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California’s Real Estate Star

Realtor Tami Hollman Pardee (BSBA’93) is Hollywood’s choice when buying a home

There’s so much star power in Tami Hollman Pardee’s résumé, it practically glitters. Pardee (BSBA’93) is the Realtor of choice for Hollywood celebrities and business leaders looking for a new home in Los Angeles’ trendiest neighborhoods. In 2016, she sold more than $630 million in residential properties, bringing her total career sales to $2.5 billion. She helped Anjelica Huston sell her multimillion-dollar compound and sold a $2.1 million home to Snapchat cofounder Bobby Murphy. Pardee tells Everett how she ditched real estate convention to build her business model from scratch, how she maintains a client retention rate three times higher than the national average, why she's given away close to $1 million, and what she learned from working for Sharon Stone.

Floor-to-ceiling windows, a balcony with canal views, a 24-foot-long kitchen island. This nearly 4,000-square-foot single-family home in trendy Marina del Rey, California, could be yours for a shade under $5 million. Not your style? How about “a sleek urban duplex steps from the sand” in the same seaside community? A rooftop deck, four bedrooms, Russian Elm hardwood floors: $2.5 million.

The properties for sale through Tami Hollman Pardee’s real estate company are breathtaking and—even with those hefty price tags—much in demand. Halton Pardee + Partners, which has offices in Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista, and Culver City, boasts that it’s the number one ranked brokerage in West Los Angeles and has the second-place sales team in the country.

CEO and Principal Broker Pardee (BSBA’93), who founded the company in 2005, says she owes much of her success to “making connections and building trusting relationships.” Although a house is “a physical object,” says Pardee, buying or selling a home is “an emotional transaction. So, we really nurture the relationship with that person. We take care of everything. We have a handyman on staff to fix things up. If they’re sick, we take them chicken soup. If they have a baby, we send them a personalized baby blanket. People remember the personal touches.”

The result of this client relationship building is a stunning retention rate: 57 percent of clients who bought from Pardee go back to her when it comes time to sell their house—the industry average is somewhere around 11 percent, according to the California Association of Realtors. Pardee has a dedicated staff member just to handle past clients.

Realtor Tami Hollman Pardee sold more than $630 million in residential properties in 2016.

Pardee says she has sold $2.5 billion in residential and commercial property to date, including more than $630 million in residential properties in 2016 alone. That success has earned Pardee and her firm a place on many “best of” lists, including the Los Angeles Business Journal’s 500 Most Influential People and Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses, Good Housekeeping’s 2016 Awesome Women Awards, and number two nationwide in sales transaction volume, according to Real Trends, a real estate trade publication.

Given the hot market in Venice Beach and Santa Monica—in 2016, median house prices in Venice’s zip code shot up by 9 percent (or $138,000) to an average of $1,372 per square foot—business is unlikely to slow down anytime soon. Google set up shop in Venice in 2011, and with the arrival of so many tech workers and the city’s further gentrification, Pardee says she’s in demand now more than ever. Not that she’s sitting back and relying on the fast-growing market to keep those properties changing hands. “I’m a worker and strategist by nature,” says Pardee. In 2016, she closed 370 deals.

She says that drive comes from her parents. Her father built homes, her mom designed and built them, and her stepfather ran a Caterpillar dealership. As a kid, Pardee was put to work, cleaning up on various construction sites and spending her summers picking strawberries at a family farm. She’s passing that work ethic on to her four children, who range in age from 5 to 13. They often help her at open houses and festivals. “A lot of kids now don’t have to do anything,” she says. “It’s extremely important to me to show my kids how and why work matters.”

Pardee’s own horizons had been blown wide open at BU. “Coming from a town that was half the size of BU, the diversity was amazing to me.” She describes Lake Oswego, Oregon, where she grew up as “very vanilla.” After graduating, she thought, “It’s a huge world out there and I can be a part of it.” She moved to LA, taking a position in Paramount Pictures’ publicity department. From there, a colleague helped her land a job as actress Sharon Stone’s personal assistant. With Pardee’s construction heritage, the role soon morphed into supervising the renovation of Stone’s Beverly Hills home. Pardee says that Stone was a tough taskmaster, for example, demanding that her foyer be repainted overnight when she didn’t like the color. “But I learned from her that anything can be done because ‘no’ was not an option.”

