By Connie Adair

Sales rep Linda Pinizzotto of Sutton Group Quantum Realty in Mississauga is the first to admit it. She loves selling real estate and she’s good at it, but she doesn’t live and breathe real estate 24-7. The key to a successful career, she says, is balance.

Linda Pinizzotto, right, outside Queen’s Park, the Ontario Legislature, with NDP leader Andrea Horwath and MPP Rosario Marchese.

There isn’t a time in her 32-year real estate career that Pinizzotto hasn’t been doing something other than helping clients buy and sell homes. The top-producing sales rep is a hockey mom to three sons, was a hockey scout at the University of Wisconsin and was Canada’s first female hockey general manager with the Stoney Creek Junior B Hockey Association in 1997.

“I was nominated for the Ron Sanderson Community Service Award in Mississauga for being a successful Realtor while contributing to the community,” says the energetic 55-year-old.

She has been political action chair at the Mississauga Real Estate Board for two years, second vice-president in 2009 and 2010, and a director for the last five years.

Being involved in so many activities benefits her real estate career because it makes her knowledgeable and forces her to use her time productively, she says. “Clients like that.”

Pinizzotto also has a good real estate team. “Think of all the things Donald Trump is involved in. He’s able to do that because he has good people around him. I have good people around me.”

Her daughter-in-law, sales rep Andrea Pinizzotto, is one of her three assistants. “I also have a fantastic data base of clients. My business is 95-per-cent referrals,” says Pinizzotto, who has won several Sutton Group Chairman and Platinum awards. The Chairman Award is a top designation for Sutton Group sales reps who earn over $200,000 in commission.

The Mississauga resident is also on the boards of two downtown Toronto condos. She and her husband of six years, Derrick Thomas, live in a condo and her sons all own condos.

Linda Pinizzotto (Photo by Marko Shark)

With the vested interest in condos and her expertise and knowledge about them, her newest project seems a logical choice. Pinizzotto founded and is chair and president of the Condo Owners Association (COA), which was registered as a non-profit organization in March 2010.

In April 2009, Trinity-Spadina MPP Rosario Marchese had a meeting of condo owners in his riding. More than 60 people attended and Pinizzotto was elected their first president. It wasn’t long before she realized that the best way to be heard was strength in numbers – by forming an association, she hopes to give a unified voice to the province’s million-plus condo owners, more than 60,000 of which live in downtown Toronto. And their numbers are growing rapidly.

“Builders love to build condos and cities love them because the tax base is 300 times that of a residential property,” Pinizzotto says.

An example of an issue COA is actively tackling is the province’s Harmonized Sales Tax, which has added a large chunk to condo budgets. If a building had a $1.2-million annual budget, which isn’t unreasonable, about $300,000 of that would go to hydro, says Pinizzotto. Because hydro is not exempt from HST, condo buildings have faced huge increases, she says. “Unfortunately COA wasn’t secured in time to comment on the HST. We would have been a voice to be reckoned with.”

COA has 14,000 members and chapters throughout the province, and is continuing to gather momentum as Pinizzotto works tirelessly to spread the word, meeting with MPPs and other political types. “We have the support of Ontario’s NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who came on board last year,” she says.

At a recent seminar in Parkdale-High Park, MPP Cheri DiNova introduced COA to the community and Pinizzotto has also discussed COA with provincial Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and MPP Michael Prue. “We have a meeting with Minister of Consumer Services Minister John Gerretsen in March,” she says, adding many MPPs are now coming forward, saying there is a need for COA because the government needs to be educated about condominiums.

Recently, a social event was planned at a donated restaurant/night club venue in downtown Toronto. Over free drinks and hors d’oeuvres, condo owners were to learn about COA and have a chance to meet other condo owners. A second event is planned for another downtown Toronto venue. “It’s becoming a chain reaction” as local businesses see the value in helping local condo owners, says Pinizzotto, whose husband is a COA director.

COA gives condo owners an avenue to express concerns and have those concerns addressed, she says. It will also provide discounts and events.

For Realtors, it provides a level of comfort. If a Realtor sees a building is a registered member of COA, it means their clients are buying into a building that is interested in dealing with issues and problems, she says. “It’s important to sell clients into a good building,” says Pinizzotto. “If you don’t, you don’t get return business and your clients will be angry with you.”

Future COA plans include educational seminars for Realtors because buyers rely on agents to know what is going on, she says.

Life continues to be busy for Pinizzotto. In addition to COA and her other real estate duties, she continues to cheer on her sons. Her youngest, Steve, 26, plays with the Washington Capitals’ American Hockey League team, the Hershey Bears. Oldest son Jason, 31, plays for the Schwenningen Wild Wings in the GBun league in Germany (that’s the sweater that Linda Pinnizzotto is wearing on this month’s REM cover). Marc, 28, also played hockey in Germany but decided on another career – he is a Toronto police officer.

COA membership is $10 per condo owner per year or $1 per unit owner per corporation.

For information, visit www.coaontario.com