Her Newport Realty signs have adorned some of Victoria’s most prestigious addresses.
And just as her name is synonymous with selling luxury homes and waterfront properties, she’s also well respected in Victoria’s business community for her consistent dedication to many local charities. A psychology major and avid sailor, Leslee Farrell’s course steered her towards Victoria and to real estate in 1979… and there’s no place she’d rather be.
You’re originally from the mainland. What brought you to Victoria?
I was teaching junior high in White Rock and trying to raise my son. I had a partnership in a sailboat and we’d often sail to Victoria. After about five years of loving to stop in Victoria, I learned it was a great town to raise a child in.
So, how do you go from teaching to real estate?
I was thinking about a career change and had been encouraged to pursue a career in sales. My father had been a construction contractor and my interest had always been in homes… and in people. I had a friend who had a real estate firm and I realized it wasn’t a “profession” in the eyes of the public. But I knew it was a profession on the rise. If you treated the business professionally, you were already ahead of what was going on in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. So I took my education and psychology background and applied it to my ways of relating to people. And I loved waterfront. I studied it like mad. There are many good realtors who have been teachers or in counselling. Not all reasons for selling are good, so you have to make it as positive as you can.
Were you surprised by the recent boom in Victoria’s housing market?
As a realtor, you have to be an interpreter of the market. No one has a crystal ball, but we get a sense of it. When you see the inherent merit of a city, nothing should surprise you. I was surprised we were as low as we were as long as we were because this is God’s country. There is no reason to believe that prices won’t continue to rise, because we are a finite space and everybody wants to be here. It’s a retirement haven in a world full of boomers.
What do you think is so special about Victoria?
I think for a population of 400,000 we have an amazing arts community, absolutely amazing. I think it is an environment that sort of supports people who can dream. We’re like the California, I guess, of Canada. It’s not too big, but big enough to have the things that you might want. Condé Nast doesn’t name you one of the top ten cities if you aren’t.
You’re an avid sailor. Any similarities between sailing and real estate?
The accountability to a boat is as huge as the accountability to your clients. There is a defined method that you have to follow. But once you’re up there and everything’s been taken care of, you can just go where the wind takes you. In real estate, you do need to direct your business before it will eat you up.
You are very involved with the Victoria Hospitals Foundation. How did that come to be?
I do believe that if you live off the rewards of a community that you should give back to the community. I’ve always been involved in some kind of charity. Ten years ago, I decided to put my efforts towards one. The Hospitals Foundation seemed to be the broadest reach, where you’re contributing to medical equipment for your whole community. I wouldn’t feel right if I wasn’t connected to some sort of fundraising.
You’ve just been inducted into the order of St. John. How does that feel?
It’s an honour to be part of it and a great privilege. You get invited into the order of St. John based on community works; it’s a worldwide organization. We have a new project on board for homeless so I’ll become focused over there. And in this city, we’ve just committed to helping people to get set up with furniture and bedding.
Do you ever take a break?
In the mini-breaks of life, I enjoy reading and walking and theatre and opera. For me to completely escape, I need to leave the city because my observing eyes are seeing everything. This land, these streets…that’s my office out there.
Your son, Sean, is now working in real estate alongside you. How is that?
That’s been a big help for balance. The boy who I brought here to be in a safe harbour now doesn’t want to leave Victoria.
What does the future hold?
I’m thinking at least another 10 years… I mean, what would I do? I love my work. I am going to be entering into personal coaching to take it to the next level. I’m excited about it. You always have to keep improving.