After working for Stone, Pardee seemed on the path to a construction career. She briefly left LA to join her stepfather as the contractor for a Caterpillar dealership construction project; she even flipped houses while earning her MBA at Loyola Marymount University in LA in the late 1990s. But it was becoming a mom that turned her on to a career in selling rather than building homes. After having her first child in 2003, she wanted to get out of the house, so she got a Realtor’s license and found she had a knack for it: she sold more than $30 million in property in her first year working for Re/Max, and was named Rookie of the Year. “At first, it was a way for me to have work and still be a mom,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “Then I realized, hey, I’m really good at this.”

When she opened her own business, “I took it one day at a time and went with my gut and my intuition—I have a very strong intuition.” Two years later, when the housing market crashed, she says business tripled. “People were still buying and selling houses,” and Pardee’s firm had built a “there’s nothing we haven’t seen and there’s nothing we can’t handle” reputation.

The company, which Pardee founded out of her home and now employs more than 70 people, isn’t built like most real estate firms. Early on, Pardee decided to throw out the typical real estate model, in which independent contractors do just about everything involved in a deal—from sticking signs in lawns to paying for marketing—and then, after clinching the sale, hand over around 15 percent of their commission to the agency they’re contracted to. “The traditional model is broken,” Pardee says. As she told industry magazine The Real Deal, “there are too many independent contractors and there is no quality control.” More important, with so many different agents using their own approach to marketing, “there is no way to regulate and monitor the client experience.”

Halton Pardee + Partners looks more like a conventional business, with experts assigned to specialized departments: a listing agent team, a buyer’s agent team, a leasing team, a transactions team, a marketing team, and an operations team. Pardee spends $150,000 a month on marketing and social media, an expense she says is essential because “exposure is so important.” According to Pardee, 99 percent of people begin their search online. “Buyers are online all the time, looking for houses,” she told the Los Angeles Times as part of a “How I Made It” feature, “so we have to make sure that our homes are seen.”

Equally important is her personal style, which she says is a departure from the typical LA broker. “I run my business as a woman, not as a man,” she says. “The feminine aspect is important to embrace when running a business. I don’t hide my emotions. I let people really see me.”

Buying a home is “an emotional transaction. So, we really nurture the relationship with that person.... If they’re sick, we take them chicken soup. If they have a baby, we send them a personalized baby blanket. People remember the personal touches.”

Tami Hollman Pardee (BSBA’93)

She didn’t always let her softer side show. “I used to be hardcore,” she says. “I was a ballbuster. I didn’t love people up. I used to be a bit of a jerk. Then a dog bit me and I almost lost my eyesight. I had to wake up to the world. I realized I had to change because nobody wanted me like this. I became more nurturing, kind, and loving.” Another event also played a part in the evolution of her approach. In 2001, Pardee was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She says the illness was an adjustment—she fights the fatigue by prioritizing sleep time, doing yoga, and staying active with her kids—but it also made her a more compassionate, more feeling person. “I have my own problems. I’ve been through difficult times,” she says.

And being a nurturer versus a taskmaster, she says, “you get the same results.” Whether it’s her colleagues or her clients, “in the end, being seen is all people want.”

To bond with her customers now, “I listen, I do a lot of mirroring,” she says. It works. “At least three times a week, I have someone cry on me. It’s emotional, selling a house; happy or sad, I’m there for them.” Pardee also donates a slice of every sale to local charities. The company says its Life-Changer Program, through which it has joined with organizations such as Harvest Home and Boys & Girls Club of Venice, has given away more than $908,000.

Expanding from a solo operation to one with a big, specialized staff is a tricky proposition—many entrepreneurs don’t make it or don’t turn out to be good CEOs, since they can’t let go of some tasks. “You have to be steadfast and you have to strategize, but there’s nothing to be afraid of,” Pardee says. Starting out in the business, she says, “everyone focuses on the commission and how much they’re going to make. I focus on people.”

And she gets to focus on some glamorous people. Pardee has worked with Anjelica Huston, Robert Downey Jr., and Matthew Modine, among many others; in the words of the Hollywood Reporter, she’s the “woman who rules Venice.”