Q&A: Mauricio Umansky
Mauricio Umansky, cofounder and CEO of real estate firm the Agency, wants to change the way real estate is bought and sold.
Q: MOST PEOPLE KNOW YOU AS A “REAL HUSBAND” FROM THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS ON BRAVO. BUT YOU’VE HAD HUGE SUCCESS AS A REAL ESTATE AGENT AND ENTREPRENEUR. HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START?
A: I started a clothing company called 90265 out of college, and that did quite well—I started the fad of oversized T-shirts on girls wearing leggings. At 26, I sold the company and had to figure out my next life. I have always had a love of sales and a love of architecture, and the combination brought me into real estate. My first job was at Hilton & Hyland, a boutique firm in Beverly Hills co-owned by my brother-in-law, Rick Hilton.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST SALE?
My wife’s ex-husband gave me the opportunity to sell his property in Brentwood. That was a $7.5 million sale.
YOU SOLD THE HOUSE OF YOUR WIFE’S EX-HUSBAND?
I have an amazing relationship with him—we do a lot of business together.
HOW DID YOUR CAREER EVOLVE FROM THERE?
My first year at Hilton & Hyland, I earned over $200,000 in commissions. I became their number-one agent and was for eight or nine years straight. They had about 100 agents and I was doing 20 percent of their sales.
SO WHAT WAS YOUR SECRET?
A wealthier clientele. I always had a great network of people. I was able to talk to those people and hang with them and make them feel that I was somebody they could trust.
YOUR BIGGEST SALE THERE?
A 25,000-square-foot property on three acres in Beverly Hills that I sold for $42 million.
YOU LEFT IN 2011 TO START THE AGENCY. WHY?
I saw how Richard Branson changed the experience of flying. I felt that we could change the experience of buying and selling real estate by marketing lifestyle versus marketing property.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
For instance, with our most recent sale—1201 Laurel Way in Beverly Hills, which we sold for $31 million—rather than marketing 10,000 square feet, we were marketing what you get. It had a putting green, so when you walked in there, you got a putter to try out. We had wine in the wine cellar. We exhibited a Lamborghini Veneno at the property. You were walking into a lifestyle, not just a home.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO DIFFERENTLY AT THE AGENCY?
We have three divisions: A new development division, a resale division and a creative division. The creative division also does marketing and branding for other luxury companies, like Lamborghini and Wheels Up. It is a revenue stream that nobody else in this industry has.
YOU LAUNCHED THE AGENCY ABOUT A YEAR AFTER THE DEBUT OF REAL HOUSEWIVES. DID THE SHOW PLAY A ROLE IN THAT DECISION?
Instead of advertising somebody else’s company, it was the perfect opportunity to market our own company.
HAS THE SHOW BROUGHT TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO YOUR BUSINESS—OR IS THERE NO SUCH THING?
We are in growth mode; we will take as much business as we can. Having said that, we are a luxury brand. We’re not going to take on a $150,000 house.
WHAT ARE THE REAL ESTATE TRENDS YOU SEE IN LOS ANGELES?
We’re seeing people moving out of California and taking residency in Nevada. That has to do with the high taxes here.
WHAT ABOUT NATIONWIDE?
In the high-end market, the biggest trend is the lack of inventory. Therefore, prices have really been scaling up. Particularly in LA, New York and Miami, we are seeing levels above the peak in 2007. It is very exciting.