Post’s Real Estate Q & A: Anthony Marguleas

Anthony Marguleas.	    Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer
Anthony Marguleas. Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

  The following interview by Managing Editor Bill Bruns with real estate agent Anthony Marguleas, owner of Amalfi Estates, continues our series of monthly question-and-answer columns with leading realtors in Pacific Palisades. Bruns: Tell us about your early years and your parents. Marguleas: I grew up in Rancho Mirage, where my father owned Sun World, a large agricultural company that marketed the red flame seedless grape, the seedless watermelon, divine ripe tomatoes and other specialty varieties of fruits and vegetables. My mother was a stay-at-home mom who was actively involved in local philanthropies and cultural events. I have two older siblings and a twin brother. Bruns: What type of jobs did you have as a teenager? Marguleas: My first job was working in the grape fields cleaning up after the workers who had picked the grapes. We had to get up at 4 a.m. and start working at dawn, since it got up to 120 degrees in the fields. We were done by noon. I also worked at McDonalds and at a construction site. Bruns: Where did you go to high school? Marguleas: I went to Thacher, a boarding school in Ojai, as my older siblings had gone there. It was a fun experience because all freshmen are required to take care of, feed and ride a horse. Bruns: Were you a business-minded, go-getter teenager? Marguleas: Yes and no. I was a late bloomer so I was pretty shy in high school and didn’t get that involved. But when I went to college, at UC Riverside in 1983, I started putting myself outside of my comfort zone. I started a silk-screening company, Future Graphics, which printed logos and shirts for the fraternities and sororities at various college campuses. I also started RELY Safe Rides, which I believe became the largest volunteer organization in the UC system. We had volunteers who would drive people home free of charge if they had been drinking. During college I was president of several service organizations and we raised money for the American Cancer Society, MADD and several other organizations. Bruns: Did you have time to attend classes? Marguleas: My grades were okay’I didn’t forget why I was in college’but my passion was really the activities. I was an administrative studies and history major. Bruns: When you graduated, what was your first job? And then how did you evolve into real estate? Marguleas: I started an insurance brokerage firm with a college friend and we did that for several years. Then I started a real estate development company (Horizon Communities) with two new business partners and we developed some town homes in the San Fernando Valley, but the Northridge earthquake hit right when we were selling our final project in early 1994. I decided to start a mortgage company, Cornerstone Mortgage, and in 1995 I started my real estate company, initially called A.M. Realty. Bruns: How did you meet your wife? Marguleas: I actually met Sue at Lucille Packard Stanford Children’s Hospital in 1991, when I was 26. I had a rare type of cancer, Rhabdomyosarcoma, that was found in my neck and spread to my hip and was stage four. They gave me a 30 percent chance of survival. I had six months of radiation, chemo and then a bone-marrow transplant. I got down to 98 pounds. Fortunately I had a cancer that is mostly seen in children and one of the leading specialists was at Stanford Children’s Hospital, where Sue was a pediatric oncology nurse and my primary nurse. I was then transferred to Stanford adult hospital for my bone-marrow transplant but still kept in touch with Sue. I asked her out when I started feeling stronger. I had a crush on her when I first saw her and truly married up. We dated for a year and were married in 1993. Bruns: You started your mortgage company and then A.M. Realty in tough economic times. How did you manage to survive? Marguleas: When we got married, I was not unemployed (just no income’I had the development company’but on our wedding video my dad says, ‘Thank God Sue married Anthony, so now she can support him.’ She had moved down from Stanford and was working as the Cedars-Sinai Medical Care Foundation, but times were tough in the beginning; I even explored getting a temporary job at Ralphs to cover our expenses. Bruns: So what turned things around? How did you gain traction? Marguleas: The housing market was bottoming out and business began improving, but in hindsight, it was pretty crazy starting a 100 percent commission business (A.M. Realty) without any financial partners, without a mentor and without any experience in the field. I had no idea where to get the contracts, what the MLS was or anything. Fortunately I am a fairly quick learner so I took numerous classes from some of the top real estate trainers all over the country, I taught myself real estate contracts and jumped right in. Starting out like this is scary, but it forces you to learn things quickly and not take yourself too seriously if you make a mistake. Bruns: What business decisions did you make that later had to be ‘adjusted’ or simply abandoned? Marguleas: I was glad I started A.M. Realty as representing buyers only because that was a specialized niche, but I should have switched to full service a couple years earlier than I did (in 2004), when I started Amalfi Estates and began specializing in the higher-end market. I also started an Internet company, Findopenhouses.com, during the tech boom. I put a lot of money into this venture and raised money from investors, but like most other dot.coms, it did not fare well. Bruns: How long have you lived in Pacific Palisades? Marguleas: I bought a condo on Via de la Paz in 1992, and our first son, Max, was born in 1997. We now own a home in the Alphabet streets and have three additional kids: Sam, who was the town’s First Baby of the Year in 1999, and twins Jack and Anna, who are 11. Bruns: How did you adjust to your busy professional life when the kids began coming along? Marguleas: We actually had four kids under four years old’a good challenge! Fortunately, I like being organized, making lists, setting goals, and I have a unique ability to work long hours, stay focused on a task and not need as much sleep as most. It is not unusual to for me to work until 2 or 3 in the morning returning e-mails, writing offers, doing market research. I also make sure I return all calls and e-mails usually the same day and at most 24 hours. I truly love what I do so I do not think of it as work at all. I try to be home for dinner with my family, and I make an effort to spend quality time with my family on vacations by limiting the work calls and e-mails. I would also like to emphasize that after facing death you learn to appreciate life so much more. No matter how stressful things may get at work or at home, I stay fairly calm by putting it in perspective. Almost everything is pretty minor compared to cancer. Bruns: You didn’t have a real estate mentor, but what about elsewhere in your life? Who were important influences? Marguleas: My father, Howard, has been a strong mentor for me. He instilled having a positive attitude, no matter how tough things got. He and my mother, Ardith, also emphasized giving back to the community’they were always involved in various philanthropies. One of my proudest moments came when I was able to establish service awards in their names at UC Riverside. My father also instilled that your reputation is everything and how important it is to be a person of integrity. I try and look for qualities in everyone and see how I would like to emulate those qualities to improve myself. Bruns: At Amalfi Estates, how did your collaboration with Jeff Sandorf come about? Marguleas: I had been looking for a partner so I could have more balance in my life with my family. I first met Jeff 11 years ago years ago at Patterson Place which his family had developed and he was the listing agent. We instantly clicked when we reconnected three years ago. He is a licensed general contractor and brings a great wealth of knowledge to our clients. He also has a very funny sense of humor so can make a client feel at ease when they may be nervous. My main assistant, Alejandra Sorensen, is a licensed agent and is fantastic. She handles all the marketing and has been with me almost a year. Jeff and I also share another assistant, Sherry LeMire, who has been with us a couple of years. Our transactional coordinator, Kathleen Hinson, handles a lot of the paperwork (mostly disclosures), and we have several experienced agents who sit our open houses.