Kelly La’a Puts the Aloha Back into Hawai’i Real Estate

Kelly La’a gets you. Whether a client has five million dollars cash-in-pocket or is scrambling with finances to find a first home, what a buyer or seller really needs is a real estate agent who can find that thread of connection. Kelly La’a is a tapestry of diversity and life experiences who connects with her clients wherever they are in their buying or selling process—or their life’s journey. Kelly thrives on knowing her community intimately—its joys and its needs—and that’s where the seeds of her success are sewn. Her love? People. All kinds. Her superpower? She listens.
Active listening,” Kelly emphasizes. “In any real estate transaction, it takes two entities on a journey to achieve a common goal. Market experience and knowledge are key, but consistent, positive, amazing customer service is required. I always strive to find the best in the people I work with, as well as those I work for.”
Having spent decades in the travel industry, Kelly has a knack for solving tough challenges with grace and humor. “In the airline industry, sometimes only the humor helped!” quips La’a. Then there was the early glimmer of a skilled sales professional. “As a kid, I actually sold Girl Scout cookies to a local bakery.” Kelly’s unique family experiences allow her to empathize with the needs of her clients. “A cross-cultural marriage brings joys and sadness while navigating the unknown. My father-in-law was pure Hawaiian, my mother-in-law is pure Okinawan. My father was of Russian-Jewish heritage, and my mother is of Scotch-Irish background. I am pretty sure I have a natural Ph.D. in emotional intelligence and diversity!       We were blessed with laughter, respect, some tears and fears. With all that aloha comes the responsibility to perpetuate that gift!” Kelly’s family experience carries over into her work. “One must be cognizant of cultural differences. I strive to spread kindness and bring groups of people together.”
The story of Kelly’s path to real estate success—a career volume of over $109 million in sales since July of 2007, and a pocketful of accolades including a nomination for the Aloha ‘Aina Award in 2022—begins like every real estate transaction: the daunting experience of relocation. Kelly moved to Lanikai at age 12 from Manhattan Beach, California. “I left everything I had ever known. Here, no waves out my door, no one to play beach volleyball with. But then I found new friends, and little did I know, I had moved up the street from my future husband!” Kelly and her husband Pat just celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary. “Marrying young, (barely 22), we grew up together and we understood the power of home ownership.”
Getting to observe the process didn’t hurt. “My entire life has been about real estate! My parents would buy the ugliest house in the nicest neighborhood, fix it up while living in it, and then sell it. I swear my dad was the original “agreement of sales” guru in the early 70s. I knew once my kids were old enough I’d get licensed, which I did in 2007.”
Kelly started her first career after graduating from Kailua High School in 1977 “As a tour escort, I took tour groups of Free Independent Travelers (FITs), to the neighbor islands. What a great first job!” Kelly continued to gain professional experience working at the Hyatt Waikiki, then Royal Hawaiian Air Service. “In the early 80s, RHAS was the largest non-computerized airline in the world.” In 1984 she signed onto American Airlines as a customer service agent, her then-dream job. She retired in 2012 but was already working in real estate, and falling in love with her second career.
Kelly was also immersed in community life in Kailua. ”I was able to balance part-time work at the airlines, learn the real estate ropes and be a full-time mom: taxi driver, volleyball coach, and PTSA president!” This was no small feat. Kelly’s robust family includes four now-grown children: Kanoe (37), Kai (35), and twins Lehua and Kaulana, (29). “I became a realtor to better serve my community. The flexibility allows me to contribute in ways I’d never dreamed of!”
And contribute, she does. “As a realtor, I have assisted schools and sports teams, Boys and Girls Club, Foodbank, and now Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hawai'i Realty is focusing on Hawaii’s Institute for Human Services (IHS). Homeless, the mentally ill . . . these issues are huge in Hawaii given the cost of living. The hardest part, rarely spoken of, is mental health. My own ohana has worked tirelessly to overcome mental health issues, and IHS has helped. It’s important to help those who can’t help themselves.” When asked to define success, Kelly answers, “Giving unconditionally is the best version of success there is.”
Of course, one cannot succeed alone, and education is a life-long endeavor. Kelly’s dad, an academic who, in addition to being a whiz at flipping houses, educated his children on the importance of financial intelligence. “My dad told me the best way to offset taxes on one’s W-2 was to have a home-based business. I kept thinking, ‘What can I do that mirrors loving to talk story with people?’ Then I read Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kayosaki. Aha! The light bulb lit. I’m still learning. My forever brokerage, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hawai'i Realty has mentors who have made the biggest impact on my success.” Kelly describes the team at Berkshire Hathaway as like-minded entrepreneurs who share information generously. “They empower and encourage our whole firm. I’m forever grateful for their continued support and direction. I have an amazing support staff of dedicated agents, marketing gurus, and part-time assistants to ensure that my clients receive the very best service from me!”
Kelly’s special mix of ambition plus aloha makes for an inspiring kind of enthusiasm. “Real estate is my passion and the perfect fit for me. I adore my job, my clients and the results. Do not be afraid to dream. Make your dreams your plan and then watch the reality unfold!”