I went from waiting tables to selling houses to Gaga and LeBron James

  • Santiago Arana is America’s tenth best-selling real estate agent and sold a property worth $580 million last year.
  • He rose through the ranks after being a busboy by networking and finding a mentor who was like him.
  • Arana found success during a real estate crash by increasing her personal brand marketing.

Santiago Arana waited for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars between English classes and real estate training.

A few years later, he was selling multi-million dollar homes to their friends – all in the course of a sharp downturn in the housing market.

Arana is the tenth highest selling agent in the United States, moving assets worth $581 million last year, according to True Trends.

He told Insider that constant networking, finding a mentor and increasing marketing during a recession were key to his success, which includes manage multiple multi-million dollar lists.

Optimize your time and get a mentor

Arana came to the United States from Bolivia when she was 22 and worked as a busboy by day while learning English by night. He worked his way up to waiter after three months and serving the rich and famous broadened his horizons.

“I was expecting Brad Pitt, Oprah, Kevin Costner,” Arana said. He was amazed that customers regularly spend $3,000 for dinner and started thinking about how he could reach them.

Arana constantly networked while working in restaurants. Even when Arana was serving tables, he obsessively calculated how he could make the most money in a given amount of time.

“I always thought: what’s a better restaurant, what’s a more expensive restaurant? What’s a restaurant where I’m going to meet the most interesting people?”

This led Arana to the legendary Orangerywhere he decided to go into real estate.

After bouncing between restaurant shifts and door-to-door sales to convince people to sell their homes with him, Arana said he needed to find someone “like” him as a mentor. He found Rodrigo Iglesias, a luxury real estate agent from Argentina, whom he kept calling for three months before getting an appointment. Arana said this partnership allowed him to sell homes well above his reputation.

How to get ahead in a real estate recession

LeBron James' house.

LeBron James’ home, which Arana sold the basketball player for $22.5 million.

Marc Angeles / Unlimited Style Photography

The housing market appears to be cooling, with a correction expected. Nearly one in five sellers has been forced to lower their asking price, while sales of luxury homes fell by a fifth. With housing affordability, it is lowest level in yearsit’s hard to be an agent.

Yet it was during the real estate crash of 2007/8 that Arana began to find success. “I was completely focused on the door that was closed that I wasn’t looking at the 10 windows, doors, garage doors that were open,” he said.

Arana began knocking on doors in affluent neighborhoods, held open houses on weekends, and unfurled her signs at 6 a.m. for “free marketing.”

He said: “Putting my signs up there during a crisis when everyone was quiet, all of a sudden people were saying ‘who is this Santiago? “”

Arana said her movements as other real estate agents closed caught the attention of sellers. He started selling houses to people who were trying to move them before they were repossessed by the banks.

“That was the defining moment where my career took off,” Arana said. In 2012, he earned his first million dollars in commissions.

“When people gained the confidence to buy and sell, I suddenly became a household name in LA. So when the market picked up, my phone blew up and I had more listings than I didn’t know what to do with it.”

The boom has led Arana to sell homes to stars he might have expected years earlier, including james lebron, Lady Gagaand larry davidand market nine figure homes.

Arana said her approach would work again if things went wrong again.

“There are things you can’t control like the economy, the stock market, a pandemic. And there are things you can control: what am I going to eat, can I go knock? the door, can I pick up the phone?” he said. “And you concentrate and keep doing that, then the magic is going to happen.”

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