TRACY CAMPION DIGS IN HER BAG for the keys to a pristine, $4.5 million Back Bay townhouse. It’s something she’s done roughly 15 times a day over the past 25 years, which adds up to something like 130,000 frenzied searches. Campion finally spies the set at the bottom of her purse. Juggling brochures, her phone, and a Post-It note scrawled with the home’s security code, she fiddles with the lock on the front door, then deactivates the alarm. She doesn’t have much time. Prospective buyers, a fiftysomething couple relocating from Connecticut, are on their way, so Campion sprints through the 4,000-square-foot home in snakeskin stilettos, flicking on the lights as she goes. Climbing flight after flight of Boston’s finest housing stock does have its benefits: Campion, a Diet Coke chain drinker, has the legs of a Wonderland greyhound.
“I’ve got a lot of listings at this price — houses that are perfect,” Campion says as she waits for the couple to arrive. “When you’re in the four-mil range, you can’t make little mistakes.” I look around, imagining what I’d see if I had $5 million burning a hole in my pocket, and suddenly I start to notice flaws. Though it offers critical perks like two parking spaces and an elevator, I can see how the townhouse would be a tough sell. The entryway, for one thing, is awkward. Where you’d expect to find a generous reception area with all the accoutrements of a big house — a grand foyer, perhaps a walk-in closet or a shimmering chandelier — there’s only a narrow hallway running alongside a home office. Even with its expensive built-ins and fancy paneling, the entry isn’t what you’d expect, and for most buyers, atypical means problematic. What’s more, houses like these are usually staged with furniture and accessories to make them more generic — those family photos and midwestern accents have got to go. So here we are, standing in a half-empty house with unopened mail piling up on the console, wondering when the property will hit someone’s sweet spot. But it probably won’t. At least, not with the Connecticut couple. And definitely not at this price.
[sidebar]Over the past 25 years, Campion has sold this particular property three times. She sells, people remember, and when they move, they call her. Name-dropping is anathema to her, but a quick records search reveals that Tom Brady bought two properties through Campion — a brownstone at 310 Beacon Street and a historical mansion at 314 Commonwealth Avenue. Just down the street, Campion rescued automotive giant Herb Chambers — who’d had his 9,000-square-foot abode at 128 Commonwealth Avenue on the market for 1,346 excruciating days with another listing agent — when she showed up with the right buyer, one with $8.75 million. And this June, she brokered the priciest condo deal in Boston history: $13.2 million for 8,000 square feet of new-construction luxury at the Mandarin Oriental. In spite of the flagging economy, in fact, as of mid-September Campion had sold $179 million worth of real estate this year, making her the number one residential real estate broker in the state. Campion’s sales are two and a half times those of her closest competitor, Beth Dickerson, who’s done $69 million.
Clearly, big-league buyers trust Campion. But Boston’s top-dog broker isn’t clad in Prada, or highly Botoxed, or precious about her manicure. She shops at Filene’s Basement. She’s got a chesty voice which, coupled with her heavy Boston accent, makes her sound one slight away from a fistfight. She moves in close when making a point, and grabs your arm hard to make that point stick.
Campion won’t talk much about what she did before she started selling eight-figure homes, other than to say she spent a lot of time waitressing, an experience that taught her to hustle. “I gave her her first job back in 1983,” recalls William Milbury of the South Dartmouth–based brokerage Milbury and Company. “She was selling ice cream makers or cable TV or something. She took to real estate like a fish to water.” Now she’s at the top of her game — happily married, with daughters at BC and Northwestern and a five-year-old firm, Campion and Company, that employs 14 people — but she’s still hustling. She doesn’t take vacations. When you’re in her presence, you can practically hear the clock ticking.
Portrait photographs by Mitch Weiss. Below: Sold! Tracy Campion’s Real Estate Triumphs