Hollywood's Top 30 Real Estate Agents

8:00 AM 9/14/2017

by Peter Kiefer

What goes up … keeps going up in L.A.'s high-end home market, say the brokers the industry trusts of the year's biggest sales, from Geffen's Malibu compound to Angie's DeMille estate to the Playboy Mansion and beyond.

Tami Pardee, Kofi Nartey and Kurt Rappaport - Split - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of subjects

Between Jay Z and Beyonce's purchase of an $88 million Bel Air spec house and Angelina Jolie's $24.5 million buy of the Cecil B. DeMille estate in Los Feliz, there were plenty of headlines coming out of L.A.'s white-hot luxury real estate market the past year, and signs point to more of the same. In the second quarter of 2017, the median sales price of a luxury home reached $9.5 million — a 3 percent increase from the same period last year, according to Douglas Elliman. Meanwhile, the number of luxury sales in the second quarter jumped 26 percent from a year ago, even though those homes are staying on the market longer (seven days). THR's annual list of top real estate pros — 25 solo artists plus five top teams — reveals how these movers and shakers close the deal, plus what they really think of how their profession is portrayed onscreen.

Brian Porreca and Rebecca Sun contributed to this report.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Josh and Matt Altman

    Unlike many top brokers, the Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles stars pull their $400 million in annual sales from all over the city: The brothers are the agents for an $80 million, 15,000-square-foot Malibu home with panoramic ocean views and just closed on a $25 million, 40,000-square-foot estate in Bradbury Canyon, north of Monrovia. "It has a shooting range and a pool you can see from space," says Josh. The duo helped producer Caryn Mandabach (Peaky Blinders) sell her home on the Riviera golf course for $10.8 million and new Rams head coach Sean McVay, 31, buy a $2.7 million Encino abode.

  • Cindy Ambuehl

    It's no surprise that Ambuehl, the mother of seven boys, conducted her THR interview sitting in the reception area at the pediatrician's office. What's more surprising is how much she credits her kids for her success. "It's all about time management. I have a lot of people counting on and trusting me at home and at work," says Ambuehl, who cleared $160 million in sales this year and counts skateboarder and reality star Rob Dyrdek and Shark Tank's Robert Herjavec as clients. "Being a parent is also very relatable, and though I deal with a lot of celebrities, most of them are parents, too."

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent "Me. I've played a realtor on five TV shows including The Bold and the Beautiful, which my husband [Don Diamont] stars on."

  • Santiago Arana

    Arana added a new responsibility in May: managing The Agency's new office in Pacific Palisades, where he lives with his wife and two sons. With $202 million in 2017 sales, he recently sold a $15.5 million home on San Remo Drive and with colleague Mauricio Umansky represented buyer and seller on an $11.5 million Brentwood home previously owned by Michael Ovitz. Arana also co-owns with David Herskowitz the luxury developer Cutting Edge, which in June unveiled a state-of-the-art new build in Brentwood for $30 million.

  • Ben Bacal

    Technically speaking, 924 Bel Air Road — a $250 million listing that comes with a helicopter pad and $35 million in cars — is a house. But Bacal, who holds the listing, describes it as "a mega-yacht you never have to leave." He has received several offers for the property but none that have satisfied superdeveloper Bruce Makowsky. In the meantime, the Rodeo star, who has worked with the likes of Megan Ellison and Matt Damon, cleared $150 million in sales this year, sold two parcels of land (for $20 million and $30 million) and increasingly is focused on L.A.'s growing luxury condo market, having closed on a half-dozen eight-figure units in the past year.

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent "Bud Fox from Wall Street."

  • Chris Cortazzo

    In April, Coldwell named the Malibu-based star its top performer out of 88,000 brokers worldwide thanks to his more than $330 million in sales volume for 2016. "I work 24 hours a day, basically," Cortazzo says. He represented Chrome Hearts founders Richard and Laurie Lynn Stark in their $38.5 million purchase of a Paradise Cove compound and director Chris Columbus on his $18 million Malibu Colony buy from former Paramount head Jonathan Dolgen; he also repped buyer and seller in the $6.5 million sale of the late Don Rickles' estate in Point Dume, where Cortazzo was born and raised.

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent "American Beauty. (Laughs.) That can be accurate in some places in some twisted, funny way."

  • Drew Fenton

    Fenton's relationship with superdeveloper Nile Niami landed him one of the most-talked-about listings of the year — the $100 million spec house at 1175 Hillcrest known as "Opus," which was the subject of the year's raciest marketing campaign, a soft-porn, Cleopatra-themed video. Fenton, who already has notched more than $300 million in sales in 2017, is one of the listing agents on late Univision head Jerry Perenchio's former estate, Chartwell, now listed for $350 million — the priciest U.S. home ever. That is, until Fenton lists "The One," a $500 million Niami spec, later this year.

