‘The Finest In Our Business’: Real Estate Agents Remember Jeff Hyland

One of the first big deals Beverly Hills Estates agent Mia Trudeau listed on her own as a young agent was Liongate Estate, a sweeping 24,000-square-foot home in Bel Air once owned by country singer Kenny Rogers.

The property went into escrow several times before finally selling in 2015 to former Allfast Fastening Systems owners James and Eleanor Randall.

Trudeau, who launched her career at Hilton & Hyland in 2007 under the tutelage of Jeff Hyland, recalled the property as it bounced from potential suitor to potential suitor, including at one point hotel and casino magnate Steve Wynn.

Mia Trudeau | The Beverly Hills Estates

“I remember when I was in escrow with Steve Wynn,” Trudeau told Inman, recalling on Thursday a moment from nearly a decade ago. “I was on the phone with Steve, and he said, ‘You know, this Liongate looks like an ugly girl in a pretty dress.’

“And I was like, ‘I’m so sorry you feel that way, Mr. Wynn.’ So I said, ‘Let me go talk to Mr. Hyland and I’ll get right back to you.’ So, I ran downstairs to Jeff and I said, ‘Jeff! Steve said this about the property!’ And Jeff was like, ‘Well, you wanted to play in the big leagues — you’re here now!’”

Hyland, co-founder of what became one of the most recognizable boutique luxury brokerages in the United States, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 75 following a year-long battle with cancer. Days after his passing, Hyland’s peers, colleagues and friends, many of whom fought for listings across the same southern California stomping ground the real estate icon spent four decades building up, remembered the titan of luxury as a font of adages and aphorisms, a builder of real estate careers, and a stalwart who remained independent long after many of his competitors sold their businesses to larger entities.

“He had so many wonderful phrases,” said Rayni Williams, who, with her husband Branden Williams, worked with Hyland for more than a decade before forming their own brokerage, The Beverly Hills Estates.

Rayni Williams | Williams & Williams Estates

“Whenever we would close in escrow, he would always say, ‘Congratulations. You know they come in threes — so get ready for two more great sales,’” Ms. Williams told Inman.

But her favorite Hyland-ism was a bit cheekier.

“My favorite all-time Jeff Hyland saying is, ‘In life, you want to be the first-born child and the second wife, and in real estate, you want to be the third listing agent.’”

James Harris | The Agency

“And what he meant by that was, sellers can be very difficult — they can be demanding and often want a price that is outrageous,” Ms. Williams said. “By the time the third listing agent gets to that very same difficult seller, they have usually calmed down and come off of their high expectations of price. Everything that he taught us was either with a bit of humor or with deep experience and he was so loved and he will be so missed.”

Trudeau also said Hyland was essential at helping her professionalize her client emails as a young agent.

Kofi Nartey | GLOBL Red

“I have Jeff to thank for being really good at writing emails and proofreading my emails because I remember the first time I sent him an email regarding a client, he responded back, ‘Mia, there are many grammatical errors in this email — you must make sure you proofread your email three or four times before sending!’ And I said, ‘Ok, noted!’”

James Harris, David Parnes and Michelle Ficarra of Bond Street Partners, who worked with Hyland on the $120 million sale of The Manor in Holmby Hills in 2019, said Hyland was “one of the last remaining titans in our business who forged the way” for independent real estate in the region.

Aaron Kirman | Compass

“Most of the independent brokerages founded by the likes of Fred Sands and Jon Douglas eventually sold to large corporate entities,” Harris texted to Inman on behalf of Bond Street Partners. “Along with Rick Hilton, Jeff retained the vision he had for his prestigious boutique firm and grew it into a powerhouse brokerage. His architectural and historical knowledge were second-to-none and it was one of the many things that set him apart as a luxury broker.”

Kofi Nartey, founder of GLOBL Red, also commented to Inman that Hyland’s contribution to the boutique brokerage model was “unparalleled.”

“He was a pioneer in that space and took that model to levels that we hadn’t seen before,” Nartey said. “And that’s also part of my own inspiration for launching my own brokerage, is looking at models like that, looking at pioneers like Jeff Hyland.”

Tomer Fridman | Compass

Nartey added that Hyland’s upbeat personality and grace were part of what made him memorable in the industry and at a personal level.

“I remember once him telling me to always fight for what I was worth and fight for what I deserve … And he said that to me, I don’t know, years ago, but it’s one of the conversations that’s stuck with me the most and I feel like that’s really how he lived.”

Aaron Kirman, who spent 10 years at Hilton & Hyland and now leads The Aaron Kirman Group at Compass, called Hyland “a mentor,” “a visionary leader” and “the hardest working, most passionate, knowledgeable real estate professional and historian, in not just Los Angeles, but the country.”

Jade Mills | Coldwell Banker

Many other agents also shared with Inman their admiration of Hyland’s vast knowledge of Los Angeles history and architecture.

Tomer Fridman, who had a brief stint at Hilton & Hyland in 2021 between affiliations with Compass, praised Hyland’s “encyclopedic knowledge of Los Angeles’ marquee estates” and told Inman his passing was “an incredible loss to the industry and us all.”

Joyce Rey | The Joyce Rey Team

Likewise, Jade Mills of Coldwell Banker said, “When Jeff Hyland spoke, everyone listened. He knew the history of homes for the last 100 years.”

Joyce Rey of Coldwell Banker, who had been a friend of Hyland’s for years, told Inman in an email she was “heartbroken” at his passing. But Rey was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time reminiscing with Hyland just days before he died about one of the first deals they ever made together.

“It was special connecting with him at that moment,” she said. “He truly represented the finest in our business.”

Email Lillian Dickerson

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