Meet Aja Aguirre, Luxury Property Specialist at Pacific Union International, Oakland & Montclair
Q: How long have you been in the Real Estate business?
AA: Long enough to be a member of The Oakland/Berkeley Association of REALTORS® Young Professionals Network (YPN)! It’s a special committee that works hard to welcome and support those who are new to our uniquely competitive and dynamic East Bay market … through exciting networking events that are genuinely fun to attend, and help the community achieve success with local resources and proven tools. This is my first year in real estate and I’m so lucky to have an incredible powerhouse of women as mentors and coaches; I’m picking up skills and honing instinct that they’ve spent decades developing.
Q: Tell us how your career started in Real Estate?
AA: In 2016, my wife and I spent a grueling seven months house hunting, half of which was a bi-coastal relay race between selling our three-story Victorian in Massachusetts, juggling our daughter’s transition from high school to college in Honolulu, and scrambling for short-term housing when it became clear we weren’t going to find our dream home by the time our closing date on the East Coast rolled around. We made offers on three other houses before finding a midcentury gem in Montclair that we love. It wasn’t our first time at the rodeo but coming home after four years in New England was a massive re-education in market change. Most folks would revel in the fact that they didn’t have to see another open house for years; I wondered why I hadn’t thought to do this sooner, and I still drag my wife to open houses (she loves it).
Q: As a Luxury Property Specialist, what types of property do you handle?
AA: From sleek little condos on Oakland’s Michelin star-studded Piedmont Avenue to three-bridge view behemoths perched atop Berkeley’s highest peaks, $1M fixers, and pristinely preserved Modernist wonders, I’ve had experience working with a truly fascinating array of properties in a very short time. I adore that about our market, and it’s why I don’t think I could do this work anywhere else! We have the most eclectic mix of architecture braced against breathtaking coastal geography, and I’m in love with all of it.
Q: How has technology changed in Real Estate?
AA: First, there’s just so much of it, but in general I rather like how technology is evolving Real Estate. Clients come to the table self-educated, which is a good thing more often than not because then everyone gets to hit the ground running. I love that Pacific Union embraces and has harnessed Big Data. I can’t wait until I get a client nerdy enough to want to communicate with me solely via custom Slack channels. What I’m not is worried — the clients I’ve worked with don’t underestimate the importance of standing in a house and feeling it, and the Alexa’s and Siri’s of real estate — let’s just say it might be awhile until they figure out how to simulate that. Most of us still want to feel a strong connection with where we put down our roots.
Q: What does being a member of Women Council of Realtors San Francisco mean to you?
AA: My quality of life is directly linked to surrounding myself with smart, amazing, interesting women, so it was a godsend to find WCR SF (especially since there’s nothing like it in the East Bay). I’m a native San Franciscan with friends and family on both sides of the bay, and it’s personally and professionally prudent for me to be abreast of the differences and similarities in both markets. I’m trying not to bite off more than I can chew between YPN, WCR SF and a promising advisory board position in the works, but I do look forward to getting more involved with the WCR SF community this year!
Q: Can you give us your insight on how you think changes in tax reform will play out in 2018 for Bay Area buyers and sellers?
AA: We’re not tax professionals, but we do talk about this every single week at the office. To stay ahead of the changes, we regularly liaise with trusted lenders to consult on individual cases and brainstorm solutions. We have in-house experts to help us understand the ways our clients might be affected by the changes, and we’re transparent when it comes to sharing client fears and concerns that have the potential to limit inventory and/or buying power — those two aspects are easily the most serious in this market.
Q: Any further predictions for the next two or three years?