  • Josh Flagg

    Flagg, of Bravo's Million Dollar Listing fame, helped orchestrate one of the year's most serendipitous pairings: Tom Ford's purchase of the Betsy Bloomingdale estate in December for $38 million. It was a standout deal in an unusual year. "I'm usually very top-heavy with listings more than buyers, but this year I represented just as many buyers," he says. Flagg cites the Perenchio estate as evidence that in L.A.'s continually record-breaking market, "The high end is on fire."

  • Sally Forster Jones

    This year, Forster Jones has seen a change in the makeup of her luxury clientele: "significantly" fewer buyers from China, she says. That hasn't stopped her from clearing $300 million in sales volume in 2017, the third straight year she's surpassed that benchmark. "We are fielding more calls from Northern California and the East Coast," says Forster Jones, who recently sold the mansion immortalized by Faye Dunaway in the Joan Crawford biopic Mommie Dearest. She sold the South Mapleton Drive home for $18.8 million in April.

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent "Million Dollar Listing. Totally not what my life is like, but it always makes me laugh and is great entertainment."

  • Kyle Giese

    Firm founding partner Giese, who has cleared more than $228 million in sales this year, cracked the L.A. luxury market after cutting his teeth in Texas. The feathers in his 2017 cap are a $15 million sale on Palm Drive in Beverly Hills and the $9 million sale of 118 Tower Road, co-listed with partner Adam Rosenfeld. He currently has a $50 million listing for a plot on Stradella Road. "There's no other piece of land in the city that has the potential [of this one]," he says.

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent "Glengarry Glen Ross."

  • Ginger Glass

    Even by speaking with THR, Glass — who got her broker's license when she was just 17 — was breaching her normal protocol. "I have a very hands-on approach, and I work alone so my clients know that their privacy is protected," says the lawyer turned broker. "I'm the only one that answers the phones." Glass was involved in Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores' $100 million purchase of 301 Carolwood in October (that's all she'll say), which helped propel her year-to-date sales-volume figure to $232 million. "I don't say no to any work," she adds. "I could be showing a $3,000 lease one morning and a $40 million home that afternoon."

  • Madison Hildebrand

    The former Million Dollar Listing star in March sold a Malibu oceanfront property for $15.85 million, leading him to a string of other listings, including 200 Toyopa in Pacific Palisades, which is in escrow for $16.9 million. He's also in escrow on a Malibu pad he helped find for Alanis Morissette.

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent "Annette Bening's character in American Beauty. I am not sure it influenced me, but I related to it."

  • Aaron Kirman

    Though he built his reputation selling "cool architectural homes," Kirman (who spoke to THR from vacation in Mykonos, Greece) says his mandate now is simply "to sell the most expensive homes in the world." That's no empty boast, given his $320 million in 2016 included the second-highest sale ever in Beverly Hills: $65 million for the former estate of Danny Thomas (to Evan Metropoulos, whose family controls Hostess Brands and whose brother Daren bought the Playboy Mansion). Kirman hopes to get even more for a 16-acre Beverly Hills compound (listed at $85 million) whose past owners include Eddie Murphy and Cher. But he hasn't abandoned selling design gems to the creative class, including a $5 million Hollywood Hills house to Jeremy Piven.

  • Brett Lawyer

    Where Lawyer goes, records tend to fall. In 2015, he sold Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith's home to Netflix's Ted Sarandos for $16 million, Hancock Park's highest sale. He still holds the record in Ojai with the $9 million sale of the 3-acre Paul Williams-designed Ford Estate in 2013 and briefly held a Malibu mark when he sold 7061 Birdview for $27 million in 2016. "My history with houses is pretty unique, and so are my clients," says Lawyer, who has cleared $200 million this year. In June, he helped broker the $24.5 million sale of DeMille's mansion to Jolie; in May, he brokered the sale of Jennifer Lopez's Hidden Hills home for $10 million.

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent Netflix's Santa Clarita Diet "is funny and has some realistic aspects."

  • Rochelle Maize

    Among the dozens of sales that helped propel Maize past $153 million this year was 704 N. Bedford, the Beverly Hills home of the late talent agent Freddie Fields — he represented everyone from Judy Garland to Peter Sellers — that sold in April for $13.65 million. "This property was especially important to me for a few reasons," says the former wealth manager, noting she integrated virtual reality into the marketing, which helped the property sell in the first week for more than $2,100 a square foot, a Beverly Hills record.

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent "Modern Family's Phil Dunphy. He does things outside of the box and has a unique style."

