Elaine Russell: Boca-based World Traveler and Luxury Residence Broker

Posted by — February 26, 2006

Originally published in Boca Raton News

The voice is multi-layered, confident -- and with a hint of Canadian.

The smile is warm and welcoming. The handshake firm, without reservation.

And the persistence of her delightfully gentle dog Daisy in welcoming you to her SE Mizner Blvd office adds to the relaxation of an opening conversation.

Within 30 seconds, you know this is a businesswoman. And within the first minute you further relax into the knowledge that she is not only a businesswoman, but also one who knows both her market, and its clients.

You've just met Elaine Russell, broker/owner and founder of Carriage Trade Properties LLC., Boca Raton.

Russell's approach is straightforward, but without much self-celebration; she's not comfortable talking about herself, finally exclaiming:

"Everybody's a specialist," she says, illustrating the point with a one arm, and manicured hand sweep of her office - an office appointed in the understated elegance of the world traveler.

And what is she?

"I'm a seasoned agent dealing in the high end market."

The voice is low; the words considered, without being a declaration.

It's what marks her.

And what marked the year 2005 for Carriage Trade Properties were 242 property transactions.

At the same time, Russell's membership in two exclusive international groups would at the very least suggest to many that she's regarded highly, if not indeed as a specialist. 

She represents Savills, a leading international property services group with a network of offices and associates throughout the United Kingdom, mainland Europe, the Americas, Asia Pacific and Africa. Savills is listed on the London Stock Exchange and employs over 14,500 staff worldwide in 112 offices.

"Princess Diana's sister is a realtor for them - and she sells castles," Russell smiles.

Carriage Trade Properties is one of only 103 Savills associated offices worldwide.

The second group to recognize Russell is the Certified International Property Specialist Network (CIPS) Network.

This is a specialty membership group for international practitioners of the National Association of REALTORS, the world's largest trade association, she said. The CIPS Network is comprised of only 1,200 real estate professionals worldwide who deal in all types of real estate, but with one common element: they are focused specifically on the "international" market.

Russell is "now established as an expert in international real estate," according to Carmela Ma, CIPS International Operations Committee Chair.

Not surprisingly, Russell is also listed in Who's Who in Luxury Real Estate.

Up North

It began in Vermont in 1971, where she sold residential and recreational properties on Lake Champlain and served as President of the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce.

Marrying a Canadian in 1976, Russell moved to Montreal and was licensed by the Quebec Real Estate Board. She traveled extensively for a major shopping center development group, working coast-to-coast in commercial leasing, lease negotiations, tenant improvements, and as project coordinator of newly constructed centers. In the following ten years, she managed a private real estate portfolio, which included shopping centers, commercial, and apartment complexes.

Those years were enjoyed by also being a winter resident of Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club; she became a permanent resident of Boca Raton in 1997.

Russell has years of residential real estate experience in Canada, the United States and Europe - some 33 years of total experience, and with luxury residential properties her niche.

Carriage Trade Properties specializes in South Florida real estate, she said, including luxury homes, waterfront estates, country club properties and corporate. With offices in downtown Boca Raton, Russell says that she and her 42-member team also serve Delray Beach, Palm Beach, Manalapan, Highland Beach, Gulf Stream, Lighthouse Point, Deerfield Beach, and Hillsboro Mile.

But this was preceded by many years of commercial real estate experience.

"I did commercial for so long," she said, emphasizing the so.  She pauses, continues:  "Until one day I sat down in a restaurant, and was reaching for my seat belt."

That this indicated it was time to move on from a hectic traveling schedule can be seen in her wry smile.

European Buyers

"It's a whole different market," she says of luxury real estate.  "A lot of Europeans are buying property --- using them as bases, or as a get away."

And even for the luxury homebuyer, the issue is beyond one of luxury for the sake of opulence.

"We all need our safe haven," she said.  "This is where we go to de-stress --- and we want all the comforts of a 5-star hotel."

However, those that can actually afford that indulgence are in the minority - and so much so, she recalls, that it wasn't until 1995 that the first luxury building came to Boca Raton.

"The price then was $1 million for an apartment," she said, "and I thought that was prohibitive."

She nods and shrugs slightly.  "Now those apartments range from $4 million to $26 million."

She thinks for moment.  "There's always going to be a luxury home market," she says, and she predicted that the current move toward development of golf courses as residential areas would increase.

"It's going to happen - absolutely," she said of such development.

"And you want to know what drives price - beyond building?"

"Emotion," she said.

Daisy is persistent; quietly seeking attention, while the phone rings and Russell apologizes. 

It's a call from Connecticut.  You can hear the smile in her voice.  She's back in her element.

Daisy goes back to sleep - and it's time for Russell to go back to work.

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