Sally Forster Jones has sold about $4 billion of luxury real estate in Southern California in her nearly 40-year career, but she credits her success to hard work and thrift rather than an opulent lifestyle.
The president of Aaroe International Luxury Properties in Beverly Hills said her parents, Polish Holocaust survivors, always instilled in her the importance of saving and investing in real estate. The family immigrated to the United States from Germany, where Forster Jones had been born in a displaced persons camp.
In 2011, she helped broker the $85 million sale of a 123-room house in Los Angeles that had been built by the late TV producer Aaron Spelling. The initial listing of $150 million set a record at the time.
Forster Jones recently shared some of the lessons she has learned and is passing on to her six children and 12 grandchildren.
Q: What did you learn about money from your parents?
A: My parents came to the United States as immigrants, and they taught me to save and invest. They worked very hard and saved every dollar that wasn’t spent on food or rent. They invested in multifamily properties, and we would live in one unit and rent out the rest.
I moved around a lot growing up, as my parents bought and sold various properties. I was 12 when I ate out at a restaurant for the first time. We didn’t have much, but I never felt deprived, and I was motivated to work hard and strive for something greater.
Q: What has running your own group and business taught you about finances?
A: It is so easy to spend and get carried away. It is important to have budgets and stick to them. Know your bottom line, and create a solid business plan.
Q: How did you get the right team in place to help achieve your financial goals?
A: I have a knack for understanding people. Residential real estate is a people-oriented business, so my ability to read and understand people has ultimately helped me to hire and pull together the best team possible.
You have to surround yourself with the smartest and most talented people. Having a great team and being able to delegate really allowed me to grow my business and ultimately achieve my financial goals.
Q: Have there been mistakes that you’ve learned from?
A: I passed on purchasing a home once, and for years I avoided driving down the street because I was still upset about the missed opportunity. But you have to be willing to let go of those regrets and move on to new and better opportunities.
Q: How do you give back?
A: It is so important to give back to the community, with both money and time. I give to charities and causes ... but I also think it’s incredibly important to give back by sharing your experience and mentoring others who are new to the business or just starting out.
Q: What lessons do you try to pass down to your children and grandchildren?
A: It was very important to me that my kids understood the value of money. They grew up with a lot more than I did, but I always made them work for their allowances, budget, and save for special purchases.
I taught them to have a good work ethic and to not take anything, including money, for granted. I’m proud of all of my kids because they all really do have good values and strong work ethics, and I see that they are passing that on to their families as well.