Inman Diaries is a weekly feature tracking the day-to-day activities of America’s leading real estate agents in their own words. This week, Aaron Kirman of Aaron Kirman Group at Compass leads in the face of a widening pandemic as his city begins to shut down and his clients start to worry.
Monday, March 16
7 a.m. Woke up to the new Black Monday, with news of the stock market plunging. It was a historic event that would change our lives forever. Knew the market was going to change — we just didn’t know a pandemic was going to be the event that changed it. Trillions of dollars lost.
As I grounded myself through meditation, I realized, as a leader, there was never more of a need to lead than this moment. Decided to take action and not be fearful. I had to create a game plan not only for myself but for my agents, sellers, buyers and media.
8 a.m. Immediately sent a note to my staff, instructing them to work from home for the first time in my career. Agents were panicking. Half of our staff hasn’t worked in a down market. Luxury real estate is always a challenge. Now the world has changed dramatically in both format and culture.
9 a.m. Handling the crisis as best we can. Touched base with all 60+ of our active sellers to calm their nerves and see how they were doing. Called all of our active buyers, addressed the situation, and owned it. Allowing them take the lead to determine their comfort level and decide if they wanted to stay in deals or get out. Then we had to execute based on those goals.
12 p.m. Phone calls with agents from our team. Trying to help them navigate the uncertainty and keep deals from falling apart. Agents with deals that were supposed to close that week found funding was now pulled. Buyers and sellers were caught in legal limbo as to what rights they had. Immediately got legal on the phone as people invoked Force Majeure to try to get out of deals and get their security deposits back.
11 p.m. This was the day we worked almost 24 hours to stem the panic. On the agenda were national, local, and domestic calls from all over the world with people seeking advice.
Tuesday, March 17
We did our best to do business as normal in a very non-normal situation. We chose to face the situation and address it head on. Even though it felt that life had stopped, we chose not to let it stop our business.
8 a.m. Jumped in my pool and worked from there the majority of the day. Adjusting to the news that I’ll now be stuck in my home for the foreseeable future. Thankful for technology to help us stay connected.
9 a.m. Tackling our active escrows first. Escrows that were scheduled to close are now being delayed. Some didn’t close because funding was pulled. Of the 25 deals we had in escrow, we were now left with 11.
11 a.m. Conference call with clients regarding the existing escrows in place and the price reductions that were necessary. Sellers were reducing as much as 20 percent to keep deals.
12 p.m. Second showing on a $65 million property. Virtual showings aren’t as effective, and we had to maintain our obligation to our sellers. Buyers want to see the property in person. We unlocked the doors, and let the buyers and agents walk through on their own. It was mandatory that shoes were off, masks and gloves were on, and they couldn’t touch anything.
2 p.m. Somehow went into multiples on one of our $3.4 million properties. Accepted an offer $200,000 over asking.
4 p.m. Finance meeting with my director of operations and CPA about reduction of costs and how to manage the crisis financially.
Wednesday, March 18
7 a.m. Meditation helps me prepare for the day ahead. I meditate daily to help me stay focused.
9 a.m. Conducted our team meeting via Zoom. Helping them learn how to handle a crisis – and what to do when we get out of the crisis. First and foremost — be human. The most important thing is to reach out to clients and let them know we’re here for them in whatever capacity they need, real estate or not. Don’t push real estate talk unless they initiate it. With the pandemic, the death toll will rise. After it peaks, it will start to decline and transaction volume will begin to increase, most likely with a price decrease. They should take this time to prepare for when this shift takes place.
12 p.m. Received a Coronavirus Addendum asking for a 30-day extension on a $15 million deal I’d negotiated on Friday, which would result in a 60-day closing. Had to get on the phone with the buyer’s agent and my sellers to work through a compromise. Sellers were hard to convince, but we made it happen.
5 p.m. Technology like Zoom and Facetime is helping bring normalcy during a time that’s anything but normal. Successfully negotiated a $15 million deal virtually. Seeing the benefits of virtual meetings and will probably continue to use them in the future.
Thursday, March 19
Real estate statistics always lag 30-90 days behind. We won’t know the full effect until June or July. People are sick and going into financial hardship. This was something I hadn’t dealt with before.
10 a.m. Conference calls with sources regarding data analysis and comparisons versus same period last year.
11 a.m. Conducted an initial listing appointment via FaceTime for sellers who want to get their property on the market now.
1 p.m. Assistant sitting in on buyer inspections to keep deal in escrow moving forward. Had to coordinate them all in the same day as free movement was becoming less permissible.
3 p.m. Calls and emails with CNBC regarding the effect the coronavirus was having on the real estate market. Scheduled TV appearance to share insight.
4 p.m. Received an offer for $8,995,000 for a house that was on the market for $9,995,000. Discussed with sellers the need to adjust expectations in this changing market with people losing money and jobs. They countered at $9,700,000. I told them they would lose the deal.
6 p.m. The media is calling, looking to interview the most credible experts to talk about how this crisis will impact the industry. I did an interview for a radio show, Mottek on Money.
Friday, March 20
10 a.m. Received best and final offer on property we countered. $9,000,000 all cash. Despite the changing market, couldn’t get clients to accept it. They insisted on going back with $9,600,000. These clients didn’t understand the impact of what happened, which was extremely frustrating on my side.
11 a.m. Numerous calls with clients and agents continuing to navigate challenging deals. Figuring out a game plan for properties set to hit the market the following week. Deals are still happening.
12 p.m. Prep with assistant for CNBC TV appearance via Skype.
1 p.m. CNBC live interview conducted. Thankful for the opportunity to share my perspective based on my years in the business. This too shall pass. In the meantime, how do we address the new challenges it presents?
Saturday, March 21
8 a.m. Meditation to keep me centered. Unprecedented week, one none of us will ever forget.
11 a.m. Drove to a parcel of land in the Pacific Palisades that a potential client wanted me to view to provide a price opinion.
3 p.m. Briefly met with a developer in Brentwood to look at his current project.
9 p.m. Took time for self-reflection. Time to consider what is working and what isn’t in this temporary reality we live and work in. Above all is the safety and health of our staff and clients. Working from home has been beneficial for me. Thoughts are clearer.
Can see a light at the end of this storm.
9:30 p.m. After what’s been one of the most stressful weeks in my 25 years in real estate, my biggest takeaway is to remember to be grateful and appreciate what you have. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn that slowing down and working from home has helped me think more clearly. This crisis has highlighted the importance of leadership. Taking time to reflect strengthens you as a leader in all situations, crisis or not.
For more than 20 years, Kirman has been on the leading edge of luxury residential real estate, both in the U.S. and abroad. As the top agent in Los Angeles for the past decade and a top ten agent nationwide, he has amassed more than $6 billion in career sales. Kirman’s extensive client base features luxury lifestyle seekers including heads of industry, celebrities, royalty, major lending institutions, and foreign investors. He is the star of the hit CNBC primetime show Listing Impossible and is often featured in media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BBC, Forbes, Fortune, CNN, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and CBS.
Inman Diaries is a weekly feature tracking the day-to-day activities of America’s leading real estate agents and brokers. To submit a diary, please send requests to Diary@Inman.com.