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I spent 12 hours with a top real estate agent in LA—here's what it takes to be the best

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A day with LA's top real estate agent

Aaron Kirman has sold roughly $6 billion worth of real estate over his 25-year career, making him one of the top realtors in Los Angeles.

He routinely sells multimillion-dollar properties, including one estate for a whopping $65 million, and on his new CNBC show, "Listing Impossible," he helps homeowners sell their luxury real estate. He also runs the Aaron Kirman Group (AKG), a real estate team he started in 2017 that's grown from seven agents at its inception to nearly 70 today.

As a top realtor, Kirman makes seven figures, but not all agents earn a ton of money — and that's one of the biggest misconceptions about the job.

"On average, agents make anywhere between $30,000 and $50,000, which isn't what the public thinks that they make," he tells me when I spent a day shadowing him from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. "It's a lot less than you think because it's such a competitive industry."

Entry-level agents can bring home even less than that because "it takes about a year to sell something," he says.

The author and Aaron, in front of a $65 million home
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Over the course of the day I spend with Kirman, he lets me in on what it takes to make it in the cutthroat industry. Here are his three keys to success:

You have to put in the time

Even Kirman, who's established himself as one of the most successful agents in the country, works long days that often end past 9 p.m. A misconception about the job is that realtors, especially those at the top, don't work that hard. "It's a tough job," he assures me. "There are a lot of nuances that make it extremely complicated."

When it comes to being successful, "60% of it is showing up," he says. "You just have to work really hard."

While he logs a lot of hours, "it's in a different format than most [jobs]," he says. "I don't sit at a desk or in an office. I'm out and about."

You have to be brutally honest

Kirman has worked hard over his career, "but I especially credit my success to one secret: I'm brutally honest with my clients," he writes for CNBC Make It. "If agents don't tell their clients what mistakes they're making, it can take much longer for a home to sell."

During the day I spent with him, two of our appointments were to assess the staging of homes nearly ready to put on the market. True to his word, Kirman didn't hold back when offering feedback. His commentary ranged from, "Hate the chandelier. We gotta get this down." to "Everything is disgusting," which was his gut reaction to one particular home theater.

I especially credit my success to one secret: I'm brutally honest with my clients.
Aaron Kirman
star of CNBC's "Listing Impossible"

He's also had to tell homeowners things like, "you have terrible taste," "your house is worth much less than you think," and "the layout of your house is awful."

You have to understand people

The last key to success is the ability to connect with your clients.

You have to "understand what it is that they want and what they don't want," says Kirman, adding: "I consider myself to be a master salesman, but that doesn't mean I sell — it just means I know human character, and understanding human character usually leads to success."

Don't miss: A day in the life of the top real estate agent in LA, who makes millions selling luxury properties to the super rich

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