In Conversation With: Barbara Lawlor
Don’t let Barbara Lawlor’s calm exterior fool you; she thrives on the competitive nature of selling real estate, especially in the GTA’s hyper-driven market.
“I love a good fight,” she says. “It’s the Irish in me!”
Plus she’s a really fun dinner companion! Something about those sparkling Irish eyes and striking red hair that makes Barbara stand out in the crowded real estate field — although she is not only a broker, but also a Real Estate Institute of Canada Fellow. And now, she is the 2017 winner of the prestigious Riley Brethour Award.
Lawlor, the president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc. — one of the most successful real estate companies in the country — provides sales and marketing expertise to new home and condo projects here in Canada and overseas.
Lawlor won the Riley Brethour Award during the annual Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) Awards. It’s an honour she is especially proud of because the award celebrates not only outstanding achievement in sales and marketing, but also for exemplary leadership and for being an outstanding role model for other industry professionals.
“Winning the Riley Brethour Award means I follow in the footsteps of an amazing roster of industry professionals who were honoured in the past,” Lawlor says. “I am humbled and gratified to be acknowledged by my peers in this way.”
Lawlor, who was born and raised in Dublin, had a first career as a model, actress and singer, working professionally from the time she was just 12 years old. During her teens, she sang with an Irish group called Maxi, Dick and Twink and also cut a solo record.
It was while she was touring North America that she landed a television show in Toronto. “I just kept coming back to Toronto, so I guess it was meant to be,” she says of her permanent move to this city.
Q:Who would you consider your mentor?
A: Many people have inspired me over the years, but the role of “mentor” definitely goes to Pat Baker, founder of Baker Real Estate Incorporated. During the 1980s and early 1990s, I saw a bright future for condominiums in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. I looked around at who was making strides in the industry, and Pat was at the top of the list. I approached her and joined her team in 1993. She has been a constant in my life since then.
I respect Pat as a businesswoman, and I have learned a lot from her over the years. Her business acumen and professionalism continually inspire me and help to mould my leadership style. She holds the philosophy that people are everything — something I learned early on from my father. Pat set the example of caring about our clients, their buyers and each other. Baker Real Estate is very much a team, and like Pat, I listen to my team members and consider everything they say when I make decisions.
I am grateful for the opportunity Pat gave me, plus she is great fun!
Q:What has made you the proudest?
A: Oh my, I would have to say being honoured with this year’s Riley Brethour Award from BILD is my proudest achievement. This pinnacle award is for excelling in leadership, which is something near and dear to my heart. I first learned about leadership from my father, Regimental Sergeant Major Henry Dixon, who was honoured with the Nobel Peace Medal in Ireland. He stressed to me that in business and in life, people are everything.
When I met Pat Baker, I was thrilled that she also held the people-first attitude toward business. Through my father and Pat, I saw firsthand what a dedicated work ethic could achieve. A leader must work hard, establish credibility, engage in open communication and care about everyone around her. A true leader brings out the best in her team.
Winning the Riley Brethour Award means I follow in the footsteps of an amazing roster of industry professionals who were honoured in the past. I am humbled and gratified to be acknowledged by my peers in this way. Thank you, BILD, Pat Baker and Dad. And by the way, I still remember how to salute!
Q: What is the hottest new trend in condos today?
A: I would have to say families in condominiums. The appeal of raising children in a condo in an urban setting has long been the norm in major cities around the world, and we are finally catching up here.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and a condominium is an inviting, engaging and safe community that lends itself to family living. A condo is essentially a vertical community where neighbours get to know each other in the shared areas such as elevators, hallways and amenity spaces.
Parents are phenomenally busy nowadays, so they appreciate that the condo lifestyle provides them with more quality time to spend with their kids. Even empty nesters opting for condos appreciate having wonderful amenities under their roof to share with their grandchildren when they visit. Condos are close to parks, museums, schools, entertainment venues, shopping, public transportation and more, which makes accessing these local amenities convenient. And remember, condominiums offer built-in security, with the concierge providing eyes on the street. To address the increased demand, developers are including more two-bedroom + den and three-bedroom designs into their suite mix, as well as kid-friendly amenities such as kid zones. Some even offer daycare facilities.
A sure sign that families in condos is a major trend is the recent publication of The Condo Kids — Adventures with Bob the Barbary Sheep by Jackie Burns, who highlights the lives children lead in condos. Jackie felt there was a lack in the children’s literature marketplace for these kids.
Q:What is the next up and coming neighbourhood?
A: In Toronto, we have seen tremendous growth in the west end. Etobicoke, for example, almost joins Mississauga, which is highly developed. I find Toronto’s east end to be the up-and-coming frontier for master-planned condo development. We are already seeing fascinating success for places such as Leslieville, Riverside and, of course, the Canary District. I see this trend continuing, and it makes sense. The east end is still connected to downtown and is mere minutes to Lake Ontario, the Gardiner Expressway and DVP. In addition, purchasers find exceptional value in the east end, where there is still a lot of land left for development. The east end has a lot of legs to grow!
Q: Where do you see the real estate market headed in the next 20 years?
A: In 20 years’ time, I see the continuing popularity of condominiums. People already immigrate here in massive numbers, and that attraction will grow in time. We are known for our peaceful coexistence with residents of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures. Toronto also continues to win international awards for quality of life, business environment and even natural spaces. Toronto is definitely a City of the Future!
I also foresee a huge influence of technology in design. We will build smarter buildings with advances in energy efficiency, home automation and green elements. The ease of maintaining these buildings’ exteriors and amenities will increase, making them more comfortable and sustainable for everyone. Greening is important in order to create a cleaner, better world for future generations.
Topping it off, architecture will know no bounds, as we will see undreamed of buildings in the future. It will be an exciting time for real estate in Toronto and the GTA!
Q:What do you do for fun?
A: I love to travel. My husband is Portuguese and I’m there a lot. I love the beautiful beaches, the wine, the music. It’s all exceptional!