This fifth generation Piedmonter, passionate about politics and canines, remains faithful to ethic and style that revere yesteryear’s disappearing values… elegance, graciousness, honesty and family fidelity as life’s top priority. Yet her well-bred, socialite exterior shields a hybrid personality, part dilettante, part garden club member, but also fully imbued with the traits and motivations that have made her the doyen of the Piedmont real estate community and the region’s top producing broker since 2009. She’s the current #1 Producer at The Grubb Company and a ranked agent on the Bay Area’s Leading 100 list, as well as the Wall Street Journal/Real Trends Top 1000 list where she was ranked #129th nationally with $93 million in sales in 2014.
On the early years
I went to all girl schools in Berkeley and Monterey, followed by two years of junior college in Boston and then to USC where I received a Bachelor of Science in Education. I taught in inner-city LA, which was one of the happiest times of my life. But it didn’t pay very much. My husband was working at Santa Anita Racetrack where a lot of movie directors and producers owned horses. So I became an extra, and then joined the Screen Actors’ Guild as a stunt woman. I was known for car work–flipping cars over on their roof. It was on-the-job training but you also had to be a good driver. I was in the original Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John and worked a lot on CHiPs with Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox. I ended up spending 7 years at Paramount.
On her background in real estate
I had decided to get out of stunt work so I got real estate license while I was in LA. When my husband was transferred north to run Golden Gate Fields it made sense to seriously consider getting into the business. I’ll never forget going to a friend’s house for tea. I told all the older women who were there, including some who were in real estate, “Well, I just got my license. I’m going to work in real estate.” One woman advised, “I’m sorry, dear, but Piedmont is all tied up. You’ll never make it”. That just spurred me on. There were some old-timers who were great at the time, but they didn’t want anybody usurping their territory.
I started at Coldwell Banker. My first open house was a lot. I took a card table, a chair, some candies and MLS sheets and I sat on the sidewalk with my little card table and chair. But it got better. A friend of my parents had a huge house on an acre of land on Lincoln Avenue in Piedmont, and the woman called me to say, “Anian, I hear you’re in the real estate business. Well, my husband and I would like to sell our house.” This was one of my first listings and I was scared to death. He took me aside and he said, “Now, Anian, what commission are you going to charge us?” I was panicked. I said, “I don’t know–whatever you would like.” And his reply was, “I insist on a full commission because I charge my clients full commission.” He was old school.
One day, I walked into the Grubb Company to pick up a key. That’s when we had to pick them up because there were no lock boxes. Mr. Grubb Sr. took me back to his office and said, “Anian, I want you to come to work for me at the Grubb Company.” That’s how I ended up here for 35 years.
I specialize in Piedmont real estate because I was brought up here and know a lot of people. I also cover Oakland and a portion of Berkeley. I concentrate primarily on single-family homes starting at $1 million, although it’s hard to get anything decent in Piedmont under $2 million. My most expensive listing today is $ 8.4 million—a beautiful Albert Farr-designed home. And I still hold the record for selling the most expensive home in Piedmont for $8,800,000.
It’s currently difficult to buy a home in Piedmont because of conflicting factors. A lot of baby-boomers who have owned their homes for 30 and 40 years can’t afford to sell because of the capital gains penalty. Young homeowners who need to upgrade don’t want to move because they don’t know if they can afford a step up. So, inventory is lean. But the market remains strong with quick sales, multiple offers, all cash–40% of our deals are all cash, no contingencies and way over asking.
On the Tunney style
I very much believe in a life-work philosophy that combines elegance, persistence and hard work. I know that sounds old-fashioned, and you might think that being elegant and refined is out-of-date, but I don’t. I appreciate “please” and “thank you.” I appreciate somebody holding the door for me, and I think others do too. My core values come from my parents. A lot of people say, “Oh, Anian, you’re so elegant.” I don’t strive to be elegant. I’m just my mom all over again.
I’m also not a pushy agent. I don’t call and bother people. I don’t send out a lot of flyers. I just know. And I have a long memory. If somebody told me ten years ago that they wanted a certain kind of house, I remember that.
I deal with a lot of very sophisticated clients who know what they’re doing, so I act as an advisor. Anybody can write a contract on a house. But you have to provide wise counsel and you have to know and understand the marketplace intimately. After 35 years of doing business in Piedmont, I know which sides of the street are better. I know which players are in the market at a given time. I know if somebody made an offer on a house down the street and who they are. I have in-depth knowledge of Piedmont and its residents. That means I’m able to put private transactions together on occasion because I know the players.
My preferred style is not to get ruffled. When I deal with rambunctious agents across the table, I let them have their say, and then I’ll calm the waters. It’s very much a matter of upbringing. I was raised the right way and I am forever grateful to my parents for that. Unfortunately, we have some bad actors around now, but I think that’s all the more reason why people gravitate to people with good manners. I’m not saying I’m a pushover. I’m not. But I think, first and foremost, that people appreciate honesty and good manners. I also like to dress well. I don’t come into the office in jeans. I don’t even own a pair of jeans. That’s just the way I am.
On getting to the top
I think you have to be socially adept–smart and aware. You have to have a track record of building relationships with the movers and the shakers, of being out there—the supreme networker. You can’t be a hermit. You must be hard-working, ruthlessly honest and somewhat competitive. And you have to have imagination. You can’t be linear in your thinking–you have to be open to all the possibilities. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and I’ll think of somebody who will be perfect for a certain house.
There’s nothing more gratifying than to have a client call or write me after a transaction and say, “Thank you for the great job you did in selling our house” or “for getting us the house of our dreams.” I love hearing that because I know how much a house means to me–I’m a house person, so if I can get somebody the house of their dreams or sell it for a price that they didn’t expect, that’s what makes me happy. When I sell or list a house, I don’t even think about the dollar amount of the commission. I really don’t. I only think about it when I get my commission check from the office.
On memorable situations
I had a friend who asked me to list a house in Piedmont. I soon learned that the friend had nanny cameras around the house. Every time I came into the house, the friend would know it and note it. At one point I had an open house and there was a child jumping on one of the couches. My cell phone rang and it was my seller calling to tell me to “Get that child off the couch!” It was somewhat intimidating. I’ve never been “nanny-cammed” before.
I have a loyal client who happens to like castles. Our office had the most incredible listing called “The Hume Cloister” in Berkeley. It was right out of Downton Abby. Never in my life did I think I would have a client for it. He called me one day and said, “Anian, I want to buy the Hume Cloister. I don’t want it to get away from me. I want this house!” It had just come back on the market at $4,500,000. I said, “What do you want to write?” He said, “Ten-day close. All cash. Full price. No contingencies.” We went over and looked at it again, and he said, “Yeah, I want this house.”
On her mentors
My father. He was wise and honorable. I always knew that he wanted the best for me and always pushed me to be the best. And he respected me as a person. His advice was “I don’t care what you do. Just be the best.”
When I first went to work at The Grubb Company, there was a woman, Marion Schwartz, who was the #1 agent in Piedmont. I thought she was so good and so professional. I watched her like a hawk. I had eyeballs on her 24/7, taking lots of mental notes.
Someone else who has really influenced me is D.J. Grubb. Sometimes I can get pretty serious and intense, and D.J. provides counsel of the kind that always prevents a crisis. He’s good at interacting with people, very outgoing, and I’ve learned so much about language from him and how language matters in relaxing the situation and the participants. Everybody loves him. He’s just one of those people.