The Power is Now

The Oscars, but for Hollywood Real Estate – The New Yorker

Wildfires, drought, the prospect of Caitlyn Jenner as governor: nothing can stop people from moving to California. “There were definitely some who left,” Kurt Rappaport, the C.E.O. of Westside Estate Agency, said the other day, referring to the pandemic exodus. He wore a black blazer and stood at the bar at Soho House, the site of the first-ever Power Broker Awards, an Oscars for the unsung heroes of Los Angeles real estate.

“But moving to Texas or Florida to save on taxes?” he went on. “Do you want to live in Florida? Miami is cheesy. It’s fun for Art Basel, but have you been to Miami in the summer? Not pretty.”

The awards were hosted by the Hollywood Reporter, which publishes an annual list of the area’s top thirty real-estate agents. Degen Pener, the deputy editor, explained, “We look at sales, social-media followings.”

Pener said that the evening was modelled on an event that the Reporter does for top stylists. “They would say, ‘We see one another at fittings and running out of Gucci and Prada, but we never get to sit down and chat,’ ” he said. “I’m sure these agents see one another going in and out of listings, on the other side of contracts.” He added, “They’re very competitive. Hopefully we sat everyone right.”

There were twenty-eight agents in attendance, and all were, in theory, nominees. “I’ve already asked,” Fredrik Eklund, a Douglas Elliman agent and a star on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing,” who wore a flowered blazer, said. “I’m not getting an award.”

“I don’t look at myself as, like, the star,” Carl Gambino, an agent with Compass, said. “All I like to do is buy and sell real estate.”

“So many of our clients are stars,” Matthew Altman, of Elliman, said. “I was a talent agent before, at C.A.A.” Real estate, he added, is more lucrative. “Unless you own C.A.A. But it’s the same fucking clients. Same fucking people.” He reached across the bar to stroke Rappaport’s hand. “I just want to touch a legend,” he said. “He’s a big deal.” Among Rappaport’s recent sales: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s house (a hundred and twenty-five million dollars), and Ellen DeGeneres’s (forty-seven million). Altman looked up at Rappaport and asked, “Do you know anyone who wants a fuck-you compound for thirty million?”

The agents talked about how the pandemic had changed their business. “It’s harder,” Rochelle Atlas Maize, of Nourmand & Associates, said. “I specialize in Beverly Hills, and there’s no inventory. No one wants to sell.” She went on, “The biggest change is people wanting more land and not building these mega-mansions. It’s O.K. to have the land, or to turn it into a sports court. Pickleball has gotten huge.” The same went for in-home medical facilities, she said. “So you can have procedures without leaving the house.”

The brokers sat for dinner (greens, lean proteins, the rare plate of pasta). “Congratulations on all the hard work you’ve done, persevering through this past year and a half,” Pener said to the group.

Gambino appreciated the friendly vibe. “In other places, it can be animalistic,” he said. “Like Florida.”

A glass was tapped. “If you want a drink, get it before you go into the awards,” Alexander Ali, the C.E.O. of the P.R. firm the Society Group, which helped put on the event, said. The crowd filed into a theatre, and Pener explained the criteria used by the judges, all employees of the Reporter: “Over-all sales volume, listed sales to Hollywood clients, and media visibility.”

The first award, for Celebrity Property Portfolio, went to Rappaport.

“Shocking, shocking, shocking!” a heckler shouted.

The Media Maverick award went to Jason Oppenheim, of the Oppenheim Group and the reality series “Selling Sunset.”

“You fucking maverick!” the heckler hooted.

The Stratospheric Sale award went to a trio that had unloaded a seventy-million-dollar Bel Air estate to the Weeknd.

“We finally made it,” Branden Williams, one of the winners, said, accepting his trophy. “Us Realtors bust our balls seven days a week, 24/7, and there’s no awards. But we’ve finally got ’em, right here in Hollywood!”

Oppenheim regarded the award itself: a hunk of black crystal shaped like the head of a spear. “It comes with a cleaning cloth,” Ali said.

“It’s a weapon,” Oppenheim said. “I’m not even sure I want it in the house.” Pener announced an after-party hosted by a home-staging company.

“Someone is going to kill someone with one of these, and then it’ll be a Netflix documentary,” Oppenheim said, walking out. “And then it’ll be worth a lot.” ♦



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