Selling the Dream House | Features

Pat Leavy’s take on two decades of real estate
By Ross Boissoneau | September 24, 2022

Real estate is part finance, part therapy, and part vision. The ability to combine these aspects has helped Pat Leavy during his more than two decades as a real estate agent — the most recent as one of the best-selling agents statewide — as he and longtime friend and business partner Wally Kidd built their Petoskey-based business, Kidd & Leavy Real Estate has become a powerhouse catering primarily to upscale buyers and sellers.

Heading north
The Leavy real estate story begins in Bay Harbor. When the tiny resort town south of Petoskey was built in the 1990s, Leavy was told he would be a natural at real estate there.

As the owner of a successful concrete products company in the Detroit area, he was reluctant to uproot his family. But ultimately, the pull of the region was too great to resist. “I told my wife we ​​had the opportunity to live in paradise,” he recalls.

But it wasn’t paradise at first. “We had a baby and the first year I made $11,000. I [thought] Maybe I’m not cut out for that.” But within a few years, he figured out how to express his work ethic and leverage his ever-growing client base of friends, family, and former upstate clients and sell them the northern Michigan lifestyle, the he had already accepted.

By 2003, Leavy was poised to expand beyond Bay Harbor’s borders. “My business partner and I went solo to offer Walloon Lake, Petoskey, Harbor Springs. We opened a small boutique office in downtown Petoskey,” he says. Kidd & Leavy started out selling houses big and small – mostly the former, or at least those with higher price tags.

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Today, they’ve nearly two decades of success under their belt, and Leavy says endorsements are vital for any agency. “I come from a large Irish Catholic family. I know everyone,” says Leavy. But it’s not enough to know a lot of people. “The key is satisfied customers. They will continue to send friends.”

Flexibility is also key when concentrating on the numbers, when dealing with a client who is focused on the financial details, or finding just the right apartment for a client for whom price is largely irrelevant but who is want the perfect waterfront home. “A good agent has to be a chameleon,” says Leavy.

Follow the ups and downs
After the recent housing boom, the market has started to shift to low housing stock, partly due to rising interest rates. Prices and sales figures are also falling in many areas.

Leavy accepts everything. For those who are currently looking to buy a property in the north, he believes it is essential to identify the area you prefer, which is not possible online.

“Concentrate. Take the wheel and drive around, eat out, get a coffee, see what you like,” he says. “If you want to be in northern Michigan, do you have friends there? If yes, ask why they chose this place.”

He asks customers to create a checklist of what they’re looking for and what’s most important to them: Boating? Golf? To eat out? Want to be close to the city or get away from it all?

Location, location, location works… until there’s nothing left to buy. Leavy says the lack of inventory is a hurdle for anyone working in real estate, citing Bay Harbor as an example. “Bay Harbor has a lot of condos. There is one for sale and only two or three houses. That’s amazing.”

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He’s confident that will change as summer rolls into fall. “There’s still a little bit more coming on the market,” he says, noting that many people want to spend one last summer in their cottage or waterfront home before putting it up for sale in the fall.

He says one of the biggest challenges is selling a relatively expensive home in the city, while vacation property or high-end cottages at an even higher price point aren’t as problematic. “The hardest to sell is $500,000 to $700,000 [house] in the city. If it’s not a cottage, what’s the job for someone who can afford it? Who is hiring?” On the other hand, “If it’s a vacationer from upstate or Florida, they don’t care. For them it is a luxury item.”

As interest rates begin to rise, overall sales are slowing, although Leavy says it doesn’t matter to some of its clients. “My market is high-end. If it’s a million or more, they don’t care about the interest. You pay cash.”

For others, however, interest rates are a problem – although perhaps they shouldn’t be, as interest rates are still relatively low compared to historical levels. “For the last 30 years, the interest rate has been (up to) 9 percent,” says Leavy. (It was double digits in the ’80s.) Rates are now hovering around 5 to 6 percent, but as Leavy notes, “Today, 30- and 40-year-olds haven’t seen that rate.”

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The biggest challenge so far
The changes in the real estate market now bring a heavy dose of perspective for Leavy. In 2020, his career was doing so well that it seemed like nothing could slow sales — not even the pandemic. “I sold $137 million in 2020,” he says.

What interrupted things was a serious health challenge. That year, Leavy underwent two months of chemotherapy and radiation for lung cancer, although he had never smoked.

Then at the end of last year his health deteriorated again. He ended up at the Mayo Clinic where he was told his lungs had weakened to the point where they would shut down. Unable to leave the clinic, he spent 45 days in a hospital bed.

On February 2, he underwent an 11-hour lung transplant.

“I spent five days in intensive care and left a week later,” he says. “I’ve been blessed by the doctors, God and someone else who gave me a gift.”

Buoyed by his newfound awareness of life, Leavy has returned to the area and to his livelihood with a greater sense of purpose. “The sky is bluer, the grass greener. I love people more now. I can’t thank all the people who cheered me on. I love my job. It feels like a fun hobby.”

The shift to remote work during the pandemic allowed Leavy to continue working even while in the hospital, and Leavy can report total revenue of $107 million in 2022, not far behind the pace of 2020 or the Total sales last year is $132 million.

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