When Darla Longo arrives at CBRE’s office in Glendale, California, Barbara Perrier is already waiting, wearing a blue pantsuit. Longo, with a perfectly framed blonde fringe, walks into the room — also wearing a blue pantsuit.
“I asked Barbara what she was wearing,” Longo says, looking over at Perrier, her younger sister, who nods with approval.
It’s a rare feminine moment in the testosterone-fueled world of commercial real estate. The two sisters have personally sold $10 billion worth of industrial property in the last year — more than three times what Blackstone paid for WPT Industrial REIT’s 38 million-square-foot portfolio — while managing to send out Valentine’s Day gifts to their teammates, proving that success in the industry does not have to be masculine or cold.
“They are brilliant performers for us,” said Lew Horne, the president of Greater Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire for CBRE.
Since Longo enlisted Perrier to team up on industrial sales and leasing about 20 years ago, the two have dominated the sector. Brokers in the L.A. area view them as an untouchable duo. Few of their competitors were willing to talk about them on the record, and even off the record, several made sure to note that they had nothing bad to say about either sister.
Longo doesn’t hesitate to speak up for herself and her sibling, not to mention the 32 brokers they lead at CBRE, which she says has the largest market share of any industrial capital markets team in the country.
A path with roadblocks
Longo was still an economics student at UCLA in 1977 when she decided to go into real estate. Her father thought she’d be good at sales. Growing up, she sold kumquats in her neighborhood in Glendale and a lot of Girl Scout cookies. She thought real estate was interesting, but residential didn’t sound appealing — too many nights and weekends.
She got a job at Jon Douglas Company, a commercial brokerage firm, in West L.A. and organized her classes around work, not telling her boss that she was actually still a student. Her first deal was selling a piece of land in Pacoima to Continental Yogurt — she made $15,000.
It wasn’t straight up from there.
“I can’t tell you how many offices I came out of in tears,” Longo said. “I was never raised thinking there was any bias against women. It just never registered.”
After she graduated, she was hired into a training program at the L.A. office of CBRE, which was known at the time as Coldwell Banker.
In the ’70s and ’80s, Longo said, she was one of the only women working with industrial real estate. It was “super unusual” –– most women back then chose to go into retail or office. Asked whether either of them had any other female brokers that they could rely on for support, Perrier responded, “Who was that gal? Susan?” to which Longo interjected, “Mary?” Neither of them could remember.
But Longo liked manufacturers, a penchant she attributed to her dad’s job in the steel business.
Gone were the tears.
“She was this brilliant, young protégé who was very successful from day one,” said Stephen Batcheller, a partner at Transwestern Development Company who worked with Longo in the 1980s at CB.
By 1989, her younger sister was also looking for a job.
Longo had helped Perrier get a foot in the door at Coldwell Banker, doing part-time data collection while she studied English at UCLA. Once she graduated, Perrier wanted to work at Coldwell Banker full-time in the Inland Empire, where Longo was working.
“I told Darla, ‘We’ll be in the same market’,” Perrier said. “But she said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea. Go do your own thing.’”
So Perrier got a job as a runner for Horne when he was still a senior broker at the firm, working in the San Fernando Valley.
Each of the sisters said they faced multiple “roadblocks” as women in the industrial sector.
“I was young, I was blonde, I was female — strike, strike strike,” Perrier said.
“But you learn to cut out the noise,” Longo added.
Though they declined to comment on specific instances, both said their early years brought harassment, snarky comments and discouraging and dissuading male peers.
“If they were facing those issues, you would never have known, they never let it show,” Batcheller said.
“The world was different,” Perrier said. “The world’s a better place today where there’s more opportunities for people to raise a complaint if they’d like to, or breastfeed if they want to, or take maternity leave if they want to.”
Enlisting the family
Throughout the 1990s, Longo and Perrier operated separately, leasing out industrial properties in their respective territories.
But as Longo continued to make a name for herself in the business, she wanted more. She wanted to start actually selling the buildings she was leasing and finance the deals. She was told she couldn’t do both — she would have to give up leasing.
