s dreams also, but not the realities of the market. With our launch events that brings brokers and buyers into the homes, as well as seeing the comps of the area, we get the sense quickly if the selling price is too high for the market. And we must tell the sellers this – often it is hard for them to hear. 

JustLuxe: In reading your bio, you have overcome a lot of challenges — personal and professional. Which were most difficult, and how did overcoming these advantage you in your profession now?

Mr. Kirman: I have overcome a speech impediment and dyslexia.  Probably a little ADD also.  But in overcoming those things, I learned a lot. There are some good things in having such developmental challenges, and fairly early in life.  First, I know I can overcome challenges with hard work, and second, I can empathize with those who are challenged, not only with developmental issues, but with emotional ones also.  I think another lesson -- that overcoming these things -- rest on my shoulders, no one else’s. That is a powerful lesson to learn at a young age.  

Matthew Momberger, courtesy of Aaron Kirman Group

14000 Calle Road, Goleta, California -- $110,000,000

Jim Bartsch, courtesy of Aaron Kirman Group

277 St.Pierre Road, Los Angeles, California, $46,000,000

JustLuxe: There are many who think the most successful luxury brokers are truly risk-tolerant people — they have gone sky diving, bungee jumping, can meet and talk with the most famous and the most infamous of people --- and really seem fearless.  Is this fearlessness also part of your character? Please provide some examples of work in dealing with sellers and buyers of multi-million-dollar properties.

Mr. Kirman: In general, as far as these activities are concerned, I really don’t have very much fear. But in dealing professionally, my anxiety comes with dealing with sellers who are 100% ready to sell – but there are problems with the house itself – the furniture or other aspects of the interior could be dated, the colors and scale is off,  that kind of thing. So, my anxiety comes from my worry that I won’t be able to sell the listing at the price point desired. When I have such concerns, I separate myself from the problem, and then decide whether I should take the listing, and work with the sellers or not. 

JustLuxe:  We hear you are working on the preparation for the sale of the most expensive property in Los Angeles. When will you be able to talk about this? And at what price point, wherever the property is, can you conceptualize it to be? 

Mr. Kirman:  I can’t talk about it, but will be able to in the near future. I will let you know.

JustLuxe: In your CNBC program Listing Impossible, what are some problems in your impossible listings -- in terms of difficulty selling?  Maybe also in difficulty staging? 

Mr. Kirman: One of the things you will see in Listing Impossible is that sometimes, no matter what we do, how well we stage, or paint, the seller will not modify the pricing so that it will be more or less in line with other comps in the area, or the listing is just so unusual that there are no comps in the area at all.  In both cases, some of the homes we have tried to sell are still on the market, at the price point the seller originally wanted it. No matter how well the launch, no matter what offers we bring in, if the seller will or won’t counter, or the buyer won’t counter the counter, everyone loses. A lot of our time and money has gone down the drain.  But, sometimes, and actually rarely, we have to walk away, and the seller has to let us go. 

JustLuxe: Given the work you do, and how changeable the luxury market can be -- And the fact that your team looks to you for guidance, do you see yourself more as an educator in luxury sales?  

Mr. Kirman: It is my responsibility to see how the market changes daily, and how such change affects our bandwidth. And yes, I do see myself as an educator – someone who has the experience and intuition that allows the provision of a type of training that helps my team, when they want it.  As you know, working in the luxury field is complex because, in general, the demographic – both sellers and buyers-- is complex. Each day presents new challenges, and each day you have to be ready for them. It is exhilarating and educational at the same time. 

For all listings visit www.aaronkirman.com

Juwan Li, courtesy of Aaron Kirman Group

1288 South Oakland Avenue, Pasadena. California  $39,800,000

Matthew Momberger, courtesy of Aaron Kirman Group

1940 Bel Air Road, Los Angeles, California $23,750,000

Susan Kime

Susan Kime's career combines publishing, journalism and editing. She was the Destination Club/Fractional Update Editor for Elite Traveler, and senior club news correspondent for The Robb Report's Vacation Homes. Her work has been published in Stratos, Luxury Living, European CEO, The London Telegraph, Caviar Affair, ARDA Developments, and Luxist/AOL. She was the Editor-in-Chief of Travel Conno...(Read More)

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