Heather Parness: Right Woman, Right Job, Right Time
Everyone is talking about the dynamism of Washington, D.C.; its new growth in neglected neighborhoods, the influx of the younger generation and of investors’ money. There is opportunity all around, whether for jobs, in politics -- or in real estate. Such an opportunity is why the largest independent residential real estate company in the United States hired Heather Parness in July. Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc., went across the country to get its regional senior vice president for the Washington, D.C., market. It created that new position for Parness.
The 40-year-old native of Greeley, Colorado, now lives in a very Washingtonian place -- Washington Harbour in Georgetown -- next to very Washingtonian neighbors, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Washington Nationals’ owner Mark Lerner.
Parness, who began working in real estate in 1992 at the age of 18, says the reason she got into real estate was that she was raised by a single mother and had to pay for college. “I got a job in a real estate office and fell in love with the industry.”
More specifically, she says, “I fell in love with the entrepreneurial spirit of real estate agents. … You can do what you want … how you want to do it … and make as much as you want. The sky’s the limit.”
“I am more personally drawn to the management side of the company,” says Parness, who adds she is methodical and loves the legal side of the business. She has done everything in real estate -- “I have grown up in it,” she says -- from being an assistant to an agent, to doing office technology and moving into management. In Denver, she headed up Perry & Co. Real Estate and then Fuller Sotheby’s International Realty. As a number one, she got the attention of Long & Foster.
“I have a huge amount for respect for Wes Foster and the company he built,” Parness said. Long & Foster Real Estate president Gary Scott first contacted her. Then, she came to Washington to meet him, Jeff Detwiler, president of Long & Foster Companies, and Wes, himself.
Parness is well aware of the “amazing opportunity” to learn from them. “You don’t get that opportunity very often,” she says. “You do not often get access to a position like this.” In the Washington, D.C., region, there are 13 offices, including W.C. & A.N. Miller Co. But it is the Logan Circle office, which is about to open, that has her excited. “There are amazing parts of Washington, D.C.,” says Parness, who sees smaller-scale offices opening down the line. “After all, it is all about servicing the agent.” There will be more luxury events via Christie’s International Real Estate. It is also about art, she says. Someone buying such an expensive home will likely have quite an art collection. Art shows, wine tastings and appraisal events are planned for March or April and the months ahead.
Meanwhile, Parness has adapted to East Coast traffic, D.C.’s easily called snow days and the pleasant surprise of “a diverse, educated demographic.”
“D.C. is an exciting, growing town” -- with a younger crowd, too. “People are pleasant and fun to talk to,” she says. “As you might expect, there seem to be more political discussions here than elsewhere.”
Parness is studying the changing and improving demographics of D.C. -- checking out downtown, City Center, Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District and all the way to Anacostia. She is part of the plan of growth that Long & Foster perceives as being ahead of the curve.
“There’s a lot of strategic pieces that we’re putting into place right now,” she says. And Parness seems like the perfect member of that strategic team for Long & Foster, fitting in well with its energy and ambition.