Day in the Life: Realtors® Tom and Patty Leighton

By Kelly Leighton | May 22, 2019 | 5 min. read

A Day in the Life is a new series on JustListed where Kelly Leighton spends some time with a Realtor® and writes about their day-to-day business and lifestyle.

Growing up, every Saturday morning, there would be a fresh box of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins waiting for us on our front porch.

Tom and Patty Leighton pose in front of a photo of John Leighton Sr., Carl Leighton Jr., Peter “Forve” Leighton, who are posing in front of a photo of founder Carl Leighton Sr., their father.

My grandfather, the late John Leighton Sr., would drop off the sweet treats before heading off to spend his weekend catering to his real estate clients. He earned the nickname Grandpa Doughnut from me for his efforts. The family business, C.A. Leighton Co. Inc., was founded by my great-grandfather, Carl Leighton, and has been around the Wilkes-Barre area since 1921. My dad, Tom Leighton, followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, earning his real estate license in 1983, and his broker license in 1986. Recently, my mother, Patty Leighton, took her real estate exam and has been licensed and practicing since January.

Today, C.A. Leighton sits nestled in an office building in the buzzing downtown of Wilkes-Barre, and I recently headed to my hometown to spend a day shadowing my parents.

“It’s a career I enjoy doing,” my dad said. “I like working with people.”

After more than 35 years in business, my dad said his biggest frustrations with the industry is a lack of professionalism he sees. “I have seen agents show up to closings in sweatpants, it’s very unprofessional,” he said. “The lack of training some new agents receive from their firms is unbelievable, I’ve received Agreement of Sales that are only half filled out. No one is overseeing some new agents’ work.”

Fortunately, my mom has my dad’s watchful eye as she navigates the real estate world. Formerly a small business owner, my mom decided to get her license when she saw how busy my dad was. She thought she may enjoy it, and so far, it’s been great, she said. “When someone finds a house that they love, I just love imagining them in that house and making it their own.”

For our first adventure of the day, I tagged along as my mom showed one of her clients, a first-time buyer, another home. She ends up falling in love with the property, however, the basement has water in it. The home is a HUD-owned, once-foreclosed property, and it has been vacant, so there hasn’t been any electricity on. Later, they bring in a professional, who believes it is an easy fix, the electricity just needs to be turned on to make sure the sump pump works. Sure enough it does, so she finally makes an offer. After looking at dozens of properties together, my mom said she is thrilled she has finally found the one, and hopes it works out.

My mom said the biggest struggle in the business for her is the constant follow-up. “There’s the appraisals, the mortgage, other agents, it’s a lot of balls in the air,” she said. “I don’t think working with people is hard, they are usually excited about buying or selling. It’s a new chapter for them.”

“But I don’t think it is easy money,” she added. “Things often fall through and it can feel like a lot of work down the drain. But now that I am in the swing of things, it has gotten easier.”

One thing we discussed was safety as a Realtor®. “Another agent was showing one of my vacant properties and said a neighbor approached her and the potential buyer and said someone had been living in the house. It was an estranged family member, and the owner had to have the locks changed. But that is frightening to me, what if the neighbor hadn’t warned her?” She is careful about taking appointments with new clients, making them come to the office first, present IDs and meet them before heading out with them.

After switching gears at the office, I tag out with my dad. He usually spends the mornings in his home office doing paperwork, and his afternoons on the road. We head to nearby Bear Creek to do an appraisal on a new construction home. Throughout my life, I’ve become accustomed to every single thing we do as a family is generally preceded by a “quick” appraisal.

Despite coming into the family business, my dad had to find his own clients. On his first day at C.A. Leighton, he was given a desk, pencil and adding machine. That was when he started cold calling to find clients. Today, he still sends letters to sellers whose MLS listings have expired, offering to be their agent. He estimates he gains at least one new client a month this way.

“I treat every property the same, regardless of the price,” he said. “Every client is equally important.”

After 35 years in the business, my dad doesn’t see himself retiring anytime soon. “I don’t think most Realtors® really retire,” he said. “It just becomes a part of who you are.”

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