Marie-Yvonne Paint’s background story is like something you’d see on the Netflix series Selling Sunset. Except she’s not selling real estate in glitzy Los Angeles, but rather in the wealthiest neighbourhoods of Montreal.

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At only 4′11″, Paint, described in a newspaper article earlier in her career as “a tiny ball of mink,” has been a petite queen of the luxury market for over 30 years.

An agent with Royal LePage Heritage, she’s a long-time leading performer with a heap of record-breaking sales to her credit, earning her all possible honours from the Royal LePage organization, both provincially and nationally. She’s topped the award lists a staggering number of times, with a lineup of clients that’s included names like Mulroney, Bronfman, Bombardier, Desmarais, Molson and Saputo (of Saputo cheese).

Among Paint’s current listings is a lakeside country estate priced at close to $19 million, with three separate guest houses and a 13-car garage.

Despite the pandemic, or perhaps because of it (“people are working from home and isolating, which is pushing them to buy more space”), luxury homes in Montreal are selling faster than ever before, with low inventory and bidding wars pushing up prices, says Paint. It doesn’t hurt that there is no foreign buyers’ tax in Montreal.

“High-end condos are a bit slow but the rest of the luxury market is doing very well indeed,” says Paint. Properties that had been languishing on the market – which is not uncommon at the high end – are now selling. Paint is optimistic this will continue, thanks to the security of real estate as an investment.

Hers is a privileged life, but along the way there’s been no shortage of upheaval and loss.

Born to a Vietnamese mother and a French father, Paint’s past spans three continents, from hiding out in war-torn Vietnam, moving to France (where she was educated by nuns at a strict boarding school, as per her father’s dying instructions), then continuing her education in England, marrying a wealthy French businessman and eventually moving from Paris to Montreal.

Brutal winters aside, Paint immediately liked Canada. “In France, people aren’t as approachable as they are here,” she says, adding that this makes it simpler for her to connect with billionaire would-be clients in Canada.

“I’m a fighter,” says Paint, in her perfect French accent. “I wanted to show my family that I was capable of doing something on my own. And also I was hungry! Every day I was eating sardines…I was poor when I started in real estate.”

This was after her husband and two sons returned to their native France. The marriage was over. Paint was alone. Her husband (“old fashioned,” she says) had not wanted her to work. She had earned her real estate license without telling him. When he found out, he didn’t believe she would succeed.

“I will,” Paint recalls telling him.

“I had no money,” she says. “I stayed in Canada and I worked like a dog…All my life I was living in the shadow of somebody. I wanted to be in the light.”

Paint didn’t have to eat sardines for long. She made headway in top-tier neighbourhoods such as Westmount. Sometimes she was quoted by journalists, who along with her views on the luxury market would describe her posh car, her fondness for quality clothing and jewelry (“I’m a big shopper unfortunately”) and her take-no-prisoners approach in the pursuit of her goals.

She’s “pushy in a comic, self-deprecating way,” wrote one reporter.

Paint is the first to admit that she’s “not shy.” She enjoys telling the story of how she started selling houses and condos built by René Lépine (now deceased), considered to be among the all-time most powerful developers in Quebec. Apparently Paint burst into Lépine’s office unannounced and wound up staying for hours.

“I need properties to sell,” she insisted.

“He really pushed me in my career,” she says.

Lépine was once quoted stating that Paint’s secret is that “all she does is work, work, work.”

For many years now, Paint has headed up a small team, which has lightened her load. Tristan Bournot, a team sales rep who doubles as Paint’s marketing manager, sees her as “a trail blazer, a bit of an icon.”

He divulges, laughing, that Paint makes very sure that all her team members are well dressed.

“I impose the style I want,” says Paint. “Image is important.”

She explains that she “tries to be low profile but show that I have succeeded in life.”  To this end she drives a Porsche (two actually), on the premise that it ensures that clients won’t think she “can’t afford a decent car.”

