REAL ES­TATE PRO­FILE

A Q&A with Paolo Presti

Montreal Gazette - - New Homes + Condos - LORRI BENEDIK

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.

COUR­TESY OF PRESTI HOMES

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.

PHOTOS COUR­TESY OF 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.

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