Pat Hug, one of the hottest real estate salespeople in town, put her business aside in 1982. Now she's back.
"After 23 years, I was burned out," she said. "So, instead of burning my bra, I burned my real estate license."
Last week, she was busily re-activating her license to begin work Monday at George Elkins Co.'s office in Newport Beach.
Why? Hug quotes her favorite finance commentator, Bob Rosefsky, when he recently left KABC Radio after nine years: "Retirement is not in my vocabulary. I am going in for a period of regeneration."
Hug did that, she says. "I recharged my batteries." And now, at a time of life when many people slow down (though she won't say exactly how old she is), Hug is returning to a fast-paced job.
The California market is one of the busiest for this time of year, and there are 274,764 real estate licensees in the state. Of those, 120,000 are members of the California Assn. of Realtors, which only had 102,806 members when Hug left.
Hug won't face this competition by herself, though. She will have the help of Linda Taglianetti, who inspired Hug to get back into the business after Hug wrote about the younger woman for the November issue of Orange County magazine.
"And I think we're heading for a bit of a lull in the market," Hug predicted, remembering seasonal slowdowns of the past, "but I like that, because any idiot can sell a house now. When there is a challenge, it takes a little imagination."
Hug has imagination. In the past, she used an English muffin recipe handed down by her British sea-captain father to please such clients as fashion designer Mr. Blackwell, who is famous for his annual worst-dressed list.
Among her other clients were the Gettys, Van de Kamps and some other old Los Angeles families. "And when Bill Tishman was my partner on Larchmont Boulevard, our office sold homes to (singers) Debby Boone and Donna Summer."
Alice Buckley, who works now for Coldwell Banker, is one of many agents who were trained in those days by Hug. "But Alice was the greatest," Hug said. "Eight years after we worked together for a client, she sold the client a house and sent me part of her commission. She didn't have to do that. She just wanted to show her appreciation."
Actor Tom Selleck's father, Bob, trained Hug as an agent in 1963, when she joined Coldwell Banker, working at first in Hollywood and then in Hancock Park, which reminded Hug of her home town--Salem, Ore.
"I never would have left Coldwell Banker if it hadn't gone public, because I like a small, intimate company," she said. But she left and, after a brief stint in another business, started Hug Homes.
At the time, a newspaper columnist joked, "You get a Hug with every home," but Hug had three partners in her company at different times before she sold the 8-year-old firm, with three offices (Newport Beach, Hancock Park and Capistrano) and 30 agents, to the family-owned Elkins firm. Hug remained as a consultant with Elkins for two years before calling it quits.
"I got tired of selling all those big homes with all those possessions. I decided less is more. There are other things in life," she said.
Hug lives in a studio apartment, drives a 1970 Pontiac and teaches Sunday School, something she started doing after she left real estate. Now she's superintendent of the Sunday School, a job she considers her "highest priority," though she's eager to sell houses again.
"Money isn't my main concern," she said. "I just need a place I can clean with a Kleenex and shut the door.
"But it is fun to wheel and deal with people who still want all those fancy things. I miss the negotiating. I miss the camaraderie of going into an office.
"You can only paint so much, attend classes that you never had time to do before, write a novel (that so far hasn't been published), and win prizes for doing 210 miles of biking, rowing and jogging."
Hug is energetic. However, she says she will be "very choosey" in selecting clients; she will not take listings that are overpriced, and she does not approve of open houses ("I'd show houses by video") or lock boxes ("If you take a listing and, eventually, get part of the commission, you should be there to show the place.") She says her partner, Linda Taglianetti, agrees.
"I'm not greedy," Hug said with a laugh. "I don't want to make more than $200,000 a year.
"I'll happily split it with Linda."