Bournot has observed that as a result of Paint’s status, many competing agents “would like to retire her.”

Among Paint’s inspirations she includes this quote from Juvenal, a Roman poet: “I want it. I order it, that my will take the place of reason.”

Whatever that means, it seems to point to the likelihood that Paint won’t be allowing anyone to ‘retire’ her anytime soon.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for the inspiring article about one of of Canada’s real estate icons. The sardines must be responsible for that amazing skin and Bueaty that is obvious in her pictures.
    Cheers to many more deals and for acknowledging “retail therpy”, it is a long held secret of our industry .

    • Reference to sardines is so interesting… I grew up eating sardines. Being a war-baby as a young child there was always small tins of sardines available, some packed in plain oil. Others like smoked herring was, packed in mustard sauce. Sardines were actually referred to as an ordinary man’s delicacy here in Canada, even then, in the 1940s. Possibly overseas, too. Today often classed as a “gourmet treat.” How the world turns; everything old is new again.

      Here’s a link where one of my comment add-on’s speaks to: For those who love salted smoked herring that would make a seafood egg popper treat. (Sardines, too.) and the current in-thing is the charcuterie board, where I have specifically introduced sardines to my upcoming seafood gourmet charcuterie board offerings; suggesting to serve right from the small tin with tiny two-prong forks perhaps (the size of espresso spoons).

      This would fit right in with her high-society comrades, if offering a buffet. If you haven’t eaten sardines, perhaps check them out. Yes. Great for skin and other benefits. Clearly they worked well. She made an eloquent choice even in her days of despair. I would be interested in hearing what she later paired the sardines with when she had funds available

      In REM gourmet column comment: “For those who love salted smoked herring that would make a seafood egg popper treat.”

      https://www.realestatemagazine.ca/eggs-pert-eggs-the-chickens-have-spoken/#comment-342402

      Compliments of: (from manuscript)
      © Taste the Sea ~ Seafood from Lady Ralston’s Canadian Contessa Kitchen: Crustaceans, Fish ~ lobster, shrimp, crab, mussels, clams, oysters, scallops, salmon, sea salt and more… Fruits de Mer: Jewels of the Sea

  2. What’s with European men (or even in our own culture) and wives who want a personal career? I had always had a work at home career that in my ex-husband’s mind didn’t count as I was an educational textbook copy editor working quietly behind the scenes freelance for universities press from coast to coast and with publishing house English departments building Canadian dictionaries with linguists and lexicographers.

    He didn’t think my career mattered, and was no threat to him. But I was offered a high profile position at a high-level major publishing house in 1968, and he forced me not to accept it, convincing me I would be foolish to accept and would just embarrass myself.

    But in 1976 I casually mentioned that my dream of always selling real estate since I was 21 and had bought my own first house had re-entered my personal goal space. Outright forbidden. Verboten. Mind control.

    But in 1979 I decided to stick my neck out and take the Ontario real estate courses. One royal battle down more to go. But I never looked back. He loved the 20-30k paycheques I brought home. He found it beyond shocking to earn so much money for doing nothing important. But I was repeatedly told I would never make it because I wasn’t tough enough. Of course I was never allowed to have a just only for me, personal bank account, although my name was on a joint account.

    In 1997 a CBC news story contributed to ending my 30 year marriage. Immediately he emptied out the bank accounts and said I would never find the money. And that was true. My hundreds of thousands of earnings completely gone. Thankfully I had my own boutique Corp (1991) over which he had no control much to his indignation. But once again I got bad advice in accounting setting up: at each month end or quarter, transfer out to joint account any surplus after bills were paid. Noting I could always transfer it back if needed at my Corp. Of course he was delighted by the accountant advice; always in control of the money.

    My lawyer subsequently informed me you cannot force a man to leave the mat home. WHAT a surprise. It took seven months to convince him to leave. I slept with the primary bedroom door barricaded. It took me six years to finalize my divorce. Poor legal representation. We don’t know what we don’t know. Thank God for my repeat clients and referrals. I survived.

