When I was a little girl I moved to New Hope with my mother and my brother. My mother created a small real estate office in our home on North Main Street. The living room and library were the real estate office. It was great to come home from school to my mother cooking a wonderful one pot supper or casserole. The house and office always smelled warm and inviting. As a little girl I did secretarial work for my mom, and sold Girl Scout Cookies to all her clients and in summer had a lemonade stand in front of the office. I figured clients would be hot and tired and would love a cool lemonade after looking at properties! I later went to Boston University and University of Vienna in Austria to study French and German and Harvard Summer School to study writing. I moved to Paris immediately after college and worked at Hermès in Paris. I sold handbags and scarves and had a nice clientele because I was able to speak three languages.
My parents missed me very much and asked if I would consider moving back to the United States and working in real estate.They each had real estate offices and would compete for who would be number one! I was very reluctant at first, but had been always intrigued by the wonderful stories my mother and father told about selling houses to Oscar Hammerstein, Moss Hart, James Michener, Pearl Buck and many famous writers and painters. Leith Ross gave my mother a painting as a commission and hence began her wonderful art collection.
When I was 23, I moved back from Paris and started in real estate. I immediately loved it! I had always been a little shy and found that real estate really gave me something I could talk about comfortably. I remember one of my best clients came to look at houses from New York. He drove a Porsche and wore Hermès gloves. I sold him, and many of his friend’s, country houses. I loved learning about other people’s lives. I met people who were fascinating to me and got to know them in a way that was at once comfortable and intimate because I became very involved in their lives. I have always felt that the house was the center in which people lived their lives. I wanted to ask enough questions and listen carefully to the answers so that I could help them find their country place.
In 1986, I opened my own real estate company, Lisa James Otto Country Properties. I designed a dark green wooden sign with gold letters hand carved by Sandy Lobley. I focused my advertising on New York, Princeton and Europe. I became a member of Leading Estates of The World, Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate and the Federation of International Real Estate Brokers of which I was the president of the New York Board for three years. I have had New York meetings at the Plaza Athenee, the Lotus Club and the New York Yacht Club.
I still have the passion I have always had for real estate today. My boutique real estate firm has now 40 of the top sales associates in Bucks and Hunterdon counties. Probably one of the most important elements of my real estate company is that it has retained the family feeling that both my mother and father’s firms had. And perhaps most importantly, in the world of takeovers and mergers, there is a Lisa James Otto. I am on board to help my associates in any way I can with transactions and client relations. I am always here for them to discuss any of their concerns. I feel that is very important to both my associates and their clients. I often go with them to make listing presentations and help them figure out the target market. If need be, we will schedule meetings with their buyers and sellers to create solutions. I have remained very involved in writing and placing of advertisements and spend time thinking about new niche markets. For example, I have recently expanded my international horse farm division.
I have been married since 1977 and my husband Jonathan is a wonderful, kind and deeply religious man. We have two great children, Jonathan and Elizabeth, and a granddaughter Milla Isabelle and a grandson, Joaquin. We live on a farm in Solebury and feel very blessed with our lives.
Lisa James Otto Country Properties, 16 Bridge Street, Stockton 08559. 609-3977-5667. One South Sugan Road, New Hope, PA, 18938. 215-862-2626. www.lisajamesotto.com.