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A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Mark Boal had been searching for a home in Venice for ages. The Oscar-winning writer of The Hurt Locker hired high-priced Hollywood lawyers and successful Beverly Hills-based brokers but kept missing out on the houses he wanted — often to clients of Tami Pardee. “I finally just switched horses and asked her to represent me; within a couple months, I had a house I loved,” says Boal. “The way business is done in Venice, it’s very local and very tribal — and she’s the chief of the tribe.”
With more than $2 billion in career sales, the 44-year-old founder of Pardee Properties is one of the nation’s top agents. In 2014, she closed 152 deals with a total value of nearly $261 million. She sold Anjelica Huston‘s compound for $11.5 million and has worked with Rosario Dawson, Matthew Modine and nearly every other Hollywood name who calls the trendy community home. She says she’s cornered the largest cut — 30 percent — of the Venice Beach marketplace; she expanded to include an office in Santa Monica two years ago and is about to open doors in Mar Vista.
Still, she’s not like most of L.A.’s power agents: This mother of four (Taylor, 11; Bailey, 8; and twins Jack and Tanner, 4) with husband Michael, owner of Venice-based special effects studio The Mission, drives a gray Toyota Sienna minivan. “I could drive a Ferrari, but I wouldn’t waste money on it,” she says. “I’d buy real estate.” Instead of living in a hillside mansion, she’s currently building a five-bedroom Old World/ modern-style home on a 10,000-square-foot lot in south Venice. She prefers vintage bohemian chic clothes and jeans to expensive pants suits. And her favorite restaurant is the laid-back, comfort-food-serving James’ Beach.
Pardee finds herself even more in demand as her turf’s residential market explodes. Sale prices jumped 19 percent year over year in July to a median of $1.7 million, according to Redfin — continuing a steady rise since Google arrived in 2011, leading a wave of tech companies (and their high-paid employees). “Venice has a soul to it,” says Pardee, whose firm has donated nearly $750,000 to local charities since 2009. “I moved here in 1995 and fell in love. I met my husband at the Circle Bar. … It’s changing with so many of the tech people. It used to be a little more bohemian. It’s gentrifying a lot, and it’s hard with the prices rising so much; it’s not so affordable to everybody. It’s sad.”
Pardee’s career began in 1995, when the Boston University grad took a job as the personal assistant to Sharon Stone, who recently had lost the foreman overseeing the remodel of her new Brentwood home. Pardee, whose parents are both in design and development, took over the responsibilities. “It was intense,” the Portland, Ore. native recalls. “She said, ‘Never say no to me; I don’t believe in the word no.’ So saying I can’t do that just wouldn’t have worked. I literally got her foyer painted in the middle of the night once.”
In the following years, Pardee began flipping houses, oversaw the construction of a 100,000-square-foot building for construction equipment company Caterpillar in Oregon, and got a master’s in business administration from Loyola Marymount University. Not long after that, in 2001, Pardee’s life took a turn with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. “It makes you live your life on purpose because you don’t know if you are going to wake up and not be able to walk,” she says. Her career success is insurance should she begin to show symptoms. “Now I can be taken care of. That is my motivator.”
In 2005, her first year as a realtor, she won California Rookie of the Year at Re/Max, with $33 million in sales. That same year, she founded Pardee Properties, which she incorporated and separated from Re/Max in 2009.
Pardee attributes some of her success to the way she operates her business. Her employees are all paid a full-time salary with benefits and each is assigned only one element of the home-buying process. For instance, some agents are dedicated only to listing properties while other agents only assist buyers. “I think that the brokerage model is completely broken,” she says. “My agents aren’t thinking, ‘How am I going to make rent or my mortgage?’ They’re thinking about what’s in the best interest of the client.”
Samantha Torres, who has been Pardee’s right-hand woman for nearly a decade, says keeping her employees happy is one of her boss’ top priorities. Every year, Pardee organizes a rafting retreat for the whole office. This year, due to the drought, she rented out a midcentury motel in the Mojave where the group had a karaoke party.
“Once she came into the office at 4 p.m., which is our busiest time of day, and heard Journey on the radio,” Kinnon says. “She told everyone to take a break and close their computers and dance for a while.”