There’s a perception that to become a top agent in L.A.’s ultra-competitive real estate market, one needs to have personal connections. Referrals and networking are the foundation of success. Or, as one wag recently put it, “You need to know rich people.”
But one agent, Tony Mariotti of Ruby Home, breaks that mold. Last year, he repped the buyers of a $17.5 million Malibu beach house owned by Skrillex and represented Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Joe Elliott of Def Leppard in his purchase of a $2.3 million pied-a-terre in West Hollywood, as reported by Dirt.
Mariotti’s clients on those sales weren’t connected to him by referral or word of mouth. They simply found him through his Ruby Home website, which Mariotti has shrewdly optimized to rank on page one of Google Search for a host of terms. Type in “luxury homes Los Angeles” and Ruby Home comes up as the fifth result. Type “Bird Streets homes” or “Los Angeles penthouses” or “Trousdale Estates,” and Mariotti’s site ranks No. 1., ahead of Zillow. In total, Mariotti did $33 million in sales in Southern California in 2021, up from $5 million the year before.
Mariotti leaned into his digital publishing background to nab these high-ranking results, which in turn generate customer leads and ultimately sales. “I’m familiar with what digital publishers try to do to get eyeballs and ad impressions,” says the agent. “I kind of took the publishing mentality into building Ruby Home.”
To that end, he started publishing blog posts about the architecture and character of various neighborhoods around Los Angeles on Ruby Home’s website, alongside real estate listings. “I was thinking if I can write about things that I love like architecture neighborhoods and industry — all three are inextricably bound especially in L.A. — maybe people will show up and read about [for example] Carroll Avenue’s Victorian houses,” he says. “I kind of built evergreen content about neighborhoods. I’m trying to outrank Zillow, Trulia and Redfin, which just offer homes for sale.”
Mariotti, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, launched Ruby Home in 2017, and for the first couple years of its existence, he didn’t even attempt to do any real estate deals, even though he had obtained a real estate license. “It was really just about getting some decent traffic. In 2019, I was getting maybe 20 or 30 people registering [on the website] per month or making a showing request. I was ignoring them. I wasn’t out selling,” he says, adding that he first obtained his real estate license simply to “get the feed of listings on my website.”
Eventually, people who signed up on the Ruby Home website began reaching out to Mariotti about buying homes. “I had wives of famous people, famous people themselves texting me including Tommy Lee,” says Mariotti (though no transactions ended up happening with the Mötley Crüe rocker.)
His first sale happened in 2019. It was, he says, “an accident.”
“I answered my phone at nine o’clock one night. It was a woman looking for a home in Beachwood Canyon. She was interested in trees and a big backyard. I said you should look at Outpost Estates. Two weeks later, she bought a $2.8 million home.” (Mariotti was then operating as a real estate agent through the brokerage United Real Estate. “They are a flat fee brokerage,” says Mariotti, a contrast to many real estate brokerage, which takes a set percentage of agent’s commissions.)
His biggest sale to date was representing the buyers of Skrillex’s Malibu beach house, who, yes, discovered Mariotti through an online search. “They found us, and they registered on the website. They were overseas clients from Australia who invested in luxury properties around the globe. They were staying at Shutters and were here for a week and wanted to look at homes in Malibu. They said, ‘Our budget is $20 million.’ OK, let’s go,” recalls Mariotti.
Last November, Mariotti took his business one step further. He set up Ruby Home as a brokerage and now counts two other agents, Judy Lin Young and Beata Mandell, as part of his team. (Young joined in the summer of 2020, while Mandell “approached me to join RubyHome — out of the blue — after repeatedly seeing Ruby Home show up in search engine results pages,” he says.)
Altogether Mariotti, who also sells in the Pacific Northwest, did $40 million in sales in 2021. And while that doesn’t put him into the upper echelons of L.A.’s top-selling agents — Jade Mills of Coldwell Banker, for instance, did $471 million in sales last year, topping Real Trends’ California rankings — Mariotti speaks with surprised delight at selling a celebrity beach house for nearly $20 million.
“I didn’t see that coming. If you told me five years ago, ‘Hey you’re going to do that,’ I wouldn’t have believed you.”