Liza Kaufman describes her entry into the real estate business as "serendipitous."
A decade ago, she decided on a whim to tag along to a real estate class to keep a friend company. The friend dropped out, but Kaufman was intrigued.
"I didn’t plan on practicing," Kaufman said. "But on my way out from registering for my license, I ran into a neighbor on his way to list his home, and he said, ‘I’ll just list it with you.’"
Kaufman sold it in a week, and figured she must have some talent for the job.
Fast forward several years and Kaufman is one of Westmount’s most successful luxury real estate brokers. Operating under the Sotheby’s brand, she has sold some of the city’s most prestigious addresses, including a $7 million property to the Chinese consulate last year.
She is joined on the Sotheby’s team by her daughter Alfee, a McGill business school graduate who has inherited her mother’s talent for marketing homes.
"It’s amazing – really such a blessing to be able to work with your child," Liza Kaufman said. "We love working with each other. I’m very lucky to have a child who loves what I do, loves what she does with me, and is capable enough to be great at it."
Alfee, 24, worked part-time at the office while she was in school, and made the jump to full-time right after graduation.
She believes that she picked up many of her mother’s skills through osmosis, simply by watching and listening.
"I was 15 when she got her licence, so I would hear her on the phone, talking to clients and making deals, and I think I learned a lot that way," she said. "Now, we work side-by-side, both together and independently."
Alfee says working with the clients is her favourite part of the job.
"I try to work with the new buyers, newlyweds, young couples," she said.
She says that she still learns new things from her mother every day.
"My mother has an amazing work ethic, and that’s something that really inspires me," she said.
Mother Liza is proud that her daughter seems to have a natural flair for the job, which she says requires a combination of people skills and a talent for the money side of the business. She herself has a background in corporate finance, which she believes has given her negotiating skills that set her apart from the rest of her competition.
"But mostly, you have to love it," she said. "You have to love talking to people, being with people, sharing with people, and you have to have a business perspective also. It’s a fine balance, and it’s one that both Alfee and I seem to manage."
Over the years, Liza Kaufman has helped to market and sell some of Westmount’s most prestigious addresses. She says that the market in the city is always stable and robust due to its good location and international reputation.
She believes that the presence of good private schools is one of the keys to attracting young families. That and proximity to downtown serve to make Westmount the most prestigious area in Montreal.
"There is always a demand for the homes there from anyone who moves to Montreal. Any executive who moves to Montreal has heard about Westmount as the place to be," Kaufman said. "You have to be able to attract foreign buyers. Otherwise, you’re just stagnating."
Almost ten years after entering the business, Liza says she loves it as much as ever.
"Honestly, I’d do it for free," she said. "And that’s the key to success."
And now, with her daughter by her side, the future seems brighter than ever.
"It’s really fulfilling to be able to build a business that she can one day take over," Kaufman said.