“I refused to do that,” Longo said. “I wanted to be involved from cradle to grave, the whole thing.”
Meanwhile, Perrier was working on a big leasing assignment with Prudential Insurance in Glendale, until Prudential decided to sell the whole park and Perrier lost a big chunk of her business.
Now that both sisters were looking to diversify, they started entertaining the idea of working together — something their father had always suggested. But they were hesitant.
“The brokerage business is a tough business,” Longo said. “The last thing we wanted to do was have any issue as sisters.”
Perrier finished the thought: “We didn’t want any commission disputes, or any other problems.”
Sources familiar with their decision to team up said Longo was really looking for someone to trust after major commission disputes with a few of her partners at Coldwell Banker. After their father died in 1997, they eventually decided to partner up — “all these things fell into place,” Longo said.
One of their first deals was on behalf of a cement company, Vulcan Materials, which was looking to sell a portfolio of buildings and came to Perrier. That sort of deal would usually go through an investment sales team, but the sisters decided to seize the day.
“We thought, ‘We’re going to just go do this,’” Perrier recalled. ”We’re not asking for permission.”
For 10 years, Longo and Perrier worked together on sales and leases, splitting commissions.
One of their deals in 2007 was a 1.8 million-square-foot warehouse for Skechers in the Inland Empire city of Moreno Valley — a lease that was valued at about $100 million. At the time, Longo described it as the largest single-tenant lease in the country.
In 2010, Longo and Perrier decided they needed to branch out and look beyond Southern California for clients — big REITs and investment firms from across the country were looking to do deals in L.A. and the Inland Empire, and they wanted to do them with the sisters.
The relationship with Vulcan proved fruitful. The firm had a 90-acre parcel off the 210 Freeway in Irwindale — and Perrier had kept her eye on it for more than 20 years.
“We would drive by it all the time, and my kids would ask what’s going on with that site,” she said. “It was years and years and years.”
The sisters sold the property last year on behalf of Vulcan to Clarion Partners for $190 million. Clarion is building a new industrial development on the site — and Perrier and Longo will have the leasing going forward.
Not every deal has been smooth sailing. In 2007, Perrier had one client — which she declined to name — that was “very anal” about the offering memorandum. They wanted to change commas and periods and rework every other sentence.
Perrier spent about four months on the offering memorandum, and then the 2008 financial crisis hit.
“The property immediately went from a very sellable property to losing $15 million worth of value,” she said. “They ended up having to hold it for another like six years.”
Deals, deals, deals
Over the past 10 years, the team has done about $220 billion in total sales and $45 billion in financing deals — Longo got her wish of working deals from cradle to grave.
Last year, the team did more than $20 billion worth of sales, with Longo and Perrier’s deals making up about half of that. Their commissions are always split evenly across their entire team — an uncommon strategy in commercial brokerage.
With commissions for industrial properties ranging from 1 to 2 percent — though some smaller transactions could have a higher percentage — Longo and Perrier’s team likely earned the firm a minimum of $200 million. That equates to $6.25 million for each broker.
For Perrier and Longo, CBRE would take about 40 percent of their commission. After this, Perrier and Longo could have made about $3.75 million each last year from sales alone.
Longo and Perrier declined to comment specifically on how much they made last year.
For comparison, consider a four-person industrial team at Cushman & Wakefield, made up of Jeff Chiate, Mike Adey, Bryce Aberg and Brad Brandenburg, who won top producing awards for the brokerage last year. The Southern California team sold $4.3 billion worth of industrial real estate in 2021 — less than half of what Longo and Perrier personally sold.
Perrier noted that even though sales prices for industrial properties have risen since the pandemic — to $289 per square foot in the first quarter of this year, a 34 percent jump compared to the same period last year — brokers still need deal flow to reach the upper echelons of the sector.
“It’s not like they go up exponentially because the pricing goes up,” she said. “It’s the volume.”
Longo’s strategy of taking on leasing, sales and financing has worked for her, Perrier and the entire team — they’re able to tackle it all.
“I see their name on many different listings,” said Krestina Babamuratova, an industrial broker with Savills who represents tenants. “That’s the goal.”