    I agree completely with what you say Madame Paint: clothes make the man. So too the woman. Maybe how one dresses shouldn’t matter in business but it absolutely does. It’s not about what an outfit costs but how the wearer wears it.
    Carriage matters; clean, pressed, well-fitting, well-tailored garments speak. Loud and clear. Price can be secondary.

    Likewise my clients were ordinary people but among them were automobile corporate presidents and vice-presidents, dealership owners, Nortel executive international relocations and their local employees; many clients in various medical fields at home and international relo, airline executives coming and going, directors and corporate executives of major retailers in North America. And estate sales I managed for banks. I developed my own corporate accounts. One I connected with in 1981 moving their head office corporate staff internationally and I had all their corporate moves until they left Canada permanently in 1998.

    Comportment speaks; often an unspoken language in any culture. No Porsche necessary but a sparkling clean vehicle is a must, no different than expressed in well-chosen business attire, must present well. There is a certain sustaining supporting expectation that somewhat of a luxury vehicle should be the norm. Not for flaunting it, but for some clients it speaks to your earnings net worth. Not that this is right. Many agents lease cars.

    It’s great to hear your story. It supports your business sisterhood who operate at the same level. Congratulations and thanks for sharing. I already so miss the business that was part of my life for four decades.

    Carolyne Lederer 🍁

    Broker of Record
    Carolyne Realty Corp (1991)
    Licenced in 1980
    Many years with your company Royal LePage, and I was their number one agent for all Western Ontario Region (3000 agents), and number 22:9000 reps during the 1980’s, across Canada, always in top ten awards and Chairman’s Club; and, I opened my own boutique Corp in 1991 where I maintained my 24% marketshare in my trading area during my blessed career.

    I treasure colleague comments such as this below, received and generously reprinted at REM:

    A colleague recently wrote: “I always remember your impetuous drive and motivation. But above all, your knowledge and insight into real estate that many did not understand to their downfall. I silently was a true follower…”

    And then added: “I love to read your columns in REM more so because I know who you are. I just read your comments in the latest issue. I’ve also seen your gourmet recipes… You are quite the chef!”

    https://www.realestatemagazine.ca/columnists/recipes/

    “Realtors are a different bunch of creatures. Jealously seems to dominate and drive them. I was always envious of your success and wanted to be so much like you. I admired your success and hard work and how you stood out amongst the others. You are one of a kind!!! There are many that would love to be just like you. Success comes with hard work… Too bad more realtors don’t try that…”

    “Everything comes to he who waits, if he
    works hard while he waits”. Some can work hard but not smart…you had both!” — Karen Lewkowicz, Tllsonburg, ON [previously in Brampton as an assistant to a franchise strong agent, now an agent herself]

    === (and this… although I haven’t used FB in a long time after a huge computer crash, and their system has changed so much. I can see my FB but cannot do anything with it … ), this was a remarkable msg to receive:

    ===

    ~ a voice from the past, in Brampton, who accidentally found me on FB, and connected from Stratford, ON…

    Sonia Christof wrote: “Thanks for adding me. I must tell you that you were one of my greatest influences in deciding to persue a career in Real Estate. I used to live in Brampton in the “L” and “N” sections from 1982-1997 and always commented on all your For Sale signs. I remember one day noticing your new [rose and] green Carolyne signs and thought to myself what a wonderful example of a woman believing in herself and breaking away from a major Brokerage to start one of her own! It was great to see you here on facebook and just wanted you to know how you affected my life. I’ve been a Realtor for 6 years in Stratford and doing very well thanks to people like you! All the best. ”

  3. How you say that when Liza Kaufman of Sotheby’s Quebec had the highest MLS sale on record last year and she sold the most expensive condo in Montreal… Liza Kaufman is the Queen of Luxury in Quebec and Montreal!

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