Among the immutable laws of real estate, “location, location, location” continues to stand above all others. But not far behind is the dictum that as an agent or broker develops a higher profile, his clientele invariably adopts a lower one. This certainly is true for John McMonigle, the Orange County-based agent and developer whose McMonigle Group dominates the luxury home and estate market on the West Coast. As McMonigle attracts more and more media coverage—you can’t get much hotter exposure than chatting about sales and available properties on The Oprah Winfrey Show—his clients tend to recede into the background and away from the spotlight.
“When there is an extraordinarily expensive sale, the media is all over it,” says the 44-year-old McMonigle, who opened a posh new headquarters in Newport Beach earlier this year. “We’ve also done a lot of record sales I’m pleased to say nobody knows about. One of the biggest challenges is keeping clients’ identities hidden and keeping their sales off the radar.”
Logic would suggest a megasale to a celebrity or professional athlete might help draw attention to McMonigle’s operation. But he hardly needs the help: McMonigle reports that his company has done $2.6 billion in sales in the past six years, with an average per-sale price of $6,450,000. “I think in the last six months we’ve been involved in every sale of more than $15 million in Orange County,” he says.
McMonigle’s ascent to his current rarified perch began as a young man in Oklahoma. “I fell in love with mortar and bricks as a teenager while framing houses in the hot sun,” he says. “When I got out of college [at the University of Central Oklahoma, in his hometown of Edmond], I knew I wanted to be in residential sales and development.” He also knew he loved the climate and beauty of California, so he moved to the Left Coast in the early 1990s and began working in sales. Eventually he cofounded his own brokerage company, Strada Properties. These days McMonigle’s Orange County empire has expanded to include more than just sales of extravagant residences. His company created a division called McMonigle Financial Group, which helps provide bridge loans to potential customers. In addition, the McMonigle Group initiated a program called the 90-Day Certain Sale Program, which speeds up the home-sale process for buyers. There’s also an arm called Monarch Estates that develops ultra luxury estates in Orange County.
McMonigle’s company has also branched out to include listings for golf courses and bayfront and oceanfront communities and is in the planning stages for projects in the resort and hotel realm. “We’re interested in doing more with apartments,” he says. “We’ve shifted that to a high priority. I’ve always felt owning apartments is one of the best businesses to be in.”
When McMonigle isn’t immersed in the art of the deal, he winds down at his home in Irvine’s Shady Canyon with help from his wife and four kids—two boys, two girls—ranging in age from four to 10. “I spend all of my free time with them,” he says. “My family is a huge priority in my life.” McMonigle may find when he’s out with family he is recognized more and more, even while his clients’ identities remain hush-hush.
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