SANTIAGO ARANA | IARP Journey to the Top

We wait in the elevator as it climbs to the top of the beautiful Brentwood office building. Video and photography equipment hanging loosely off our shoulders as we push our way from the elevator and into the hallway. The doors in front of us read “The Agency.” We are about to walk into one of the most creative, modern, and successful real estate agencies in the nation. However, what we’re buzzing about is what’s waiting behind those doors for us, the Principal and Partner of The Agency, Santiago Arana.

We are cooly ushered through the modern interior and into the large corner office. The views from the windows stretch out across the Brentwood neighborhood, giving you a feeling of royalty like you are looking out from a tall tower. Then from behind us, we hear a man with a slightly faded Bolivian accent asking us if we needed anything. There, standing at the door is Santiago, with a huge pearly white grin stretching from ear to ear. Now, I am not sure if you believe in this type of thing, but his aura and energy instantly calmed the room. Almost as if his positivity was radiating from him and into the whole office. He is dressed in a smart jacket while his undershirt proudly displays The Agency’s logo.

We share a few laughs, and we can’t help but notice that his phone and computer continuously ding every two minutes. This powerhouse isn’t crowned the #6 agent in the nation for nothing. It’s hard to believe that he first came to this country working as a busboy at a restaurant and not knowing a lick of English. He reveals to us, “I’m originally from Bolivia, and when I graduated from college I got a scholarship to do a masters degree in finance, but it was only being taught in English and Hebrew at the time. I didn’t speak either of the two languages, so that’s when I decided to come to the United States to learn English by immersion because that’s the way that you learn things better, right? So I packed my suitcase and the $130 that I had, and I moved to the US to learn English. And, I’m thinking, okay, I’m going to go and just learn and have fun and whatever. Well, it wasn’t that much fun because $130 runs out really quick. So, that’s when I had to go and start busing tables at a restaurant in Montecito. After a while, my English started getting better, and my manager let me wait tables to make a little bit more money. So long story short, I ended up waiting on my wife’s table.” The way Santiago speaks about his wife is as if he had just met her yesterday, with an earnest all encompassing love that would make any woman, or man, swoon. “She came with her family, and I just fell in love, and I somehow scored her number. And after four months of pursuing her, she finally decided to go out with me. So we were dating, but I was in Santa Barbara, and she was in LA, so that’s when I decided to make a move to LA. And at that point, there was a big decision to make because I was in love and I wanted to be with her, and I really liked the United States. I could see the potential and all the opportunities. It opened up my eyes and mind to a whole different level than living in a third world country, and I said this is what I want. I decided to stay here and be with her. And that’s when I started to think about where I was going to get a job because obviously, I don’t want to be waiting tables the rest of my life, that was a temporary thing. So that’s how and when I got into real estate.”

When Santiago first got into real estate, he says he “Really observed the way that real estate was done, how agents were, and what my competition would be. I researched the agents that were making the most amount of money at the time to see how high my potential for earning could go. What I realized was that a lot of agents were lazy and that the majority of the real estate agents weren’t running their business like a business. They were just getting a license and selling houses here and there for people they knew.” However, being relatively new to the country, Santiago didn’t have the luxury of being lazy because he didn’t know anyone. He didn’t have any friends or any relatives to sell to, so he had to start from scratch. “It was a lot harder,” he reveals, “I had to door knock and meet people and sit open houses to generate my own database and book of clients. It took me about seven to eight years until the point where I started to do well.”

He then goes on to make a point that reality TV hasn’t given an accurate representation of what it really means to be a successful agent. He explains, “You know, all these young kids want to be real estate agents because they watch these TV shows. They see agents riding around in their Ferrari’s and their Rolls Royce’s, and you know, half of that is not true. With every career or with any successful person, everybody only sees the success. What they don’t see is what happened before the success; what it took to get there.”

With Santiago’s casual calmness and acute consciousness, he goes on to explain his journey into real estate. “I basically burned my bridges, when I first got into real estate, meaning like the Conquistadors when they went to discover new lands, they used to burn their boats. They were like we are here to conquer or to die. So I tried to do the same, I said I’m going to make it no matter what. I went all fours in real estate, and it was really tough. I worked on off days sitting open houses every Saturday and Sunday. They weren’t even my listings, but I was asking agents that had listings to allow me to sit there and meet people there. I was hustling seven days a week, and eventually, I started to do better, and as I started to do better, I stopped working at the restaurant. I finally said, okay, this is what I’m going to do, real estate full time. I’m so excited, then 2008 hit. The crisis collapsed everything, and I was back in a very tough situation.”

