The life of a celebrity real estate agent with Andrew Manning
For many real estate professionals, meeting and helping a wide range of clients is one of the perks of the job. This industry naturally attracts those who love to serve—those who get a kick out of making others’ dreams come true.
So, when your career path leads you to servicing more widely recognized clientele—celebrities, if you will—that’s just an added bonus.
The San Fernando Valley in Southern California is one region of the country with a particularly high interest among the rich and famous. Located just north of L.A., and encompassing the affluent areas of Hollywood Hills, Sherman Oaks, Studio City and Calabasas, this famed A-list haven is Andrew Manning’s stomping ground.
One of the top ranked agents in the North American Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network, and part of the thriving Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties brokerage, Andrew has been working full time in the industry since 1986. But he didn’t take a typical route to gaining his real estate license.
“My parents were real estate investors in the 70s and 80s,” Andrew explained. “We moved several times, and my mom was big on fixing up houses and doing things herself. So, my sister and I would help her fix the houses, mowing lawns, etc. They put me right to work.”
Andrew was grateful for the work as it fed his passion for property at an early age. “I was obsessed with reading magazines on cars and houses,” he said. “I used to go to open houses as a teenager and said I was going for my parents.”
Juggling three jobs
It was clear to Andrew his heart was set on real estate, but it took him a while to take the plunge and make the industry his only source of income. He recalled, “I went to get my real estate license while in college. But after college I was working up to three jobs at times and afraid to let go of any of them.”
The roles Andrew eventually relinquished included assistant managing at a law firm in Century City, and a stint as an Olympic escort, shuttling people to their private jets and conducting celebrity tours during the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics.
It was during his time at the law offices when the path to his current career started to form. At the end of each workday, he noticed a coworker would often change into a fancy outfit before leaving for the night. Curiosity finally got the better of him, and he discovered that his colleague’s husband was an entertainment business manager. Several nights a week, his coworker would be mingling over dinner with her husband and the upcoming stars that he managed.
Andrew became good friends with the couple, and it was this relationship that finally gave him what he needed to make real estate his full-time gig.
“My colleague’s husband helped me get my start with these young celebs, like the kids from the show 90210,” Andrew explained. “I started leasing them places and then they would send me to their friends. Then I sold houses for several of the attorneys in the firm I worked for, and it all snowballed from there.”
Dealing with fervent fans
Many folks might feel more than a little starstruck rubbing shoulders with the stars. What helps Andrew is his self-confessed unfamiliarity with many of the personalities he meets in his professional life.
“I’ve seen more movies on airplanes than in the theater,” Andrew admitted. “I have to google a lot of my clients, and almost routinely I apologize to them for not seeing their show. But these celebrities are all real people. Some have bigger egos than others, sure, but for the most part, they think my ignorance is hysterical; they love it.”
Andrew has some tricks up his sleeve to determine the credentials of a celebrity he’s dealing with if a quick web search is out of the question. “Often, stars have albums or awards hung up around the house and you can figure out the seller and their status from that,” he explained. “Other times, my clients are one step ahead of me—the other day I was showing a customer around Iggy Azalea’s house. I wasn’t aware of who she was but my client, who is a YouTube celebrity, certainly knew. Iggy was hanging out in the kitchen getting her nails done. She was very pleasant!”
Speaking of YouTube, the personalities that rise to fame via these relatively new media platforms make up a good chunk of Andrew’s client base. And their fans adore them as much as those who greeted The Beatles on their first trip across the pond.
“The current crop of internet celebrities can have even bigger fan bases than more traditional stars,” Andrew said. “I was with a client recently, a YouTube star who was in his 20s, and we were standing in front of the house he was planning to buy. A Midwestern mom with two teenage daughters who were wailing and crying showed up and asked my client if he lived here… ‘Tell them that we’re on a hike and not looking at the house…’ my client said. We had to walk two blocks around the corner and wait 15 minutes for them to leave.”
Traversing the celebrity stalking issue
The issue of adoring fans is something that real estate agents who deal with high-profile clients need to navigate and mitigate. Admirers go a long way to discover where their favorites are living, and modern tools are making it easier. “Sometimes clients back out of buying a property if they find out the previous owner has uploaded too many photos of the outside of the home,” explained Andrew. This is a problem as new apps available on the market help fans determine the location of a house based on just a few external photos.
Some sellers are so private that it’s impossible for Andrew to work out the owner of the house he’s showing his clients. “Most of the sellers have an NDA which makes it difficult to discuss,” Andrew added. “However, it can still be possible to determine the seller through the business manager. So these days we’re seeing double-blind trusts, which add another layer of security.”
Working with big-name clients can sometimes result in bizarre wishes and unusual behavior. “I’ve had people request to spend the night in a house before buying,” Andrew recalled. “But no one has ever been allowed. I was once showing an actress, a very nice soap star, around a property and she decided to strip off naked and jump into the pool.” It turns out the poor broker selling the property held more traditional beliefs about public displays of nudity, and therefore wasn’t particularly comfortable with the young star’s confidence. Luckily, the actress ended up buying the house.
Listening to your clients’ needs
Among all the celebrity names that Andrew has dealt with throughout his career, there is one couple that stands out to him as particularly down to earth: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Andrew met the couple back in 1997 when their children Jaden and Willow were yet to be born. “They are a very nice and respectable family,” Andrew stated. When he started working with the family, they were looking to upgrade from their ¾ acre Westlake Village plot, which was “bursting at the seams,” according to Andrew. “They wanted a big lot and were looking in the Beverly Hills/Bel-Air area, but a property with half an acre is considered a ‘big lot’ in those areas. They were working with six or seven different agents, but nobody would listen to what they actually wanted.”
After asking to see where the Smiths were living, Andrew understood his task, and eventually found them “a beautiful property with 100 acres.” The job wasn’t complete yet though; they were up against various issues including property lines and lake rights that led them to back out.
After months of negotiating, which included revised permits and water rights in exchange for Will being able to land his helicopter on the property six times a year, the couple bought the property, for $500,000 less than the original price, too. “Everyone says, ‘you’re so lucky’, but it took me two and a half years to negotiate that sale,” Andrew mused cheerfully.
When he’s not telling famous people he has no idea who they are, Andrew is a big fan of altruism. He and his colleagues donate a portion of their commissions to charities in the L.A. area via California Properties’ The Charitable Foundation and Andrew’s longtime connection to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Southern California Los Angeles Chapter. Andrew and his team also put their all into Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network-wide fundraising for the organization’s official charitable benefactor, The Sunshine Kids.
A regular at charity events in both California and further afield, Andrew particularly appreciates being able to give back while enjoying the social aspects of a fundraising soirée; his family owns a property in the charming wine town of Los Olivos, California which they auction off for a few nights, several times a year, for such occasions.
To find out more about Andrew, visit andrewmanning.com.