REAL ESTATE PROFILE
A Q&A with Paolo Presti
When Paolo Presti was growing up, his father, Pasquale, was a construction company foreman. The firm tackled private contracts and created sidewalks for municipalities. Pasquale’s specialty was cement finish. The Presti family lived in the Montreal borough of St-Léonard; after high school, Paolo studied mechanical engineering and computer science.
In 2000, he was working as a computer analyst when he and his girlfriend, Giuliana, decided to get married. The couple’s hunt for the perfect house led Paolo, indirectly, to his current position as vice-president of Presti Homes.
I sat down with him at the Presti offices in Laval.
How did you get into homebuilding ?
My fiancée, Giuliana, and I had chosen the area where we wanted to live in Laval, and had seen a few homes we liked in our price range. One day, my father and I were driving around the neighbourhood when we noticed a vacant lot. He suggested it might make more sense to buy it and construct our own home. He was semi-retired and said he would have plenty of time to help. My future in-laws thought it was a great idea, too, and offered to pitch in on weekends. We moved forward, not knowing we were planting a seed.
Did you continue working as a computer analyst?
When we began building, I was still very much into my career but couldn’t wait to leave at the end of each day to see the progress. Saturday mornings I would head to the site and learned there is no office aroma — not even freshbrewed coffee — that comes close to the invigorating smell of freshcut wood. My dad and I enjoyed working together so much. I also became aware of the stark contrast between homebuilding and my day job. Construction is tactile and the results are tangible, while computer science is totally abstract.
What happened next?
My dad suggested I get my general contractor’s licence and we could become part-time homebuilders. I studied hard and took the exams. Once I had my credentials, we bought two pieces of land in Laval. Before construction even got started, the homes were sold by word-of-mouth. We decided to launch our own company. A few names were tossed around, but my dad said: “If you’re going to do it, be serious about it; call the company Presti. You can’t run away from your name.” That was 2002.
How has Presti Homes evolved?
Our next project was three houses. Word got around about the quality of our materials and workmanship; the homes sold quickly. Then we had an opportunity to buy 20 lots. My dad is very courageous. He said: “Let’s go.”
The project — in Vimont, Laval — was our first development for which we created a model home. Buyers could visualize their future dwellings, suggest modifications and choose their favourite finishes. My dad said: “Don’t be cheap — give people more than what they ask for. Make a good name for yourself.”
It was at this stage that I resigned from my job and dove in, full time.
When did you begin condo development?
After the 20 homes were sold, we built more in Blainville and then launched our first condo project, Esprit, in Val des Brises (Laval). It consists of 100 luxury units. Next, we created a 60-unit project, La Perla, in St-Léonard and, most recently, Eden in Town of Mount Royal, with 111 units.
Today, Presti Homes and Development — with my father as president — has 18 employees, including my sister, Nadia, and my wife, Giuliana. I have to pinch myself every day to be sure I am not dreaming.
What are your passions outside of work?
We have two children — Felicia, 11, and Pasquale, nine — who are awesome kids and so smart. Felicia plays piano and has a passion for science. Pasquale plays hockey and thinks like an architect.
We love to travel and recently toured Sicily.
This year, Presti Homes organized a gala to raise funds for an allergy immunotherapy clinic, at Hôpital Sainte-Justine, headed by Dr. Philippe Begin. His desensitization techniques have cured kids of life-threatening food allergies. It’s very cutting-edge and exciting.
Our event raised $150,000 for the clinic. I could not be more proud.
What puts the spring in your step?
Each time I build a home I get emotionally involved. I picture the family living there, celebrating holidays and creating memories.
This sentiment also applies to our fundraising. I have been so moved, listening to children talk about the impact Dr. Begin’s treatment has had on their everyday lives. A little girl said that she can finally eat lunch at the same table as her school friends. And a young boy shared that, if the opportunity presents, he can kiss a girl, without fear.
These professional and philanthropic accomplishments are totally in sync with the Presti mission — to help people have a better quality of life.
Artist’s renderings of Eden Condos in Town of Mount Royal, which has 111 units, as seen from the front (above) and the rear, in an aerial view below.
One of the more than 20 single-family homes built in Laval by Presti Homes.
Paolo Presti (left), vice-president of Presti Homes, and his father, Pasquale, president of Presti Homes.
A bird’s-eye view of the living room in a luxurious St-Laurent single-family home built by Presti Homes.
The rooftop pool at La Perla condos in St-Léonard.