Women Council of Realtors leader rallies women in field

Lisa A. L’Huillier is the broker and owner of Hefferon Real Estate and president of Women’s Council of Realtors Tri-County New York Chapter. Photo by Justin Sorensen.

By Gabrielle Hovendon
NNY Business

Although Lisa A. L’Huillier has encountered plenty of ceilings in her decades-long career as a Realtor, she’s never hit a glass one.

Ms. L’Huillier, a New York State licensed real estate broker and the owner of Hefferon Real Estate, Watertown, says she has never faced discrimination as a woman in business, something she attributes to the prevalence of females in her field.

“Real estate seems to be woman-friendly. That’s been the trend even since I got into the business,” she said. “I’ve never had somebody say, ‘you know what, I’d rather have a man sell my house than a woman.’”

That’s not to say Ms. L’Huillier hasn’t worked her way up the ladder.

Before coming to Hefferon Real Estate, she spent time as a rental clerk at an apartment complex near Cornell University, Ithaca, and as an assistant manager at an off-post housing company near Fort Drum. She began her career as a Realtor at Hefferon with then-owner Thomas H. Hefferon in 1990, and in January 2000 she became owner.

Since then, she has seen the office at 28 S. Massey St. expand from four to 10 employees, and she has watched the north country come through the national mortgage crisis mostly unscathed.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve had some really good years,” Ms. L’Huillier said. “Real estate is a tough business. It’s difficult because you only get paid strictly on a commission basis, so you could have all the properties you can think of, but you don’t make anything on them until they sell.”

Ms. L’Huillier also is the 2012 president of the Women’s Council of Realtors Tri-County New York Chapter. The chapter, one of nine in the state, is a 36-member professional real estate group affiliated with the Women’s Council of Realtors, a national professional development organization with 19,000 members. The organization, which is open to men and women in real estate, works to promote networking and empower women entrepreneurs.

“It’s not only useful for the Realtors, it’s useful for the entire business community,” said Charles F. “Chuck” Ruggiero Jr., a Realtor at Hefferon and the 2012 secretary of the Tri-County chapter. “As a women’s organization it achieves parity with the other business organizations in the community. It gives respect for the achievements of women in business.”

Among the benefits the Tri-County chapter provides for its members in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties are a minimum of eight education programs a year, with topics that range from technology and business development to leadership, diversity and tax advice. Some upcoming public events include a March 20 roundtable discussion with women leaders titled “Got Leadership?” and an April 17 presentation about the use of Facebook in realty.

“We have a full plate of events,” Ms. L’Huillier said. “We’re working on providing different types of education that are relevant to real estate. We’re also working on ways to get people more involved within the council. This might help prepare somebody to be a board member for a local organization; this might give them the voice that they would not have otherwise had.”

As chapter president, Ms. L’Huillier has been responsible for producing a regular newsletter, documenting program efforts and traveling to state and national council meetings. She also has worked to organize events for charity, including a June golf tournament to benefit Family Counseling Service of Northern New York and an August fashion show to benefit the Watertown Urban Mission.

“She’s always willing to help,” said Lance M. Evans, executive officer for the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors and the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors. “She has a good spirit, and that assistance also applies to her business side – real estate a lot of times is a cooperative business. She’s got good leadership skills.”

In addition to her leadership with the Women’s Council of Realtors, Ms. L’Huillier has taken the helm as secretary and president of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors in 1996 and from 1998 to 2000, respectively. She also volunteers as a member of the Watertown Housing Authority board, the Family Counseling Service board, the education committee of the Northern New York Community Foundation and the Rotary Club of Watertown.

Ms. L’Huillier says these volunteer efforts have a two-fold advantage.

“By being involved with volunteer organizations you’re doing something that benefits the community, but you’re also networking with other people who might not have known you before,” she said. “You’re expanding your business network and you’re giving back as well. Everybody benefits from that.”