  • Tracy Tutor Maltas

    In October, Maltas sold a Frank Gehry-designed home in Brentwood for $8.1 million to developer Tom Safran. In July, she brokered the $11.8 million sale of the John Lautner-designed Stevens House in Malibu to Ed Norton, and she currently has a stunning $12 million Pierre Koenig-designed listing on Malibu's Point Lechuza. "I really love working with houses that have an architectural story behind them," says Maltas, who has represented stars including Channing Tatum but likes to "fly under the radar."

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent "American Beauty, when Annette Bening's character announces, 'I am going to sell that house today.' We all have had houses that we walk in that aren't great, but it's our job, so you pull up the curtains, put on your fancy heels and sell."

  • Linda May

    In the span of several months, May was involved in two of the most architecturally significant deals of the year — both in Holmby Hills. The first was the $41 million sale of the Edie Goetz house to billionaire philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen; the second was Adam Levine's $18 million purchase of a Caspar Ehmcke-designed home. "I'm from San Francisco, where there is incredible architecture, so I have a sense of history," says May, who has $250 million-plus in sales in 2017.

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent "Phil Dunphy. He's honest, and I like that about him."

  • Sandra Miller

    Miller considers herself a nose-to-the-grindstone worker and eschews PR, much to the appreciation of her ultra-high-net-worth (and often foreign) buyers. "For them, L.A. is still much less expensive in terms of price per square foot than cities like New York, London, Hong Kong or even San Francisco," says Miller, who pulled a majority of her $150 million in sales so far this year from the Westside (including Santa Monica, where she's based). The head of a special effects studio once texted her a picture while brunching at Geoffrey's Malibu that read, "I want to own this view" — now he's building his dream home on a lot Miller found.

  • Jade Mills

    "My clients are very loyal," says Mills. So much so that six months after helping Daren Metropoulos buy the Playboy Mansion for $100 million, she represented his brother in his $65 million purchase of the Trousdale compound once owned by Danny Thomas. She's now listing Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale's Hollywood Hills estate for $35 million and a spec mansion on the lot of Dean Martin's former residence for $27.95 million — and she's one of the trio of agents listing Perenchio's $350 million estate.

  • Kofi Nartey

    Ten years ago, Nartey asked his former college teammate, star NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez, to do him a solid. "He was one of the first people I reached out to, and he gave me a shot at selling his house in Manhattan Beach," says Nartey, himself a ex-standout wide receiver at Cal who has emerged as the "go-to" broker for a growing pool of pro athletes seeking to buy or sell in L.A. Last year, the 3-year-old Compass poached Nartey from The Agency and tasked the Pepperdine MBA with launching a sports and entertainment division, which now has more than $100 million in active pocket listings. Having worked as an actor for nearly a decade after college (he's appeared on True Blood and Modern Family), the father of two brings an understanding of both Hollywood and sports.

    In August, he sold NBA player Nick Young's six-bedroom Tarzana home for $3.2 million, and he's in escrow on former Laker Derek Fisher's Hidden Hills six-bedroom for $6.2 million. He also holds the listing for comedian Steve Oedekerk's $10 million home in San Juan Capistrano. "The thing you want when dealing with a broker is inside information, and Kofi's knowledge of pocket listings and off-the-market properties is second to none," says Black-ish showrunner Kenya Barris, who hired Nartey to help him lease a home previously owned by Golden State Warriors star Andre Iguodala. "He's also a cool-ass dude."

    With the arrival of two NFL franchises, a stadium rising in Inglewood and the recent deal for L.A. to host the 2028 Summer Olympics, more sports figures are looking to buy here. But in addition to "baller pads," athletes need proximity to training facilities, which has Nartey and his team studying markets that range from Calabasas to the South Bay. "We now have a collective of 40-plus agents who are sharing ideas and best practices on how we can service [clients] and work better with business managers," says Nartey. "We just get it better than everyone else because we've built a specialization around it."

  • David Offer

    Offer describes his style as "the anti-Million Dollar Listing approach — not flashy or glitzy, just a lot of discretion and sound advice," which may explain why he was selected to help Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson sell their two adjacent houses in Pacific Palisades for $17.5 million. Though he did some $200 million in 2016 sales, Offer says he turns down many more listings than he accepts (35 to 40 homes a year). "I only take what I know I can sell," he says. That includes a new Brentwood mansion at 310 N. Carmelina, designed by Kristen Buckingham, wife of Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey, and listed for $22.5 million.

  • Jason and Brett Oppenheim

    Though they helped Orlando Bloom score a $7 million modern in Beverly Hills and flipped the home of NBA player and Kim Kardashian ex Kris Humphries for $8.2 million, the brothers have a clear focus: the Hollywood Hills. Jason estimates they sell 10 times more homes there (80-plus last year) than their closest competitor. Much of their $300 million in annual sales volume comes from a massive number of sales in the Hollywood Hills, but they go big, too: They're about to list Sunset Plaza's priciest property ever at $40 million.

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent Paul Rudd in I Love You, Man.

