Judy has been living in Waterbury Center, Vermont since 1971. She has been very active in real estate since the mid- 1980's and shares with us some fascinating details of her life - from her birth in Budapest, Hungary, her childhood in Rome, Italy to raising her own family in America - and how she came to be one of the top real estate agents in Stowe, Vermont.
Q. So ... how did you come to live in Vermont?
With much persuasion from my husband ...
Q. Are you happy that you live here now?
Absolutely, Vermont is a special place, I could not go back.
Q. Go back where?
To Long Island, New York ...
...about Judy's childhood
Q. Where did you live before moving to Long Island?
I was born in Budapest, Hungary and during WWII, my father, mother and I escaped in a plane. My father was a major in the Hungarian air force, and had a mission to fly to Italy. I was just a baby - about 2 years old - my mother was dressed as a pilot, and she hid me in a knapsack on her back. She had kept me up for hours before so I would sleep on our journey (and not cry).
Q. Where did your family escape to?
We landed in Bari, Italy - at an American air base - fortunately, the Americans let us land, and I became their "mascot" and as the story goes ... they fed me a steady diet of Hershey's chocolate. I still love chocolate!
Q. How long did you live in Bari, Italy?
For a year and then we moved to Rome, Italy where we lived in the "Academia Ungaria" - a complex affiliated with the Hungarian embassy at that time. My father started a refrigeration business that became very successful since there was a shortage of refrigeration in Italy after the war. I went to elementary school there until I was 10 years old and I have wonderful memories of learning to ski in Cortina d'Ampezzo and spending my summers with my family in a small mountain village called Selva di Val Gardena near Cortina.
Q. Why did your family leave Italy?
My father felt that there were great opportunities in America ... so, when we had the opportunity to come to the States, we took it.
Q. Tell me about your journey to America ...
It was the first time I had ever been on the open ocean ... that was frightening because of the vastness, but also, I remember there were so many people on the ship ... it was quite an experience. I will never forget my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island ... it was all quite overwhelming ... memories I will never, ever forget.
Q. When you first arrived, where did your family go?
We settled in New York City for a short time and then my father was offered a chief engineer position for a company in Michigan. I loved Michigan and despite my broken English, I had terrific support from my peers. After 3 years we moved back to the New York area - North Shore of Long Island.
Q. Where did you attend high school?
I attended Roslyn High School, Long Island, New York - it was there that I really established good study habits ... it was a very competitive environment. Even today it is one of the top 50 public high schools in the country. I was involved in student government, the debate club, ski club, the tennis coach asked me to be on the boy's tennis team (this was in the fifties) ... I played a few times but then my "head" got in the way ... At that time it was unheard of for a girl to play on the boy’s team.
Q. Where did you attend college?
I attended Hofstra University, Long Island. I majored in Spanish literature with a minor in philosophy and I was in an accelerated program where I obtained my BA in 3 years. It was very demanding but energizing. I also studied in northern Spain and lived with a young Spanish family in Santender.
Q. So how many languages do you speak besides English?
Hungarian, Spanish and some Italian.
Q. When did you meet your husband Russ?
I met Russ on our local high school's tennis court ... I had just graduated. We dated all through college and married upon graduation. He was from Long Island and was working for his family's company and was attending college when we met.
... about moving to Vermont
Q. When did Vermont come into the picture?
As a child, my parents, my brother and myself would come to Stowe every Christmas ... we stayed at Trapps. So I have memories of Stowe with only a single chair lift to the top and I also remember the "thousands of layers" of blankets we had to put on at the base - because of the antiquated slow chair. A lot has changed since then at Stowe Mountain Resort with the high speed quad and gondola!
Q. After you and Russ married, was this when you moved to Vermont?
No, We loved Vermont and would often come here to ski and just enjoy the countryside.
In the mid-sixties we started looking for that "dream" Vermont property - an old farmhouse at the end of a dead end road with meadows, streams and views ... we looked all through Vermont but we always ended up in the Stowe area. Luckily for us, we found that "dream" in Waterbury Center.
We thought that it would be our second home. However, each time we came up here, we just did not want to leave, so ... the opportunity allowed us to make our move to Vermont in 1971. Many of our friends thought that we were true pioneers!
Q. So ... what did you do here?
Starting with our old farmhouse we did some renovations. Then we started buying some vintage properties in Stowe village and renovating/restoring them. Some became commercial rentals, others residential rentals and in between all this, we started an antique shop that became one of the best in the state.
We had the antique shop for about 20 years ... it was an incredible experience. We met sophisticated collectors from all over the world that appreciated our collection. We handled Tiffany, Paul Revere silver, folk art, Hudson River paintings, exceptional bronzes, early American furniture, etc. It was a most broadening experience since we also had an extensive research library. WE HAD PLENTY TO DO IN VERMONT!
... how Judy got into real estate
Q. How did you go from the antique world to the real estate world?
After many years in the antique business, I felt it was time for a change ... I really kept asking myself what am I interested in? And what allows flexibility? And how can I draw on my personal experiences? I remember exactly where the thought came to me ... on Route 100 across from what is now Evergreen Gardens ... REAL ESTATE - that's what I want to do.
Q. Why did you feel that real estate would be perfect for you?
First and foremost, I enjoy working with people and problem-solving. Secondly, I had much personal experience in buying and selling our own properties and renovating/restoring many of our own old buildings. I also feel I am very intuitive by nature and listen carefully.
Q. How and where did you start your real estate career?
After much thinking and much inspiration from my boys ... they kept telling me "Mom, just do it! You tell us that all the time!" they gave me back my own advice, I decided to approach Pall Spera and Company which was at the time (and still is!) the premier real estate company in Stowe. This was in 1986.
Q. Do you remember your first sale?
Yes, I do. It was nine months after I began ... it was nerve-wracking. Fortunately, my sellers were wonderful and I was able to successfully close my first transaction. I was on my way!
Q. How long did it take you to get established as a Realtor?
It took about 3 to 4 years to establish myself and by the early nineties I became the top salesperson in our office. However, the market has changed dramatically since I first started and several years ago, I hired a top-notch assistant - Erika Heintz. We make a great team.
Q. Tell me about the areas of real estate you specialize in.
All of it ... land parcels, old and new homes and commercial as well.
Q. Besides selling homes, what other passions do you have?
Q. What are some of your hobbies?
I love to downhill ski, cross-country ski on the trails on my property, swim and most of all, be on the course at the Country Club of Vermont in Waterbury Center ... which is just 2 miles from my house. Besides that, quiet activities - yoga and I love to read, especially historical novels. Ken Follett is one of my favorite authors and I’ve recently discovered Elena Ferrante.
Q. Do you still enjoy selling real estate as much as when you first started?
Oh yes, it is much less stressful now of course, since I have a good bit of experience ... I never tire of meeting new people, young and old - they always make it interesting and worthwhile.
Q. What do you feel are some of the challenges you face as a Realtor?
Real estate is ever-changing ... with new technology customers and clients want instant service. We are fortunate at Pall Spera Company to have a tech “guru” and other full-time support. That being said, the counsel that comes from an experienced and caring realtor will always be a mainstay.
Q. What do you see for your real estate future?
I plan to remain in real estate for many more years ... always striving to provide exceptional service - that is the bottom line.