Santiago goes on to describe the next moments of his life as a wise elder, long before his time. With descriptive words and a powerful inner self-awareness that makes one start to wonder about their own truths and decisions. “I believe in life; there are moments. I believe that we shape our life and our destiny by the decisions we make, the good ones, and the bad ones. I had a decision to make because it had got to the point where I was running out of the savings that I had barely just made. So I jumped into my car one day, and I said, look, you have a kid and a wife, you can’t afford not to have food on the table. So I decided that I was going to have to go back to the restaurant until the economy got better. That was the mind in me saying that’s the normal thing to do, that’s what you need to do. You enter into survival mode. You need to survive, so that was my thinking. So, I drove to the restaurant, I parked my car, and I was about to drop off the application. And as I sat there in the parking lot and I read that application I was like, what the hell are you doing? You’re not going to do this. So I crumbled up the application, and at that moment I had this very interesting feeling that I now like to call the day I was introduced with my real self. Every time I talk about it, I get really emotional because I remember clearly that day feeling those emotions and saying, you know what? You’re not going to give up. You’re going to freaking go out there and make it happen.”

And that’s precisely what Santiago did. He never went into the restaurant that day. Instead, he drove his car to a neighborhood and door knocked for two hours non-stop. “I was showing the universe that, you know what, I’m here to stay, and you’re not going to get rid of me that easily.” And sure enough, the universe heard him loud and clear because after that day he started getting a ton of phone calls and a lot of business. He reveals that because so many agents were quitting while the crisis was really bad, it gave him more opportunities, and that’s when he built his business. Then 2012 came around, and the economy started to pick up, and that’s when he exploded. With a sly smile, he reveals, “there hasn’t been one year since 2012 that I haven’t brought in more than the year before. It’s been an amazing ride for me.”

Just by looking at Santiago, it’s evident that this real estate powerhouse is a man of health and wellness. Keeping a healthy mind and body are extremely important to him, “For me to be 100% me, or for me to even be in this interview, I have to do certain things. I have a routine where I wake up every morning at five; I meditate for half an hour, then I’m in the gym at 5:30 AM, and every other day I jump into the cold ocean water. During this time I don’t have my phone. Those two hours in the morning are my hour of power. It’s when I push myself, when I recharge my batteries and when I focus on my goals. I’m grateful for the things that I have. I visualize where I want to be. I have breakfast with my wife and kids. I take my kids to school. And then, after that, I’m good to go.”

To bring value and create a successful career for yourself in real estate, it all boils down to the principal of hard work. As Santiago explains, “You have to know your market. You need to be informed about what’s out there constantly. You need to be prepared and know your craft very well because it’s a combination of things. You need to be informed, know about listings that nobody else knows about, bring value. People want to see that you bring value to them because there’s a lot of choices. There are a lot of real estate agents that have a license. So why is it that they are going to work with you?” He goes on to further stress that, “Every individual, every house, every showing, everything; needs to be unique. Nothing about it is the same. You don’t pitch everyone the same. You don’t show a house the same way to a single 23-year-old tech guy as you would to a couple in their late forties with kids. You are dealing with all different types of people, and you need to learn quickly how to read them. It’s a people business. And people relate to people because they find something in common and they feel comfortable being around that individual. That’s the missing link.”

Santiago brings a breath of fresh air to the real estate profession. He is a true example of hard work, great intentions, and positive thinking. His practices and the way he operates in this life are awe-inspiring. He says, “What I attribute my success to is just always being myself, and my biggest bit of advice is, know where you want to be. You need to have a goal. Once you have a goal, you need to be willing to work really hard. You have to be willing to die to be where you want to be. You need to be willing to put in the hours. In addition to that, you also need to be patient. If you’re putting in the work and you are conscious that you are doing 100% every day and you feel good about that, and you know where you’re going, do you have a goal? You need to be patient because this business is not a sprint race. It’s not like you can kill it really quickly and retire. This is a business where you really start capitalizing after six, seven, nine years, so it’s more of a marathon than a sprint race. So have a goal, work hard, and be patient.”