by Len Lear
Elfant Wissahickon Realtors of Mt. Airy, which also has offices in Center City and Flourtown, is a major league player in the Delaware Valley, with more than 100 agents covering the length and breadth of the Greater Philadelphia real estate market.
Of all those agents, however, the number one top seller for 2018 was a Mt. Airy mother of two who combines charm, personality and intelligence in equal measure – a trifecta to which her many clients are irresistibly drawn.
Rachel Reilly, 39, has sold properties ranging from $1.1 million homes in Society Hill to $65,000 teardowns in Northwest Philadelphia “that had to be gutted” with equal conviction. About half of her clients are in Northwest Philly, with the other half in Center City, South Philly, etc.
“We have 112 licensed agents,” said Paul Walsh, EWR president, last week. “About half of our agents are on teams. We recognize our top producers that are associated with teams, as well as our top producers who work as solo agents. Rachel is the top solo agent in both sales volume and number of transactions.
“Rachel is an extremely caring and knowledgeable professional, and as a result she has built an amazing network of repeat and referral business that allows her business to grow each year.”
Despite her success, Reilly insisted in an interview last week that she sees herself differently.
“I don’t like to think of myself as a salesperson,” she said. “There is a very common saying that ‘she can sell ice cream to Eskimos,’ but I hate that mentality. The inference is that we only care about the bottom line.
“Yes, that may be true of some real estate agents, but I believe we have to be held to a totally different standard, to the highest level of integrity. We have to focus on the best interest of the clients. You should treat clients like family. In fact, the best thing about this job for me is the relationships you develop with clients.”
Reilly is optimistic that the Philadelphia real estate marketplace will continue to stay strong, as it has been since the recovery from recession went into high gear around 2010.
“Philly real estate has been historically undervalued,” Reilly insisted. “My clients from D.C. and New York are astounded at what they can buy here compared to their cities. In the Northwest, Mt. Airy has better bargains than Chestnut Hill. Mt. Airy has a little less prestige, but it is a very strong community with a ton of potential. It’s an idyllic place to live.”
Reilly has lived in Mt. Airy herself for almost five years with her husband, Robert, and children, Griffin, 6, and Juniper, 4. She and Robert were married in a ceremony 10 years ago at Valley Green Inn.
“I fell in love with Mt. Airy – the walkability and public transportation, but mostly the people,” she added. “It is too homogeneous in the suburbs where I grew up.”
Reilly’s son went to kindergarten this past year to the public C. W . Henry Elementary School.
“It’s a great school,” she said. “Last year there was a 90-family wait for kindergarten. I was a public school kid myself, and I think it is important for us to support the public schools.”
Reilly grew up in nearby Rydal and graduated from Abington High School and Villanova University with a major in media and film communication. During her last two years at Villanova, she also worked as a restaurant server and continued that work for eight more years on and off after graduation. She worked at high-end eateries such as 333 Belrose in Radnor and Buddakan and Downey’s in Center City.
“I was a picky eater when I started and had never tasted things like oysters or raw tuna,” she said, “but it opened up my love of food and was the best training for what I do now. At Buddakan, you had to know every ingredient in every dish and be able to help customers make good decisions.”
Reilly finally decided, however, that it was time to use her college degree, so she went to work for an advertising agency in New York City. Because of the astronomical cost of living there, however, “I was going broke there while my server friends in Philly were buying homes. And I did not find corporate America to my liking, so I came back home and got a real estate license.”
Reilly earned her license in 2005 and purchased a duplex in South Philly in 2006, which she still owns and rents out. She worked for Coldwell Banker in the Rittenhouse Square area and then City Space at 22nd and Walnut Streets for 10 years. She signed up with EWR in February 2017.
Reilly met her husband-to-be when both of them worked at Buddakan. He later owned and operated a 24-seat BYOB restaurant, Salt & Pepper, at 6th and Fitzwater in Queen Village for six years (where Little Fish is now), “but we started a family, and the 16-hour days [as owner/chef of an independent restaurant] were no good anymore.” (Robert is now a home inspector.)
When asked about the hot-button issue of the city’s 10-year tax abatement on new construction, Reilly said, “I understand both positions [keeping the tax abatements in place or eliminating or reducing them]. I support keeping the policy, but people applying for the tax abatements should be held to a higher standard.
“They should be required to use more energy-efficient materials as well as materials that won’t fall apart in a couple of years. The city is not stringent enough. I have seen new homes that are in worse shape than 100-year-old homes. The city can do much better.”
For more information, call 215-247-3600 or visit ElfantWissahickon.com. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org