Top real estate agents Brent Watson and Marco Salari, founders of the Watson Salari Group at Coldwell Banker’s Beverly Hills office, are moving to a new home: Official.
The duo — who have racked up more than $2.75 billion in career sales — have done deals over the years for such names as Milla Jovovich, Katey Sagal and Kurt Sutter, athlete Pete Sampras, screenwriter Jhoni Marchinko, artist David Hockney, designer Brunello Cucinelli and designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
Watson has been an agent for three decades, while Salari — who was named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s real estate under-35 rising stars in 2022, got his license in 2018. The pair teamed up in 2019, founding the two-person Watson Salari Group in 2022.
They join as founding agents of Official in Los Angeles. Agent Tyrone McKillen — also a home developer, whose projects include a house in the Hollywood Hills that includes Bono as an investor — opened the L.A. office of Official in January 2023.
Watson and Salari tell THR that they were approached by Official a year ago about making a move. Watson’s initial reaction was to stay put at Coldwell Banker.
“My thing is if it’s not broken, why fix it?” he says, noting that Watson Salari Group has been “the No. 1 small team at Coldwell Banker Beverly Hills for the last three years.”
A Zoom call, plus a lunch in Miami at Pura Vida (between Salari and Official co-founder Oren Alexander) and a breakfast in New York (between Watson and Official co-founders Nicole Oge and Richard Jordan), eventually sealed the deal. Watson and Salari also both noted that having McKillen as the founding agent partner in L.A. was a big factor in convincing them. “Tyrone and I have done several deals together, all of which have been super successful,” says Watson.
“I could see how aligned we were with everything,” continues Watson, “I really want to move forward and I want to get into something new and fresh. I see the momentum at Official and the energy by it.” Adds Salari, who previously played pro basketball in Italy before getting into real estate, “This career move is a perfect match for our network, expertise, and what we’re hoping to achieve in the luxury marketplace.”
Said McKillen in a statement, “I am looking forward to collaborating with the powerhouse Watson Salari team. I’ve worked closely with Brent and Marco on significant transactions in the past and admire their impressive work ethic and career success, and now we’ll be joining forces at Official in the Los Angeles market to reach an even greater network of luxury buyers and sellers.”
Official, whose co-founders also include Tal Alexander and Andrew Wachtfogel, only works with agents who have more than $1 billion in career sales or who have been identified in its Prodigy program as being a future billion-dollar producer. Since its founding in 2022, Official has expanded to include six markets: Los Angeles, Orange County, Miami, New York, The Hamptons, and The Bahamas.
Watson and Salari spoke further with THR about the state of the market in L.A.; how the controversial mansion tax is affecting where some potential buyers are looking (such as Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, which as independent cities in L.A. County are not subject to the city of Los Angeles’ transfer tax); and whether they see entertainment buyers getting back into the market post-2023 strikes.
2023 was a tough year in real estate in L.A., with a slowdown amid high interest rates and the much-maligned mansion tax. How is 2024 starting out for you?
SALARI We opened escrow on a property the first day we joined Official, which was a good sign. We both feel it will hopefully be a big year.
WATSON It’s going to be a huge year. We opened another escrow yesterday. We have three offers out on different properties with different clients. We feel like it’s only up. And we’re not really even at selling season yet. The other thing that’s happening this year is the election and I know a lot of people during presidential elections, they pull back a little bit. We’ll see. It’s all about interest rates though really.
To that point, some agents in L.A. are strongly advising buyers to finally get off the sidelines and buy now before interest rates go down later this year as expected, which will then spike prices. They can also refinance later. Are you seeing that?
SALARI I think the smartest thing to do now is to buy something if you’re in the market and in a year or two, when interest rates come down, you just get a re-fi. But in the meantime, you can get a very good buy on a property in this market.
WATSON One [client] is getting a loan through his financial investment guy for five-and-a-half percent. I don’t think that’s a horrible rate. When I got in the business, the rates were 17 percent; that’s where they were in the mid-90s. It was expensive but again, the price point of a really decent house was $500,000 [then]. Prices just have gone nuts and obviously [today’s rates] look a lot more expensive.
Do you feel like entertainment industry folks are getting back into the market post-strikes?
WATSON They are definitely making moves. The strikes had a really major effect not only on housing, but a lot of restaurants really slowed down a lot. I think they are spending money, but right now people are looking for deals.
SALARI A seller today is a seller. If you put a property on the market, you are considering any kind of offers. There was a big deal that happened in Beverly Hills, a property on La Altura Road. The asking price was $13 million. It sold for 50 percent below the asking which was a crazy deal. So I do think who’s selling today is a real seller.
Do you have buyers who say they only want to look in, say, Beverly Hills, due to the mansion tax [which levies a 4 percent transfer tax paid by sellers on deals of more than $5 million and a 5.5 percent tax on deals above $10 million]?
SALARI Yes, we have a buyer from Europe that actually only wants to buy a property in Beverly Hills. He won’t lok at Bel-Air. He won’t look at Beverly Hills Post office. He’ll only look at Beverly Hills because he says, “I’m going to buy a house here and what happened if I have to sell the house in 2025 next year. I don’t want to have to pay that tax.” So it’s tricky. We have people that are just looking in West Hollywood; they won’t go to Beverly Grove. It’s affecting the market.
WATSON And by the way, we showed a house the other day that’s priced in the mid fives [millions] and the agent said, “You know, the only way the seller’s going to engage a deal is if we get it to a 4.9 [million] deal and there’s at least $400,000 cash paid for equipment or furniture.” And that’s happening a lot. So people that are pricing their houses in the mid-fives or even around six, the deal is that they don’t want to pay that tax. They are creative. So there are more deals happening in that four-and-a-half to just under five range because then there could be money paid for furniture, art, equipment. We just literally were going to write an offer on something and that’s the way the agent wanted it structured.
SALARI It’s affected the value of the comps in the area.
WATSON It’ s such a ridiculous situation we’re in with that tax.
Are you seeing any trends as far as who buyers are in the L.A. pool right now?
WATSON We’re seeing a lot of people coming down from San Francisco. In fact, we just put a deal into escrow with a tech attorney moving down here with his wife because he just doesn’t want to be in San Francisco. I’ve seen a lot of people make that move south — if they are not making the move out of the state.
SALARI But we still don’t have a big inventory [in L.A.]. People who have mortgages at two or three percent, they have no reason to sell.
Best of The Hollywood Reporter