The Agency's Mauricio Umansky

His firm has sold more $20 million-plus residential properties than any other real estate agency. His next goal: buy an airplane.

Mauricio Umansky, the charming 51-year-old co-founder and CEO of the international luxury real estate firm The Agency, has been on a tear over the past decade. Since its 2011 inception, his company has grown to employ more than 800 agents in 40 offices across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Together with his team, Umansky has been cited by the Wall Street Journal as one of America’s highest-producing Realtors, and he has been listed on the Swanepoel’s Power 200 for 2020, an annual listing of the most powerful residential real estate brokers. For the last five years, The Agency has ranked on Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America. 

The brokerage has sold more U.S. homes priced above $20 million than any other real estate agency. It has represented the Playboy Mansion, the first house in L.A. to sell for more than $100 million; the Walt Disney estate; and the residences of Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Prince. 

Umansky, who was born in Mexico City and now works from an office in Beverly Hills, has homes in Encino and La Quinta, California, and Aspen, Colorado. He supports the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the National Breast Cancer Association and is a board member for Giveback Homes, which builds houses for families in need. 

He is married to Kyle Richards, a socialite, philanthropist, and actress who is featured on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Their family includes a 33-year-old daughter by Kyle’s first husband, and three daughters together, aged 25, 21, and 13. 

How old were you when you came to America?
I was six. I grew up not far from my house here in Encino. My wife grew up in the same spot and we haven't gone very far since.

Why did your family move to America?
My father was involved in businesses in Mexico and wanted to move to America to diversify and expand to textiles. He started a U.S. textile firm that lasted till I was 25. 

You went to USC but dropped out. Why?
I wasn't really studying, and my father said either go to school or get your ass to work. I went to work for him. He taught me how to sell and how to fight for every single cent. If I said I sold a hundred thousand yards [of textile] at a buck 23, he’d do the math and say, "OK, go back. Get it to a buck 26." And I'm like, "Dad, three pennies? What's the difference?" He goes, "You multiply three pennies by 10 million yards a year and that's our profit. Go get three pennies.” He taught me how to fight for cents.

What else did he and your mother teach you?
To have confidence in myself, to be able to walk into a room and really read people, to adapt and be a chameleon. 

Sometimes you lose a little bit of who you are, so recently, I've learned how to become more who I am. There’s got to be a balance in life. You have to be a salesperson, but then you have to be true to yourself. 

How did you learn to do that?
My wife has taught me and given me that strength. She does not let other people affect her life or change her personality. Being a CEO of a company and having 800-plus agents, I'm always trying to help them be better salespeople. And I'm always working on self-improvement. You can’t teach self-improvement to others if you're not working on yourself every day.


When you were 26, you joined Hilton & Hyland, a real estate company co-founded by your brother-in-law, Rick Hilton, the father of Paris and Nicky Hilton. What drew you to real estate?
My wife said, "You're great in sales," and I always loved real estate. I went to get my real estate license with my wife at Santa Monica College. We went together and made it a date night. She never practiced, but she certainly supported me. And the rest has been a great success story.

Did she get her real estate license just to keep you company? She didn’t intend to practice?
I think she did have the intention of practicing at one point, but luckily for us, she landed a recurring role on TV’s ER.

How do you define the culture of The Agency?
We're a family business. I work with two of my daughters and my father. I consider everybody at The Agency an extended family. I see myself as a father to them. We fight hard. We're competitive. 

I know you want to remain a boutique business, and yet you continue to grow. Can you really do both?
Sometimes, you get to have your cake and eat it, too. You can be a boutique business in each market you enter, but you can also have global reach. Our job is to maintain a network that is so tightly knit that it still feels and operates like a boutique. That's our goal. 

What do you think of the Bravo show Million Dollar Listing? Have you ever considered doing a show like that?
I think Million Dollar Listing is great. James Harris and David Parnes, who work at The Agency, do an amazing job. It's great for marketing. I've appeared on Million Dollar Listing multiple times. We have something in the works for our own show, but I can't talk about it right now. 

What made the Playboy Mansion worth $100 million?
It's an iconic house. It's one of the few homes that is actually a brand. There will always be the Playboy Mansion just like the White House will always be the White House. Apart from that, it's 5.5 acres in the middle of Holmby Hills. The house is probably worth close to $200 million now, so, while it was an extraordinary sale then, it's definitely gone up in value a lot.

How is the market now? 
The market has been on fire. You’re starting to see a little bit of a slowdown not because of reduced demand, but because of supply being so low. Anytime something new comes on the market, there are still multiple offers. 

What are ultra-high-net-worth individuals looking for now?
They are buying multiple homes. They don’t want to travel to hotels; they want to have three, four, five vacation homes. You're seeing that everywhere. Park City, Aspen, and Jackson Hole are seeing tremendous increases in pricing, as are Dallas and Miami. L.A. is seeing some increase and Manhattan is starting to. 

What percentage of the time do you fly privately?
I've always flown around 35 percent privately, and I think we'll increase it to about 40 percent next year. I still fly on the airlines when I’m alone because I can't stomach flying privately when I’m by myself. If I could get the whole executive team on the flight and justify it that way, it would be a no-brainer.

Do you charter when you're flying privately?
I do right now. I have a membership with Wheels Up and we book one-off charters with different companies sometimes. I have looked into jet cards or fractional shares, especially as we expand and grow. As travel opens up, we expect to fly more because this year we have expanded across Canada and the East Coast U.S., including Boston, Connecticut and Long Island [in New York]. And Europe is on the horizon.

But I want to buy an airplane. Then my flights will start increasing a lot more. So, everybody reading this, please send me some good deals for airplanes to buy.

What's your dream airplane?
The Global Express and the Gulfstream 650 are the dream planes, right? But I don't think I can afford those at the moment. So, for now, a midsize jet, a nice little Cessna Citation or something of that class would be just fine. A [Gulfstream] GII or something like that would work great for me.

Do you fly privately with your family?
Yes, generally to Aspen. We take our dogs. We have a house there, so we don't have a lot of luggage; it's not a luggage issue. It’s more about the dogs and the family. And we do that trip often.

You're on the board of Giveback Homes?
Philanthropy is a core value of The Agency, whether we’re building homes or helping the homeless. We also have build-a-home days, and not only do you feel great, but it's an amazing team-building experience. It takes $5,000 to sponsor a build day. I think we're up to $100,000 this year. Apart from doing something really great for the world, you're also doing something great within yourself.

You play golf and tennis, and you're a heli-skier. What else do you do in your free time?
I like to spend a lot of time alone, riding my bike and hiking. Also, I just finished building a pickleball court in my backyard, and I intend to have doubles tournaments as social events to meet clients and entertain.

What's the most important thing you’ve learned as a businessman?
As The Agency has grown, I've learned to choose the right partners. Growing into new markets requires great thought and strategy. While expanding through franchises is exciting, it is crucial to select the best partners. At The Agency, we were founded on the principle of collaboration. Any new partner or franchise contender must be aligned with our corporate culture. 

As we've expanded, I have learned to never stray from our founding principles. A long-term relationship is built on shared core values and strategic vision. I've learned to surround myself with the right people, especially when building a product or company from scratch. Your people are the foundation and heart of your business. 

What do you want your legacy to be?
I'd love to leave The Agency as a global brand that I created, similar to what Richard Branson did with Virgin. But personally, a great father, a great husband, a good man, a good friend, somebody that helped others…that would be an ideal legacy.
 


This interview has been edited and condensed.

THANK YOU TO OUR BJTONLINE SPONSORS