by Michael Ventre
Surterre Properties, Orange County
How did you get started in real estate?
My brother-in-law was the president of Coast Newport Properties. He brought me in to help with the company and sell properties. That was more than 20 years ago.
What is the philosophy behind Surterre Properties?
In September of 2006, I joined forces with Paula Ansara-Wilhelm. We decided to go green, which was an important aspect of starting our company. We wanted to sell and make a living with beautiful houses that were made up of elements of the Earth. If we don’t take care of the Earth, we’re not going to have anyplace to live.
Do you have a lot of competition in the green market?
A lot of companies would like to compete. The problem is when you have old, established ways and old, established computer systems and marketing strategies, it’s hard to change those. We’ve been doing it from the beginning. Almost all our chairs, desks and lighting fixtures are recycled. All the paper we use is 100 percent recycled.
How much has your business grown?
Our initial staff was five. Now we have 240 agents and an additional 24 employees. We sold just under $900 million worth of properties last year, and we’re on track for more than $1 billion this year.
1088 N. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach; 1400 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach; surterreproperties.com
Sotheby’s International Realty, Sunset Strip office
When you moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco in 2001, you planned to take a break from real estate. What lured you back?
I bought a condo in the Sierra Towers in West Hollywood and after a major remodel, I was bored and decided to go back to work.
What was the turning point that caused you to go full throttle back into the business?
I showed somebody my unit as a model. He literally took out his checkbook, put it on the countertop and said, “How much do you want for it?” I said, “It’s not for sale.” “How much?” “Not for sale.” “How much?” Finally I said, “OK, a million-five.” He said, “Sold,” and wrote me a check.
What was your goal when you began selling units in the Sierra Towers?
I started creating a desire in the minds of the public. I didn’t want people who needed a home; I wanted people who had a desire for a lifestyle. I wanted to focus on younger, hipper people who liked a sexier way of living.
Now you’re the broker for the W Hollywood Residences. Does that require a different approach?
I helped turn units in the Sierra into iconic Hollywood living experiences. That drove celebrities to the project. We’re doing the same with the W, only taking it to another level.
9200 Sunset Blvd., LA; thefilicegroup.com
PHOTOGRAPH BY GREG FIGGE (LEGRAND)