You won’t find Aaroe Estates president and real estate agent Aaron Kirman slumped behind a desk or hiding behind his tablet. You’re more likely to catch him mid-volley on the tennis court with clients, chatting it up with prospects at dinner or enjoying a casual day of shopping with investors.
Kirman, a 21-year real estate vet, was with Hilton & Hyland for eight years prior to joining John Aaroe Group in 2013.
In that time, he’s honed in his skills and created a brand around his persona, which he describes as “super laid back and authentic, for better or worse.”
Kirman, with a team of 30 at Aaroe Estates — including 25 agents, plus senior marketing, administration and operations directors — reached a sales volume of $314 million last year. The likely forecast for 2017 is $390 million, and he has $800 million in active listings at the moment, including a 260 acre-development opportunity in Bel Air for $95 million.
His journey from real estate assistant to world-traveling, top-producing luxury agent speaks to his determination and dedication to the industry and shows that an inexhaustible fervor for connecting with people, a passion for customer service, a dash of modesty and a knack for trendy marketing will get you far in luxury real estate.
A casual approach
Kirman said he’s adopted a fairly passive technique when it comes to talking real estate with his luxury buyers: He waits for people to ask him about his area of specialization.
“People love to talk to me about real estate,” he said. “They know that’s what I do, and that’s when it comes up, and we talk from there. I will say, ‘I have this great house — it’s amazing,’ and I’ll show it on my phone [or] I’ll show a video, for instance.”
No one likes to be hustled or feel the pressure of a salesperson, Kirman said, but homes must get sold. “I have to figure out how to get this accomplished without being ‘that guy,'” he said.
If he thinks some of his Chinese clients would love a certain property, he doesn’t call them — he sets up a trip to China and sends word to his network: A quick “I’m going to be in China, can’t wait to see you,” does the trick. He also schedules meetings and a number of lunches, dinners and some shopping with potential buyers and sellers to keep things fun and interesting.
As president of the luxury division of the John Aaroe Group, which merged with the well-connected San Francisco-based Pacific Union International in 2016, Kirman spends a considerable amount of time flying to China and visiting with clients who show interest in Los Angeles’ luxury real estate market.
Part of his business involves keeping up with media relationships, which sometimes take him to Hong Kong. (He was traveling to Hong Kong for “TV stuff,” he said on the day of this interview, and he’s also regularly featured on CNBC’s Secret Lives of the Super Rich.)
His press relationships are long-term strategic alliances that bring buyers and sellers together at the table. In addition to partnering with several foreign listing sites, he does press with the Wall Street Journal, L.A. Times, Real Trends, Variety, and he’s been featured on BBC.
He clocks up between 250,000 and 300,000 miles a year doing foreign press and meeting with clients around the world. But regardless of what’s on the schedule when visiting China, Kirman makes time for his clients.
Kirman avoids any real business talk during his first few client meetings, especially in China. The focus is getting to know people, and having people get to know him, too. “It’s friendship first and then business. It’s really important — it leads to a sense of community.”
It also gives every party a chance to see if they mesh well. If he thinks a relationship is not going to work, he will let it be known immediately.
Live your life and the sales will come
When you sell luxury and live luxuriously, you get used to a certain lifestyle; but the Kirman, who did not come from wealth, said he doesn’t crave the glitz and glamour: “I’m not a materialistic person. I don’t look for it. For me, it’s really about my own satisfaction — being happy with who I am and impacting the world in a positive way.”
Kirman believes that doing what you like to do and following your passions in life will naturally lead to success in real estate and grow your contact list.
“If that means going to church or going to see a rock band or having a great night out in Hong Kong, you could probably meet your best client,” he said. “That energy is going to be multiplied if you are having a good time. It’s about finding your people.”
Being at the right place at the right time is important in Kirman’s business. He recalled getting chatty with a “huge celebrity” while sitting in a luxury hotel in Paris. Their banter led to a home sale.
In another instance, he attended a gala in Brazil, where he met one of the wealthiest families in the country. He ended up taking all the sisters on as clients, helping them with their real estate needs in the U.S.
“In our business, you can’t hide in your shell and expect people to knock on the John Aaroe door,” he said. “You have to be out living, and life will find you.”
You don’t have to get on a plane, he adds. It can be as easy as playing tennis. He has lost count of the number of times he has met clients through the game.
“There is no shortcut,” he warns. “It’s hard work, doing open houses, going to showings but living the life that you want to live.”
Leveraging press, social media and technology
Kirman makes it look easy, but he puts in the work. The 20-year real estate veteran, who claims to be ranked no. 11 agent in the country by sales volume (Real Trends/Wall Street Journal), said “it’s really important to think outside of the box. The thing is you can’t just do what everyone else does and think it’ll work.
“There is so much ‘intel’ in the world,” he said. “Amazing things are happening. The key is to be ahead of it, not to know about it after the fact. Study, look and listen, take meetings, make meetings — you never know what the next thing will be to make millions.”
Kirman’s social media profile, which is handled by the tech division in his office, is another part of the picture. He has over 300,000 followers on Instagram, outsources a lot of tech to specialists and gets around 200 to 300 leads a day from his website.
The agent uses certain platforms for different reasons: Instagram for listings and press, Twitter for listings, WeChat for connecting with overseas clients and Facebook for personal stories and lifestyle.
Kirman has some advice for agents who want a piece of the international action: “Think global, and think big. Build a market presence, and be who you want to be. Build the railroad before the train.”