Location, Location, Location!
Featuring Robert Leighton
by Michele Elyzabeth
Living in Los Angeles can be either paradise or hell depending on where you live. However, the city is so vast that you have many options. You can either choose the Ocean, the Valley, the Hollywood Hills or Beverly Hills.
In my quest to find the perfect spot, one of my considerations was living close to my job. I don’t believe in freeway traffic. Whether you are buying or renting, just researching can be trying. Quite often the listing on Craig’s List or other similar sites can be very disappointing, even a nightmare at times. So why waste precious time when you can leave the job to a professional? Get yourself a realtor/broker, someone who can find your perfect living space. Finding the proper person can be challenging as well, but fortunately, there are several good agents in LA and I had the privilege of working with one of the best ever. If you are looking for someone efficient, caring, extremely professional and knowledgeable, Robert Leighton is your man. For him, integrity to his clientele comes first, something we can all appreciate. Robert grew up in Chicago in a working class family where values had been the center point of his education. Working hard and caring for others were important to the Leightons. He ended up teaching inner city kids from the gritty South Side. “It taught me that people are people no matter where they come from and that if you think someone can’t achieve something, they probably won’t. Some of these kids went on to attend Harvard and Vassar. They were able to achieve goals and not feel trapped by their upbringing. Education was their vehicle.”
I first met Robert years ago, at Le Dome restaurant, where he was a waiter (and a great one if I may add). One day he was approached by one of his faithful clients who happened to be one of the most powerful brokers in the city. “Get yourself a license and come to work for me,” she said. That broker was none other than the legendary June Scott. At that moment his life took a fortuitous turn. “Having always loved design and architecture, I took her advice, obtained my license and showed up at her door.” It did not take long before Robert became a top agent in Scott’s firm. He was made for it, always available and ready to help and if he couldn’t do it, then no one could. After a year and a half at June Scott, he left for Beverly Realty, then moved on to Fred Sands where he spent four years before going to DBL. The company was eventually purchased by Sotheby’s International where he remained for another two years until asked to join the management team at Rodeo Realty. Simultaneously, he became the president of the Board of REALTORS and addressed issues important to him, among which were to improve the reputation of realtors and the integrity of his industry.
Having worked with him for the past two years, I asked Robert to share the knowledge of his trade.
How do you become an agent?

To become an agent one must take courses required by the Bureau of Real Estate including, but not limited to: Principles of Real Estate, Real Estate Practice, Escrow, Ethics, Real Estate Finance, and Legal Aspects of Real Estate. One must then pass the Real Estate License Exam administered by the Bureau of Real Estate. If one has a felony on record, they are not eligible to become a licensee.
How is the real estate market doing in Los Angeles today?

The market is quite robust due to the lack of inventory and is what is commonly known as a “seller’s market.”This results in many properties receiving multiple offers and selling for over the asking price.
How difficult is it to qualify your clients for a loan and is it part of your services?
If the buyer is not a “cash” buyer, then one must apply for a loan. It is prudent to advise the buyer to speak to a lender before looking at homes to see how much they can afford to purchase a home. The agent should be able to guide the client to several lenders so they may discuss which option will be best for them. Knowledge of the lending process is crucial as the agent/broker shall act as an advisor and resource for the buyer.

What are the most sought after areas of the city?

The most sought after areas of the city are quite varied. Young professionals look for properties in the Hollywood Hills, Sunset Strip, West Hollywood, and often lofts in Hollywood or downtown. Executives and families tend to gravitate to Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Hancock Park, Brentwood and Santa Monica. Many buyers also wish to have a second home in Malibu.
What makes a great agent?

A great agent is one who listens to what a client wants and focuses on finding the “right home” for the client at the best price, and never thinks of the commission at the end of the deal. A great agent does not let their ego get in the way of a transaction.
What advice do you have for the new generation of agents?

Education is crucial and knowledge of the contract is paramount. Buying a home is one of the most important activities one will ever endeavor and attention to detail is paramount. New agents should work with an experienced mentor to learn the process of providing efficient guidance in a real estate transaction.

What are the advantages of working in a big firm instead of independently?

Working with a larger firm increases the ability to network with more agents to learn about properties coming on the market and the ability to learn from experienced agents what pitfalls to watch out for when involved in a real estate transaction.
Is there such a thing as too small of a deal?

There are no small deals, only small agents.  Everyone wants to sell the big properties and work with high profile clients, but agents must remember that we are in a “service” business and should treat transaction as if it were their own, with care and efficiency.  One never knows where the next referral will come from, be it smaller or large scale. Listen to the client, respect them, and remember: It is all about them, not the agent.
After so many years do you still love your job and what are your plans for the future?

I love what I do, otherwise I would not be doing this for over 28 years. Every transaction is a new exciting journey to find the “right home” for the client. There is great joy in achieving that goal. I have worked with clients from all walks of life and countries and basically all buyers, in all economic levels or status, all have the same desire. They want an agent that cares about them and strives to help them achieve their goals when it comes to home ownership.
Real Estate has always been one of the safest investments one can make, though the choice of your broker is an important factor. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. If he or she cannot answer they are not the one to represent you.