Brendan Brown is going places. The luxury real estate agent, with a passion for renovation and a sharp eye for interior design, has taken Los Angeles and New York by storm with a personable approach that is connecting with the country’s wealthiest buyers.
After success at both Douglas Elliman and Westside Estate Agency, Brown joined LA-based OFFICIAL Partners in December, where its unique AI system named him as the agent most likely to hit $1bn in sales.
Now settling into his new role, Brown speaks to Elite Traveler about his plan to hit the next level.
Tell us about your journey in real estate, from where you started to where you are now.
I started working for a lawyer who had investment properties in Tuscon, where I attended the University of Arizona. I would take photos of his hotels there every two weeks to make sure they were being maintained and report back. Since we were both from Newport Beach, when I would come home on break I would work at his law practice and handle all of his investment properties. He also had four investment apartment buildings in San Diego that I ultimately renovated and sold for much higher than he paid.
After that, since he was a trust and estates lawyer, we felt like the next logical step would be to open a brokerage together so we could handle his client’s real estate needs instead of referring them out. So when I was 22, we opened our own brokerage. This was a great experience at that age but it didn’t leave me room to grow my real estate clients or brands any further outside of his clients or projects.
Ultimately, I sold my half of the company to him and moved to New York City. There, I signed with Douglas Elliman and Knight Frank, and that’s when I got the real experience and deep passion for intertwining all of my different worlds: real estate, art, fashion and design.
Networking has always been the way I conduct most of my business, and being in New York only elevated that and gave me an international network.
I moved back to Newport at the end of 2019 when I got sober. I took some time to focus on my sobriety during Covid-19, and then I came back. In 2021, I decided to relocate to Los Angeles and began working at Kurt Rappaort’s brokerage Westside Estate Agency.
After spending two years working and learning from great brokers, I was invited to join OFFICIAL this past December. I launched their PRODIGY program for the West Coast in Los Angeles and was also the firm’s first bi-coastal PRODIGY with my markets being LA and New York. This year I am currently working on getting licensed in Florida, as our firm does a vast ton of business in Miami and it provided further opportunities to work with the founders, Oren and Tal Alexander.
OFFICIAL’s AI model, Prodigy, selected you as a future billion-dollar retailer. What is the secret behind your success so far?
I think one of the biggest factors in my success is that I never approach a client or a deal as simply a transaction. Ironically one of OFFICIAL’s sayings is that we “transcend the transaction,” just one of many ways that this move was such a seamless fit.
I have always been a relationship agent, and that’s something that I have never wavered from and never will. If a client’s cousin is looking for a property, of course, I will represent them regardless of the price point because I have built a relationship with the family. A lot of my clients end up becoming friends, and word of mouth is the best way of getting business.
I will also never attempt to sell you a property that’s not right for you just to get the deal done and get paid. I have foregone a deal because the perfect house opened for rent but the owners wouldn’t work with agents. Had I pushed those clients away from that house, they wouldn’t trust me and come back to me for the purchase. You always have to look down the line to bring real success.
I would say the ultimate ‘secret’ would be I finally feel like I am in the right place, with the right people and at the right time. OFFICIAL is the most connected luxury real estate brand in the world. Being selected to be a part of OFFICIAL, and even more so PRODIGY, is a recognition I don’t take lightly. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
I get to be mentored by agents who have dominated their markets both nationally and internationally and who only want to help me to do the same. Tal and Oren have set the records for the most expensive home sales in New York, Florida and Aspen, and have been the No. 1 sales team in the country for the past five years.
Richard L. Jordan sold $3bn before he was 30 internationally. Nicole Oge is hands down not only the smartest woman I have ever met but the most eloquent as well. Andrew Watchfogel has worked on more new development properties throughout the world than I can think of.
Having the opportunity to work alongside them and be mentored by, along with the founding agents in Orange County Ariana Gaffoglio and Los Angeles’ Tyrone Mckillen, is something I couldn’t have imagined even being possible a year ago.
But that is one of the things that makes OFFICIAL so different, it didn’t exist a year ago. They created it. There are now six PRODIGIES throughout our markets, and we all talk and stay in touch it truly is like a family office,
And what’s your plan to do to make it to the magic $1bn mark?
When OFFICIAL launched, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. Tal and Oren have built a team and business plan that I have always admired and strived to emulate. So, I reached out to them and I began to build a relationship with each of the founders because I knew when they expanded to Los Angeles, I needed to be there.
My move to OFFICIAL felt so natural, throughout the extensive interview process I was afforded a level of support I have never experienced nor heard of in the real estate industry. That really stood out to me because being surrounded by peers of that caliber who will reach out to mentor you extensively, means you’re in the best position to succeed. That’s what is so different about OFFICIAL and PRODIGY because they are investing so much in you as you are them, both to get you the billion-dollar mark.
