Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Meg Ryan, the Osbournes, Ricky Martin, and Los Angeles Dodgers owner, Frank McCourt, share more than just a Southern California address. They have either bought or sold a piece of prime Los Angeles property thanks to California’s #1 real estate broker, Kurt Rappaport. For those who know and work with him, Rappaport isn’t a real estate agent in L.A.- he is THE real estate agent in L.A.
“Almost every star in the biz has done business with Kurt Rappaport – he’s sold more celeb homes than anyone,” says Army Archerd, legendary Hollywood columnist for Daily Variety.
Ruth Ryon, “Hot Property” columnist and staff reporter for the Los Angeles Times, also praises Rappaport as a consummate professional who works with Southern California’s richest and most famous clientèle. “Despite his youth, Kurt is fearless when it comes to dealing with the super-rich. I think that’s a major factor in his success.”
Robert Evans, former President of Paramount Pictures and legendary producer of such classics as The Godfather and Chinatown, agrees with Ryon and Archerd. A friend of Rappaport’s for more than 15 years, Evans describes him as a “passionate, sincere deal maker.”
“In L.A., you don’t buy or sell a major home without Kurt Rappaport,” he insists. “I would refer him to anyone.”
Hollywood circles revere him for his understated salesmanship; real estate circles revere him for his market know-how and dedicated work ethics- and for good reason. With an average listing priced at over $10 million, the famed real estate broker sells some of the most expensive homes in the region – and in the nation – more often than not. In 2004, he closed the largest private home transaction in Los Angeles history, a collection of five beach front properties in Malibu priced at $66 million. His area of expertise includes the most prestigious Westside neighborhoods in Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Westwood, Bel-Air, Holmby Hills, Sunset Strip, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, and Malibu. He has even been known to reach as far as Santa Barbara and San Francisco for his A-list clients.
A self-made real estate celebrity in his own right, Rappaport has clearly created a name for himself since bursting onto the scene as an ambitious-minded 19-year-old. While a freshman at University of Southern California, he considered a career as a lawyer, but he discovered a little fact that would eventually change his mind: three quarters of the United States’ wealth came from real estate. He decided to give the business a try. Once armed with a California real estate license, he sold real estate part-time while attending college.
According to Rappaport, he was “thrown into the real estate mix” alone and without a mentor, so he taught himself the business. He began working at Merrill Lynch in 1989 and eventually moved to Fred Sands for a few years. Desiring a smaller company with more freedom, he transferred to a high-end boutique office, Stan Herman, Stephen Shapiro and Associates. Rappaport valued the company’s emphasis on building relationships and enjoyed working there until Herman announced his retirement in 1999. That’s when Shapiro and Rappaport decided to join forces. The result? The birth of Westside Estate Agency (WEA) in Beverly Hills.
“We share a lot of the same values and principles, and our style of business is the same,” explains Rappaport of their successful company, which currently employs 30 agents. “We have a motto of ‘understated salesmanship,’ which means we teach our agents the art of the deal, how not to push, how to place quality, knowledge, and service about everything else.”
At WEA, Rappaport prides himself on accessibility despite his busy work schedule and high-profile clients who expect only the best, hands-on service. All calls are returned within the hour, insists Rappaport, who runs a one-man, one-assistant show.
“I don’t have the philosophy of having multiple assistants,” he says. “I do most of the work myself.”
The question of “how does he do it?” may or may not enter the minds of those who know Rappaport best, but the hours he puts in each week – between 50 and 60 – speak volumes about the broker’s commitment to his profession. Even his own partner describes him as a “real estate monster.” “He makes working 24-7 look like short hours,” Shapiro says. “He is driven to succeed and provides clients with the best possible service. He has an incredible clientèle that always come back to him and refer their friends.”
John Bercsi, the largest residential real estate developer in Beverly Hills, can testify to that. He has worked with Rappaport for over six years, buying and selling more than $100 million worth of California real estate together.
“Kurt is the hardest working, smartest broker that I’ve ever worked with,” lauds Bercsi, who has been in the real estate business for over 20 years. “I have never met another broker who has the personal contacts he does or is as savvy about the market as he is. He has everyone beat in California, in the nation and probably in outer space too.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise then, that 99% of Rappaport’s business comes from repeat clients and referrals. It’s easy to see why. He claims he is willing to do “anything” to get a deal done-from jumping on an airplane to meet an out-of-town client to presenting a contract to a wealthy socialite at a restaurant at 11:30 p.m. He has been known to make calls at 2:30 a.m. in order to ensure attendance at his clients’ open houses. Once, Rappaport even ventured backstage at a Rolling Stones concert to get one of the band members to sign a leasing contract.
“People love service, attention and accessibility,” he says. “A 55 minute plane ride up to San Francisco is worth it for 45 minutes of face to face interaction. Personal service is invaluable.”
Even beyond service and accessibility, Rappaport possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the market. He is intimately familiar with the inventory in the marketplace and is skilled in advising his clients about the proper value of a home. He knows when every piece of high-end property is available and even when it isn’t available.
“People are always calling me to find out what’s happening in the market,” Rappaport says. “In that same vein, some brokers will call me about properties in advance of other brokers knowing about them. I very much value my relationships with brokers. To have that kind of credibility with people is a tremendous accomplishment.”
Perhaps one reason for his success over the last 15 years stems from his ability to treat his clients’ money or property as his own. When you’re representing Hollywood heavyweights like Hugh Hefner, that’s not an easy thing to do.
“I want to make sure that they’re not wasting their time,” he says. “Quality, service and discretion…that’s our mantra.”
This kind of philosophy is exactly why so many aspiring and beginning Realtors look to Rappaport for support and guidance. He even occasionally takes young agents under his wing and teaches them the real estate ropes. His advice? “Be willing to work harder than you can imagine and then more. Be persistent not pushy, be passionate about protecting your clients and always tell the truth.”
Judging by Rappaport’s success, however, some people may wonder if the guy has ever heard the word, “No.” It may be difficult to believe since he has participated in billions of dollars of residential transactions, becoming one of the most successful agents to enter the business in the past decade.
Rappaport, however, takes his success in stride, content in balancing his celebrity clientèle with family, his “greatest accomplishment in life.” Although rarely off-duty, he makes sure to spend quality time at his Beverly Hills home with wife, Juliette, and children, Jake, 9, Luke, 6, and Julia, 18 months. From movies to Dodger games, the family enjoys everything “L.A.” An avid contributor to Cedar-Sinai Neurological Institute, and children’s charities like the Fulfillment Fund and Make-A-Wish Foundation, he is also a believer in giving back to the city he loves so much.
For 2005 and beyond, Rappaport looks forward to maintaining his reign as California’s #1 real estate broker. He plans to surpass last year’s sales volume, in excess of $340 million. And he vows to never fall back on his laurels.
“I want to continue to work hard and work smart,” he says. “I would like to get to a point where I’m involved in every high-end property sale in California…and nationwide.”
At this rate, that dream is not too far off.