Munif T. Ali is the co-founder and Executive Chairman of Pacific Playa Realty, a nearly 100-agent-strong independent urban luxury brokerage in Los Angeles that focuses on areas that are underserved and underrepresented.
After purchasing his first home at 20 years of age, Munif started a successful career in real estate in which he built a significant portfolio of investments. In 2011, he launched a national franchise office in Los Angeles which grew to over 250 agents in its first five years. Then, in April 2017, Pacific Playa Realty was formed with several founding members to serve the urban market with the same focus, marketing, technology, and professionalism that you would expect in more traditional luxury markets
Under the leadership of CEO Teresa Mack, Pacific Playa Realty is the number one brokerage in the five zip codes they focus on and represent a wide range of clients in price points ranging from $850,000 to $3.5 million. The brokerage’s success comes from its proprietary MPOWRlife Coaching Program, a daily system of mentorship, training, and accountability. Munif also operates New Era Escrow, an independent escrow company based in Manhattan Beach.
What is your definition of luxury? If you don’t feel good, it doesn’t matter how much you paid for it. Thus, luxury should simply be defined by how something makes you feel extraordinary.
Describe the most inspiring room you’ve ever been in? An overwater bungalow in the South Pacific. It made me feel as though I were on a boat drifting, with the light of the moon shimmering on the water.
What new luxury home trends do you see standing the test of time? Trends come and go, but classic traditional architecture will never go out of style.
Who is your favorite architect? I have three: Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and, last but not least, Paul Revere Williams, who against all odds became of the first African Americans in the architecture industry.
What is your favorite architectural style? I love the warmth and beauty of a colonial-style home. They’re naturally inviting and invoke a feeling of comfort and sophistication.
What is your idea of the perfect view? The beach or, really, any body of water. And if you can have mountains close by on the other side, that would be even better.
What is the one thing you can’t live without? Solitude. I live for the little moments every day where I can disengage from the world and engage with the inner me.
What qualities do you appreciate most in friends? I like loyalty and low-maintenance friendships with people who, no matter what, when asked, will be there. I don’t have many friends, but I can depend on the ones I have.
What is your greatest fear? To die not having utterly expended all my talents to their very fullest.
What aspect of your personality has created a challenge for you in life? My level of patience and directness when communicating with those around me. I have a dominant style and, in the past, lacked the discipline to express my impatience in a way that would not cause people stress.
What makes you feel powerful? When I am in the position to change people’s lives and impact causes. True power is not to command others but to motivate others to see their own vision.
Which three people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party? Harriet Tubman, because her small size and mighty spirit remind me of my mom; Mahatma Ghandi; Leonardo da Vinci, a true polymath.
What song(s) do you identify with most? Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell; Fat Joe and Remy Mas’ All the Way Up; Drake’s Started from the Bottom.
What is your greatest extravagance? I used to have a love for fine watches and exotic cars. But I found that my joy was only short-lived, and it grew to be just another thing in my life. So now, instead of material things, my biggest extravagance is that I openly and freely spend on courses, books and self-education.
What’s the most widely held misconception about money? That it will somehow solve all your problems.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working? Nowadays, due to the pandemic, it’s more about my second love, reading, than my first love, which is traveling.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Being able to have a wonderful family, and apart from that, being able to give back to the community I came from. Each year our brokerage seeks out a local charity to which our agents and staff contribute either time or money. But the biggest philanthropic thing I personally do is to freely give my advice on financial literacy and personal development on my YouTube channel.
What is your greatest regret? I don’t have many regrets because life is beautiful, and the roads you travel are what lead you to your ultimate destination. However, in wisdom, I would say I would’ve thought bigger sooner.
When did you know you wanted to go into real estate? My family was a middle-income family until my dad left us, leaving a big economic void. We quickly went from middle income to no income. My mom had to make some difficult choices initially, but within a few years, after having saved vigorously, she was able to buy a house. She would go on investing in more properties, and I was amazed by how quickly an illiterate single-parent was able to build wealth with real estate. After that, I knew that I wanted to see every aspect of real estate.
What’s the most significant historical event that’s occurred during your life? Hands down, the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused us to think differently, act differently and behave differently.
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in life? I have always looked younger than I actually am. I saw it as an obstacle until I started seeing it as an advantage. I’ve also seen race come up a few times and continue to see it play out in business. It was difficult to be taken seriously by everyone in the early years, from contractors and architects to inspectors and loan officers. I don’t see anything as an obstacle anymore, just a challenge, something to accomplish or overcome.
Where do you see the market going in 2022? I don’t think that home prices will fall as they did in 2008, but I believe that prices will correct themselves.
What advice would you give a young person of color aspiring to become successful in real estate? That anything is possible and achievable. It does not matter what your skin color is, the grade of your hair, or your sex. What limits us is our own minds and our mindsets
The Dirt Questionnaire is a semi-regular feature that invites leading figures in real estate, property development, architecture, and design industries to share their thoughts on all things sacred and profane.