Knowing the entire firm is so aligned in how we do business, our outlook and how we network and operate, allows you to see the trajectory of getting yourself there. Being mentored and learning from the industry titans whose careers have inspired the way I operate mine, is something that can only push me to that goal of hitting the billion-dollar mark. With that, I plan on hitting the ground running and not stopping.
What has been your proudest sale to date?
My sale last summer for my client in Nicholas Canyon. My client’s main residence is in Nevada and he was purchasing this as a secondary home. He fell so deeply in love with this home that it quickly became the primary residence. However, we were buying it when all of the insurance companies, especially fire, were pulling out of California. The house is surrounded by a canyon and brush, so we were walking a very fine line the entire escrow to see if we were going to be able to get it insured. Even if we could, if it was going to be some ridiculous amount, that would possibly tank the deal.
I got him insurance somehow cheaper than before, and this client also has become a dear friend. Watching how that home has created this new life for him and seeing his kids come and experience it, is something that I am really proud of.
Tell us about your biggest challenge in real estate and how you got through it.
I would say my biggest challenge in real estate was finding a way to make my mark in the Los Angeles market when I entered right after the crazy Covid-19 buying spree; everyone had done all these sales and I felt like I missed the wave because I had taken time off to get sober.
I ended up being fortunate enough to work with LA’s most renowned brokerage, Westside Estate Agency. It was founded by Kurt Rapport and Stephen Shapiro, who are legends in their own right and not just in LA. That gave me a launching pad to figure out who I was as an agent, what I wanted to represent and who I wanted to work with.
I planned to move to OFFICIAL from day one, so in the back of my mind I was working in a manner that would be in line with an agent they would want aligned with their brand. It worked: it was challenging and there were periods where other opportunities were popping up but I was holding out for OFFICIAL because I knew that was where I belonged. They say good things come to those who wait.
The market has been through a huge shock in the last 18 months. What effect has the economic situation had at the highest end of the market?
In LA it’s been a rough year for the market. We’ve not only had to deal with the interest rates but the ULA Mansion Tax in the same period. So you have that pricing people out of the market, and another that is making people reevaluate selling or leaning towards leasing. I would say at the highest end the properties are sitting longer, but the trend of them being leased when that wasn’t the initial intent was probably the biggest.
Covid-19 markedly changed purchase habits, with many moving out of cities only to move back in. Are there any trends from 2020 that are here to stay or are people back to the way they were before?
I think people know – either their Covid-19 purchases or friends of theirs – what they truly need to feel at peace and productive at the same time from home. I think the trends that are here to stay are making sure you have spaces to work and take space from home, and to really have a home that can keep you fulfilled inside. Things that were seen as a luxury to some before are now non-negotiable necessities. They want to know they can feel at peace in their homes without ever having to leave.
Looking towards the next 12 months, how do you see the market developing in the key markets (LA, New York, Miami etc)?
One of the biggest things is we know the rates are going to go down, which is going to increase demand. In LA, we already have an inventory issue, so this is why now is such a great time to buy. Increased demand and low inventory mean the prices are just going to be higher.
New York also has record low inventory at the moment, similar to Los Angeles. Miami is still on its hot streak and I don’t think that will change in the next 12 months.
What are the emerging markets outside of the obvious that you have the potential to offer a big return on investment?
Austin, Texas has been on an upward trend both commercially and residentially for a while. Their population has been steadily increasing, alongside having a huge thriving tech scene. You also have Las Vegas where home prices in the last five years have appreciated at about 75%. Both the Austin and Las Vegas markets have benefited tremendously from the ULA taxes in Los Angeles, with many affluent people moving there for tax reasons and bringing in a lot of cash deals.
Which of your current listings stands out to you, and why?
There are two that immediately come to mind. I have a lot in Malibu that overlooks Broad Beach. It’s 5.26 acres that has different levels that go all the way to the top. You could put a basketball court at the top overlooking the ocean. My client currently has a Swiss chalet-style cabin up there with a dining table to have amazing dinners overlooking the ocean.
There is also a 10,000 sq ft modern mansion being built by the same architects of one of my listings from last year, 1250 Roberto Lane in Bel Air, that won more than 25 architectural awards. This lot and property got an insane amount of attention last year, and I am really excited to see how it ends up being developed. The lot is for sale for $8m and the cost to build the home as planned will be another $11m.
The other listing is brand new. It’s an oceanfront penthouse in Nice, France. It’s housed in the famed Palais Maeterlinck, which is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful residences on the Côte d’Azur. The property was first a palace, then a luxury hotel and then restored into these stunning residences. Charlie Chaplin used to reside there and it has a vast amount of architectural history as well. It’s only 15 minutes from Monaco and 30 minutes from Cannes, which are two pretty unbeatable cities to have that close by. Last week the last unit in the complex was sold, so the penthouse will be the last one available. It’s going to be listed at €4.7m ($5.1m).