Friends, meet the Norma Rae of real estate: Linda Pinizzotto. As you’ll find out, she has an abundance of not only her fictional ideological twin’s stamina and horse sense, but tenacity and compassion as well.
Pinizzotto was born in Toronto to German immigrant parents. She attended Sheridan College and York University and majored in business. After college she worked in the corporate world in the field of atomic energy.
For many people with an entrepreneurial spirit, working in a corporation tends to become a bit soul numbing. Pinizzotto found herself driven to become self-employed in an industry where she could help people. Real estate seemed the perfect fit.
She held on to her corporate job, thinking she’d work her way slowly into self-employment. Double-ending her first deal and then stacking up back-to-back transactions helped propel her career quicker than she’d ever imagined. Since 1979, she has been a full-time agent.
Today, Pinizzotto’s team includes an IT person, an administrative assistant and two agents. Ninety-five percent of her business comes from former clients and referrals.
While she doesn’t like to say she “specializes” in condos, Pinizzotto is an expert in the condo market. “After 33 years in business, my former clients’ children are now buying condos and the clients themselves are downsizing. So, it was my clients who actually took me in that direction,” observes Pinizzotto.
During her work with condo buyers and sellers Pinizzotto realized something that ticked her off: There are a lot of “bad condo boards out there,” and she resolved to do something about it. This “something” turned out to be “the biggest challenge I’ve ever undertaken in my life.”
Pinizzotto quickly learned that the reason these condo boards felt entitled to run roughshod over the homeowners, to “call all the shots and ignore owner’s requests,” is that there is no legislative mandate to punish them. She realized that the 1990 Condo Act required changes, and influencing provincial legislation wasn’t going to be easy.
That’s when she founded the nonprofit Condo Owners Association of Ontario (COA). “Who do they [condo owners] turn to when they have a bad board? They have no way to get rid of them, they are afraid to say anything for fear of being ostracized because the board has all the power. I felt that these people need a voice, able to represent them, sort of like a teacher’s association.”
Today the COA takes on issues such as inefficient warranty programs, ineffective governance and educating buyers so that they understand the importance of the entire complex to the value of their homes. She has also made it her goal to change the Condo Act to ensure that if a condo board isn’t following Condo Act mandates, they are fined.
I asked Linda what types of issues she faces in her role as political voice for the province’s 1.5 million condo owners.
“There’s a gentleman right now – a Realtor® as a matter of fact – he literally maneuvered his way onto his condo’s board only so he could create a commercial office in a residential unit to avoid commercial taxes. Then, to remain on the board he passed a bylaw preventing absentee owners from serving on the board, directly in opposition to the Condo Act. Although he’s as dirty as they come, he’s still there and still maintaining his position,” says Pinizzotto.
“This type of thing isn’t what people bargain for when they put their life savings into their home. There has to be legislation to prevent people serving on condo boards from doing these types of things,” she adds.
While Pinizzotto used her own money to get COA off the ground, the organization now depends on their members for support. Membership is $10 a year which is a teeny price to pay for the outstanding work the nonprofit performs for all condo owners, not just members.
It comes as no surprise then that Linda feels the key to success in real estate is for agents to stop focusing so much on commissions and get involved in the community. Not only is it good for the community, but good for business as well.
When she’s not Norma Rae-ing, Pinizzotto enjoys spending time with her grandchildren. A sports fanatic, she and her husband enjoy golf and spending time watching their youngest son, Steve, play right wing with the Vancouver Canucks.
She chuckles as she thinks back on her three sons’ childhoods and how she was the first female general manager in junior hockey – sort of the equivalent to the very involved “soccer mom.”
“When I started COA I figured that I had helped create my kids’ legacies and it was time for me to create my own. It’s time for Mom!”