Realtor Hal Leopard to retire after 33 years
After 33 years, a Cape Coral Realtor has decided to retire, and let next generation move in, allowing him to slow down and travel.
“I am 70 years old. I have worked this business seven days a week for 33 years. I have taken very little time off for myself. My wife has taken very little time away from the business. It’s time to let the younger generation step in and time for me to move on. It’s time to go visit some of the clients that we’ve had that are all over the world. They used to be clients and now they are friends,” said Harold “Hal” Leopard, a Realtor with RE/MAX Realty Partners. “I want to do it while I’m in good shape and feet great and I am healthy.”
On Dec. 31, Leopard will retire from his real estate career.
Before he became a Realtor, he ran companies for other people. At the height of his career he was running companies with as many as 300 employees.
The businesses he worked for mainly sold building-related supplies, such as lumber and doors.
“I had this long desire to be self-employed and that’s what really drove me to be my own boss and be self-employed and be in real estate,” he said. “I already had the knowledge of construction material.”
In 1985 Leopard received his Florida real estate license and began “hooking up with builders that wanted a real estate agent that knew the language.”
He began working with small home builders who worked out of their homes, who needed someone who knew the difference from a two by four and two by six.
“It made sense for them to use me to sell their homes and their model homes and not use someone else that didn’t know a piece of plywood,” Leopard said.
The first company he worked with was Changing World Realty in 1985. Leopard said he worked primarily on residential and commercial land and acreage.
“Ninety percent was sale of land and lots and primarily dirt,” Leopard said.
In 1993 he began working with Coldwell Banker in Cape Coral, and again represented small builders, as well as some larger ones. The switch was made because of his desire to work with a large franchise that would have international buyers. He explained that he was used for purchasing spec and model home lot sites, as well as residential homes that were bought, rehabbed and flipped.
“A lot of remodeling contractors used me because I understood what I was looking at and knew about the construction of the home,” Leopard said.
Early on in his years of working with Coldwell Banker, was when he became employed in 1994 by the Middle District Chapter 7 Federal Bankruptcy Court, which was overseen by Lee County Judge Alexander Pasquay and administered by trustee attorney Diane Jensen with Pavese Law Firm. Through this employment he worked closely with the trustee attorney to sell homes, lots, land tracts and commercial holdings.
“If it was in an area that I didn’t have expertise, or local knowledge, I would refer them out to other real estate agents in South Florida and take a referral payment,” he said. “It sky rocketed my personal career working with the court system and with the judge at that time.”
In the mid-’90s he had back-to-back high production years.
“One year in particular I handled 154 transactions here in Lee County for the bankruptcy courts. The next year I had 152 transactions,” Leopard said.
His wife still handles that business that he started in 1994 working with Judge Caryl Delano.
He met his wife Jessie, who was a brand new agent in the business in 1997 and needed the industry experience he could provide. In 2000 they got married.
In 1997, another defining moment happened in his career when the bankruptcy sale of Avatar Holdings took place. Leopard said their parent company was Gulf America Corp, which was owned by the Rosen Brothers.
Close to $43 million in assets was sold when Avatar was sold off and liquidated.
“It was a game changer for the entire real estate market in Cape Coral. The city was created by Gulf America Corporation and Rosen Brothers. The entire city was companied owned. They owned 6,000 lots in the city. Nothing got done in the city without Avatar having their fingers in it. When they filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, that opened the whole ball game for the city,” Leopard said. “It meant fresh developers could come in. The large parcels of land were now available. The 6,000 residential home sites could be sold at market value.”
Another big moment of 1997 was when the Midpoint Bridge opened. Leopard said some 67 homes had to be moved to create Veterans Memorial Parkway.
“It opened up a fresh doorway to the city and made it possible for our population to explode and new residential construction to take place,” he said. “It was an enormous growth in residential development after the Midpoint Bridge opened.”
Leopard said these two events set the tone for his career by helping propel his career at an even faster pace.
“I was seasoned by the time those events took place,” he said.
In 2003 the couple moved to the RE/MAX brand, RE/MAX Realty Partners on Del Prado Boulevard, where he has remained for more than 15 years. The move was made to RE/MAX because its broker had worked in Lee County for 25 years.
“It was a good fit and once again stayed with my business model. I wanted to be with an international company that could draw international buyers,” Leopard said.
Throughout the years his favorite moments were working with first-time homebuyers.
“They smile like chipmunks. They are giddy with the thought of moving into their first owned property. For any Realtor when you make your buyer client happy, it makes you happy,” Leopard said.
In the later part of his career he began working with the grandchildren of the original clients.
“We really have gone through the family chain, that we are getting calls from their grandchildren,” Leopard said.
On the selling side, he said it’s been rewarding, especially in the last few years to have returned to a place where the seller has equity returning to their homes.
“It’s been an adventure and it’s one I would not trade for anything in the world,” Leopard said. “I say this with sincerity. I have won every award that Caldwell Banker could have given out. I have won every award that RE/MAX International could have given out. It means something to me, but not as satisfying than going to a closing table with an old client or brand new client.”