• Janet Sylvester, left, and Margaret Pesce, co-owners. —Courtesy of Christine Carignan

Business NH Magazine
Published: 11/27/2021 1:02:08 PM
Modified: 11/27/2021 1:01:40 PM

Margaret Pesce and Janet Sylvester launched Great Island Realty to serve the Seacoast in 2008, just as the Great Recession hit. “We said it would give us a chance to figure out what we were doing,” Pesce says.

And the duo did figure things out, growing their high-end firm to 30 employees with offices in both Portsmouth and Dover.

When the pandemic hit, they anticipated another major challenge and even were forced to close for a month. “People were uncomfortable having people coming through their houses,” Pesce says.

Then the market shifted. Remote workers wanted more space and privacy, and condo sales plummeted while sales of single-family homes skyrocketed, Sylvester says. “Anything on the Seacoast had multiple offers and bidding wars, cash [offers], no inspections, and [sales conducted] sight unseen,” she says, adding demand still exceeds supply, especially in coastal communities.

The partners did not start out in real estate. Sylvester managed her family’s multi-million-dollar manufacturing firm while Pesce worked as a paralegal in the title industry. However, the friends would go to open houses for the fun of it, Sylvester recalls, “We love real estate.… We realized it is more than selling houses. It is making a big difference in people’s lives.”

Sylvester credits the success of Great Island Realty to carefully cultivating a team of agents who share their work ethic, commitment to clients and passion for real estate. She says it is the reason the firm ranks fourth in sales in Strafford and Rockingham counties. “It’s a testament to the quality of the agents that we have,” Sylvester says.

Pesce says it also helps that the firm serves diverse geographic markets, expanding into Dover, Somersworth and the Lakes Region. Sylvester adds Great Island Realty is on target to break $200 million in sales this year. “If you take care of the people who work for you, your business will succeed. The people who work for us are family, and we care for them genuinely,” Sylvester says.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative as part of our race and equity project. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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