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Close-up: Leslie Kilpatrick

Homeownership was life-changing for SDAR's 2014 president

Leslie Kilpatrick. Staff photo by Michael Countis

Moving around as a kid, growing roots and watching her parents’ home take care of her mom have given Leslie Kilpatrick a strong commitment to homeownership.

“Life back in the ‘60s in a military family, especially during the Vietnam era, was a very disruptive lifestyle. Our family moved a lot — I changed schools eight times in elementary school,” Kilpatrick said. “It was a very unsettled life. We came to San Diego and my parents bought that house. It was a very modest house but it was an opportunity to have real roots, and that absolutely was a fundamental, life-changing experience for me.”

Kilpatrick communicated her emotional connection to homeownership during her speech at the Greater San Diego Association of Realtor’s installation celebration. She spoke about her mother who recently had to move out of that home because of Alzheimer’s, and how the rent from the house is now helping to support her.

Leslie Kilpatrick’s career seems to have fallen into place as if it were part of a master plan.

She entered the real estate industry in her early 20s, now manages two offices for Willis Allen Real Estate and is board president of the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors. But her path wasn’t planned; it was the result of accidental meetings and one thing leading to another.

She answered an ad for a secretary at a remodeling company when she was in school, and that led to a job at a fund control. She met contractors who offered her jobs and helped her create her career path.

“I think the most important people in my life have been the many, many mentors along the way — the folks that I ran into that liked me, gave me opportunities, allowed me to make mistakes and grow from them,” Kilpatrick said.

Her first listing was a four-unit building in Hillcrest that one of the builders she previously worked with had built and trusted her to sell it.

“That was my initial opportunity to start working with buyers and sellers, and it was very rewarding,” Kilpatrick said.

Kilpatrick has always volunteered her time — for sports, school and SDAR. She has enjoyed the camaraderie as part of SDAR’s board of directors, and meeting people from companies all over the county. She ran for vice president and then president-elect. She met more Realtors who inspired her and gave her more reason to make a difference.

The mission of the association is to protect homeownership, private property rights and the business interests of its members. One of Kilpatrick’s focuses during her term will be to reach out to the military community.

“The broader mission of the association stays the same, and all I can do is shine a light on this one area for a year — much like Linda Lee [2013 board president] shined a light on international buyers last year,” Kilpatrick said.

One of her goals is to reach out to her successors to help build a strong future for her company and for SDAR, “because I think one of the keys to leading is making sure you’re helping others fill your spot,” she said.

Kilpatrick said she has remained in the industry because she loves it.

“It is never boring. It’s difficult sometimes. It’s challenging sometimes. But every day presents a new set of circumstances, a new set of people and a new set of problems to solve,” Kilpatrick said.

She’s learned that real estate is a relationship business and those who are successful keep their word, tell the truth and answer questions honestly.

“If you’re working closely with a buyer or seller for a few months you really get to know that person, you really become part of their lives, you come to understand them. There’s something really rewarding about getting to know people that well,” Kilpatrick said. “It’s almost like being able to read a new novel every day — pick up a book and read it and learn something completely different.”

Everything in the real estate industry has changed — except the people connection — since Leslie Kilpatrick started her career. Realtors would drive to Mission Valley to pick up the MLS books from the association, and most of Kilpatrick’s job was driving around taking papers to people in person, and signing documents on the hood of her car.

“Realtors had the books,” Kilpatrick said. “The Realtors at that point in time, in essence, controlled the information. Now the information is everywhere. The consumers have all of the information and the Realtor’s job is more interpreting and bringing the knowledge to the table and the guidance so that they can make the best use of it.”

The advent of the Internet has allowed less time for logistics but counseling is still central to the job, she said. To be successful, real estate agents have to be patient, good at solving problems and good at helping people who are in a stressful situation.

Young agents entering the business have technological skills, and seasoned agents have interpersonal skills. A successful agent will have both, and will be in it for the long haul to make a career of it.

“People have to have a business plan and a tremendous amount of self-discipline, time management and that doesn’t come easily to everybody,” Kilpatrick said.

Transitioning from agent to manager has shown Kilpatrick how difficult it is to run a company, and how the real estate business is different because there are independent contractors rather than employees.

“They’re independent contractors who can, and do, do their own thing. On the other hand, for the company to be successful, there have to be guidelines, policies — a broader vision that everybody within the real estate company supports, believes in and becomes committed to,” Kilpatrick said.

“In my management style, I’m trying to respect and understand that independence and the entrepreneurial aspects — but also to help them see that if we work together with a committed vision, we can all be more successful.”

Realtors compete within the industry and their companies; to succeed they also have to collaborate with each other, she said.

“There are some folks who take the competitive part of it to heart and they miss out on the collaboration and cooperation part, and that’s something that takes time to develop,” Kilpatrick said. “There’s enough business out there so that you can conduct yourself in a cooperative, ethical, friendly manner.”

Kilpatrick said she has a lot of fun in the business, and it helps to have a sense of humor and not take things too seriously.

In addition to her role as SDAR’s 2014 board president, she was recently appointed to a three-year term on the Professional Standards Committee of the National Association of Realtors.

She lives in South Park with her husband; they have four adult children and two grandsons.

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Greater San Diego Association of Realtors

Company Website

4845 Ronson Ct., 330
San Diego, CA 92111

Greater San Diego Association of Realtors Executive(s):

Linda Lee

  • 2013 President

Leslie Kilpatrick

  • Board President

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