From Open House Horrors to Clients from Hell, L.A.’s High-End Real Estate Agents Tell All


Who better to parse the L. A. luxury-real-estate market than these unscripted real-estate celebrities? An original cast member of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, Josh Flagg is arguably the king of small-screen square-footage swagger, having sold more than $2 billion worth of properties since he started in the industry at 18. Mauricio Umansky may be known to many as the husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’s Kyle Richards, but as founder of The Agency, he also oversees one of the fastest-growing private brokerages with offices worldwide and more than 600 agents. Michelle Schwartz and Ari Afshar are quickly blazing their own Carrara-marble-paved trails to fame. Sally Forster Jones routinely logs record sales in Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills, and beyond, while Malibu macher Chris Cortazzo’s career continues to crest as he rides L.A.’s exploding coastal market.

> What’s the difference between an easy and a difficult client?

Josh Flagg All of my clients are extremely difficult, and that’s what makes this job extremely fun. Look, when you’re buying houses in the price range I deal with, of course you’re going to be difficult. But that’s OK—I’m also difficult. These are massive purchases, so do you really expect people to be easygoing about it? No. But I like it! It keeps you going. I don’t like doing boring things. I like demanding people. It’s a thrill.

> What’s demanding?

Flagg Demanding could be I have to close in one week to facilitate a 1031 exchange. Or when a seller wants a three-month leaseback, and the buyer wants to move in right away. These are the kind of demands I work with all the time.

Michelle Schwartz Micromanagers, often attorneys, they’re great clients. But there’s a particular personality that functions in the law world that is constantly looking for all the negatives. I’m a positive person and I believe that our transactions will be successful.

> OK, but what about a truly nightmare client?

Mauricio Umansky Someone who is über-high-end, has all the money in the world, and is cheap as can be. Right now, I have a seller who has all the money in the world, the buyer is giving them everything you could want, and the seller doesn’t want to do a full house cleaning of the property. Same on delivering a $30 million house where the seller doesn’t want to pay $7,000 on escrow or take care of the oven that’s broken. Because they’re claiming it works fine for them. You’re still selling a $30 million house—you have to fix that goddamn oven.

Sally Forster Jones I once got trapped in the driveway by clients who were arguing and had to get the police involved to help me get my car out.