Billie, Lee Ann and Taylor Wilkinson from The Lee Ann Wilkinson Group. // Photo by Leslie Barbaro
Banking on the steady interest in coastal real estate sales and rentals, Bette and Sal Gallo opened a two-person real estate agency in 1979. Today, the company—Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gallo Realty—has 100 sales and rental associates, including the founders’ daughter, Lee Ann Wilkinson.
Within the agency, Lee Ann heads up The Lee Ann Wilkinson Group, which includes her daughters, Taylor Wilkinson and Billie Wilkinson. (She has two others: Ginger and Lucy.) The team has been No. 1 in sales in Sussex County for more than 15 years and No. 4 in the national Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network.
Lee Ann graduated in 1983 with a fine arts degree from the University of Delaware, but once she joined her parents’ company, she realized that real estate was her true muse. “After my first sale, I knew matching buyers with sellers was my passion and one that I, fortunately, had a keen ability to fulfill,” she says.
Real estate was her full-time job from the start. “My daughters grew up learning about real estate through osmosis at open houses, showings and in the office,” she says. “By the time I had my last two girls, I was working on deals in the hospital room and taking them on appointments when they were just a few days old.”
Taylor, who has two young sons, works primarily in the listing department. Billie, who has a teenage son, works both in and out of the office, managing some of the administrative responsibilities. “Getting to see at least several of my daughters on a daily basis in the office is definitely the best part about working with family,” Lee Ann says.
That time together is precious, given the nature of the industry. Real estate runs on deadlines, and buyers shop weekends and holidays. A Realtor’s life often takes a backseat.
Lee Ann would love for all four of her daughters to join the business. “I think it may take several of them to take over the reins,” she says. “The business just gets more and more complicated, and the fine print of contracts is getting more cumbersome.”
She doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon. “My passion is still matching buyers with sellers, and my goal remains to inspire my team, to deliver the same level of service. I want us to continue to live and work by the principle, which Maya Angelou said best: ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’”