  • Tami Pardee Team

    Her daughter scoffs whenever anyone calls Pardee the "Queen of Venice," but with $629 million in sales last year, that crown belongs to this mother of four, who has built her empire with increasing focus since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. Citing a 17 percent jump in business this year for her team (all listings are shared), Pardee sees no signs of Venice softening. "We've noticed even more of an overlap in tech and entertainment, with actors getting involved in technology and tech companies hiring entertainment execs." Team Pardee is helping former Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels unload her PCH house for $8.75 million and writer-director Jerry Zucker sell his Mandeville Canyon estate for $15.5 million.

  • Kurt Rappaport

    "Flawless" is Rappaport's word for the record sale of David Geffen's $85 million Broad Beach compound in May that he brokered on behalf of the media mogul. "It was a combination of a seller who was very attached to a property but spending less time in Malibu and a buyer who knew exactly what he wanted." Although he has struck gold — and grabbed headlines — for his Malibu listings, Rappaport says the bulk of his sales volume this year occurred in Beverly Hills, Bel Air and the Westside. The city sells itself, he says. "Every person wants to be in L.A.; it checks all the boxes."

  • Joyce Rey

    In her 43 years of experience, Rey has never seen a time like this. "Everyone's predicting a cooling off and saying the market can't get hotter, but it has," she says. In 2017, Rey sold composer John Williams' Hollywood Hills home for $14.98 million, Tom Jones' Mulholland Estates compound for $11.28 million and Mike Medavoy's Beverly Hills property for $9.9 million. She also handled two historic properties: the former residence of David O. Selznick, which she listed for $19.9 million, and Michael Jackson's Neverland, now Sycamore Valley Ranch, which she relisted in March for $67 million (down from a $100 million listing by another agent).

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent "I do know Annette [Bening], and I did represent her, and it made me a little nervous when I saw [American Beauty] because I certainly hope that she wasn't portraying me! (Laughs.)"

  • Adam Rosenfeld

    For Rosenfeld, the Owlwood Estate — whose previous owners include Sonny and Cher and Tony Curtis — is the gift that keeps on giving. After helping broker its $90 million sale in September, he recently relisted the unchanged property for $180 million, a bump that has been ascribed to "market demand." Rosenfeld, who has had nearly $227 million in 2017 sales, has seen the firm he co-founded two years ago top $1 billion in sales

  • Stephen Shapiro

    It's rare, but 30-year veteran Shapiro still gets the tingles on certain deals. This year it was the sale of 1642 Mandeville Canyon, an 11,000-square-foot nine-bedroom that he listed for Fred Silverman, who headed up CBS, NBC and ABC during his career. "Working with a legend like that was a highlight," says Shapiro, who sold the home in March for $17.8 million. "Getting to walk around his house and see his memorabilia was really special."

  • F. Ron Smith and David Berg

    Smith and Berg have become a go-to team for Westside developers. "Many brokers would say that this year's market was defined by the large number of $100 million listings," says Smith. "But for us, it was about the dominance of family-style new construction." The duo did nearly $200 million in sales last year, with strong representation in the exclusive Riviera neighborhood of the Palisades, including locating the buyers for Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn's estate on Capri Drive ($7.25 million).

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent Smith: "Easy.?? Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross?: 'Coffee is for closers.' "

  • Richard Stearns

    When the Ronald Reagan estate on Amalfi Drive in Pacific Palisades sold for $22 million, Stearns was relieved. "The conversation started with the builder, and in the end I represented the buyer. But it took years for it to come together," says the agent, who prides himself on patience and discretion. He reportedly has worked with Val Kilmer and Bob Dylan, but don't expect him to cop to it: "There are so many sleuths analyzing every transaction."

    Best Hollywood depiction of a real estate agent Glengarry Glen Ross is "a great story, and I am sure there was truth to that model 40 years ago. But there's no relation to today's market."

  • Mauricio Umansky

    The firm co-founder and CEO has scored with savvy flips like the near-record $69.9 million Malibu mansion he sold in April, which he and investor Mauricio Oberfeld acquired from the U.S. Justice Department for $38 million in 2016. More recently, he sold Reba McEntire's Beverly Park home for $25.15 million, Tyler Perry bought his $14.5 million Mulholland Estates listing, and he has a $29.9 million spec mansion for sale in Beverly Hills. It all adds up to $430.5 million for the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star — the highest L.A. sales volume this year.

  • Branden and Rayni Williams

    Considering the deal's stature, surprisingly few details leaked about Jay Z and Beyonce's $88 million Bel Air purchase in August. Though they won't confirm, it's known in the brokerage community that this husband-wife team held the listing. With more than $430 million in sales this year, the two have worked with stars from Cher to French singer Johnny Hallyday, whom Branden credits for helping him land his first big sale in 2006.