AA: None of us has a crystal ball, but it is an especially wild time to be alive. Every day the news seems sink my heart, but at the same time we’re witnessing massively powerful movements and resistance that give me genuine hope. The election was well over a year ago but the months since have only made it clearer that this is likely to get worse before it gets better. All of it is exhausting. In terms of how it affects our business, I think in the day to day we’re learning how to be more supple and fluid when external forces — the government, tech — throw us curveballs. Whatever the future holds, I’m confident we can weather it with our clients … we’ll get it done one way or another. We all have to hang in there and look after one another as best we can.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
AA: My wife, hands down. Navigating tech and gaming as a female executive isn’t exactly a familiar, well-trod path to success, but Miriam Aguirre is a trailblazer. How she stands at the engineering helm of Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing private company in America without breaking a sweat is beyond me. She’s an incredible mentor, she balances kindness with relentless drive, and models diversity and inclusion principles in ways that should be packaged up and distributed as mandatory reading. She’s an outspoken advocate for women and minorities in tech, is a rock for our friends and family, and her easy laughter at the end of each day makes me feel like the only person in her whole entire world. Getting to watch her star rise has been awe-inspiring and is the coolest feeling!
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
AA: I think we still feel pulled in so many directions. The idea of getting to just focus on one thing and one thing alone seems like a month at a spa … a year, even! I can’t imagine how luxurious it would feel, but we have finite resources that are constantly being re-sliced and reprioritized between work, family, friends, advocacy and volunteer work, however we express our creativity, and just being an engaged human invested in making the world safer and better for everyone. Of course, that’s on top of incessantly pushing back against the many factors that have us juggling all of this with fewer resources than men have in our society.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
AA: Be resilient, not perfect. Failure is nothing to be afraid of. Befriend women who can’t be stopped from lifting you up, then become that woman for others. Respect the slow burn. 99.9% of the time, it’s the real secret of success. Before this, I worked as a beauty and style editor online. It led me to an opportunity to work with a brand new, SF-based beauty startup called Volition Beauty. Their aim was to democratize the beauty industry, empowering women to create new products and skincare on their own terms. Two years later, the product I dreamed up — a beautifying SPF that feels and acts like top shelf skincare — has sold out online and will be in all Sephora stores nationwide in April. In the meantime, I’ve launched this exciting new career, which is definitely all about the long game.
Q: Can you offer advice to parents with daughters graduating from high school?
AA: Enjoy the family dinners that linger for hours, even on a weeknight. Put your devices down. Lavishly praise her for her mind, her heart, the skills she’s spilled blood, sweat and tears over. Listen when she shares stories about her friends, other adults, and by god, if she talks about herself, push the pause button on the world because she’s showing you who she is. Ditto any time she asks your opinion, seeks a head pat or a hug or encouragement of any kind. If you’re lucky, she’ll do this forever, but it will be as an adult. For now, she’s still your kiddo, and there are only so many days between today and graduation day.
Q: What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment thus far?
AA: There is a very special magic in the fact that I have only ever had strong, compassionate, hilarious, brilliant women represent me as their client in real estate; each one of them set the bar high for what I hope to accomplish one day. That one of them came out of her retirement to champion me as a new agent at Pacific Union was such an honor and testament to the integrity and bonds that exist here. I’m only just getting started, but I’m looking forward to making all of them so proud!
Five Things About Aja Aguirre
1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
That’s an easy one: I’d sing San Francisco with Rufus Wainwright and Judy Garland at the Top of the Mark, where my wife proposed to me!
2. What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?
My mother’s first (and possibly only) dating advice was that it’s just as important to know what you DON’T want as it is to know what you DO want in a relationship. I didn’t listen to her then, of course, but today it holds true not only for romantic partners, but all areas of life: in work, your friends, creative collaborations, even in looking inward at the kind of person you want to be. Thanks, mom!
3. Can you share with us one of your passions in life?
Riding horses. I did some riding as a girl and returned to it at 30 as a birthday present to myself. That was nine years ago and I’m still training every week! It’s fantastic living ten minutes away from five different equestrian facilities here in Oakland.
4. Where’s your perfect vacation?
I can’t wait to go back to Portugal. Lisbon is such a magical city and my wife and I love the secret little surf towns in the Algarve.
5. What app can’t you live without?
My Theo. It’s constantly open on my phone and desktop. Instagram’s a close second.
You can follow along with Aja at @dearjonesey on Instagram
M 510 717 1591
License # 02040847
Pacific Union International
1800 Mountain Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94611