They are the ideal yin-yang combination - a husband and wife team that has complemented each other perfectly during their nearly 25-year partnership.
Team Grisanti consists of Paul Grisanti and Sara Grisanti. Today they make up one of the most successful real estate partnerships in Malibu.
"Paul is the most prominent person on the team in terms of his experience and community outreach," said Sara. "He has been in this business for 32 years and has always been extremely involved with the city and the community. He has a public persona that serves us very well."
Sara brings 23 years of experience to her clients, but despite her two decades of earned knowledge, she hasn't lost the ability to relate to her clients. She uses her intuition and empathy to ease her client's minds during the real estate transaction process.
"It is incredible to have a partnership so strong and complementary. "What is nice about the two of us is when we meet a prospective buyer or seller; they will inevitably gravitate toward one or the other. We come from very different backgrounds, and that makes us a great team. I come from a background of being a mom, so I can easily explain the details to my clients," said the mother of three.
"I can still remember how little I understood the complexities of real estate before I became an agent, so I take the time to break things down for my clients and make sure they understand everything," she added. "A lot of my clientele are single women or first-time buyers, and I am able to provide a little extra attention that helps put them at ease."
Paul, on the other hand, brings his financial expertise to clients who are business oriented and appreciate the detailed technical information he can provide.
"I have a degree in economics from the university of California Santa Barbara, and I am involved with the Malibu city council and planning department, so I tend to work well with developers and people involved in business," said Paul. "Sara and I do have very different strengths. People want to work with her because of her warmth, compassion, knowledge, and tremendous organizational talents. She keeps all the files documented, all the I's dotted and T's crossed. My clients are looking for the ability to show them both sides of a decision and get more involved with the financial aspects."
With Paul's business expertise and Sara's relationship-oriented approach, the pair built an extraordinarily successful business. Because there was a moratorium on permitting in Malibu, which has now ended, interested buyers are often unsure of how to proceed. Paul works to minimize the confusion and provide guidance and expertise to their clients.
"I help clients with feasibility analysis to price parcels correctly and represent them accurately in the buying process," said Paul.
Added Sara: "Malibu is a place that still has open land, like Los Angeles used to have. Here there are areas with beautiful sites where people can build their dream home and not have to tear something down first. The permitting process is unique and difficult to manage, and it takes an expert to help get through it. Our expertise in that area gives us an added dimension that not a lot of teams can offer, and it definitely sets us apart."
Little did Paul know from his first inkling of pursuing a real estate career that he would someday occupy a place as an expert in a field that is not easy to stand out in. He first got into the business on the urging of a friend, and was simply looking for a way to improve his life.
"I was working in a high-rise near downtown as a insurance adjuster, and it was not a very happy business for me," he said. "I was fortunate to have friends in Malibu who encouraged me to come to Malibu and get into real estate. My friend actually said he'd pay for me to take the classes and get my license, and he would put me to work himself. He let me work on the weekends for the first few months, and he gave me the confidence to leave my job and house in the Mid-Wilshire district and move to Malibu. It was a great decision."
Paul has repaid his friend's kindness by becoming the kind of agent that would make him proud; the kind of agent who is well-respected and admired. Many of his clients are referrals from clients and co-workers.
"I met Paul in 1979 at an open house on my first weekend in California after I moved here from New York," said client Angelo Anastasio. "He is the most professional, responsible, incredibly caring person I've ever met in my life. I have done 10 or 11 transactions with him and what is amazing about him is that he is so dedicated to his clients, long after the closing is done. He calls to follow up afterward, asks if you need numbers to set up utilities - anything you need, he'll do. A couple of times after I bought a home from him, I needed to get a hold of the previous owners to get plans, and he really followed through for me. He even called people in England once to get the plans for me. He's unbelievable, and on top of everything else, he's also a wonderful person. He's just the best."
Paul was already impressing clients with his tremendous skills when he met Sara, and, before long, he was impressing her as well. The two saw the benefits of forming a business relationship, which later turned romantic.
"Meeting and marrying her was the best thing that has ever happened to me," said Paul. "We got married four months after we started dating. You know you have a good marriage when you can work all day together and then come home and still be happy to be with each other."
That synergy between them is a driving force in their business, and has provided a framework for team success throughout the last two decades in an area that has its fair share of agents.
"Malibu is a very competitive environment with quite a few agents in a relatively small area," said Sara. "There are approximately 8,000 houses and 350 agents working the area. But the fact that it is a small community also works to our advantage, because all of the agents here treat each other with kindness and respect."
The fact that the community of Malibu is close-knit is an advantage for other reasons as well.
"I love the small town feeling it has, and so do the people who buy homes here," said Sara. "When people come here for the first time, they are instantly drawn to the Malibu mystique."
Added Paul: "When I came to Malibu from downtown L.A. and saw the space around the houses, the parklands, and the mountains, I was in awe, and I know other people coming here for the first time have a similar reaction. A large percentage of land here is owned by the government and will never be developed, which means we will always be surrounded by beautiful open space. Because the building restrictions are such that they require setbacks and the zoning restrictions are tough, you'll never get that mega-mansion, wall-to-wall feeling you get in other places. That has been a huge attraction for people who choose to live here."
Paul and Sara appreciate being a part of the Malibu community and are involved in numerous community efforts. Paul was one of the original members of the general plan task force that created a general plan for Malibu. He ran for city council twice, is a charter member and two-time president of the Kiwanis club of Malibu, and held a seat on the city's township council. He also served two terms on the Malibu chamber of commerce. Paul has been both president and vice president of the Malibu Association of Realtors, and is currently chairman of the Public Works Commission for the City of Malibu.
Sara has served as president of the Malibu Board of Realtors and as a state director of the California Association of Realtors for four years. She was one of four Realtors who formed a grass-roots organization to repair and re-open a local road, and received the dolphin award from the Malibu Times as citizen of the year in recognition of her service to the community. In addition, Paul and Sara helped local fire victims to relocate after the Malibu fires, despite the fact that they had just lost their own home.
"A community is only as good as those who call it home, and to us it is extremely important to help make our community better," said Paul. "The kind of involvement we have always had is great for networking and reflects well on us as agents, but it is much more important to us personally to have a stake in what is going on around us."
For their efforts with clients as well as toward the community as a whole, Paul and Sara have each been honored individually as Realtor of the Year by the Malibu Board of Realtors in successive years. Paul even received a personal letter of congratulations from the legendary Jon Douglas, whose company he and Sara were working for at the time of their recognition.
"My most sincere congratulations on being selected as the Malibu Realtor of the Year," he wrote. "You have done a tremendous job for the Realtors out there, the members of the community, and most particularly for the Jon Douglas Company. I am very proud of our association and I hope that it will continue for many, many years."
At the time Paul was the land director for both of Douglas' Malibu offices and Paul and Sara shared the title of assistant manager of the east Malibu office. Today, the consistent top producers are members of Coldwell Banker's International President's Elite and are among the top 100 Realtors for the Southern California division of the company.
The team of Paul and Sara is proof that with a commitment to their craft, to the community, and to each other, no amount of accomplishment and personal fulfillment is out of reach.