Realtor® of the Year, Colleen Donlevy-Burns is the REAL DEAL!

Originally published in Lake & Sumter Style , February 2016

From marketing croutons and cola in the corporate arena to selling homes in the world of real estate, Colleen Donlevy-Burns attributes much of her success to good communication skills. The Montverde resident’s career reached a pinnacle when the REALTORS® Association of Lake & Sumter Counties recently named her Realtor® of the Year.

When Colleen Donlevy-Burns helps you find a new home, don’t be surprised if you are still getting holiday or anniversary cards from her 12 years later. She’s been in real estate full-time since 2004 and she’s still in touch with her first clients.

“I consider myself their Realtor for life,” says Burns, a real estate consultant with Avalar Real Estate Services. “You never know when they will want to buy another house.”

Burns is devoted to her industry, having served on the board of directors for the REALTORS® Association of Lake & Sumter Counties for nearly seven years. She’s also made time to serve on numerous committees for the 1,800-member organization, as well as in professional leadership roles with the South Lake Council of Realtors. A multimillion-dollar producer, Burns has received many awards and honors over the years, but the recent Realtor® of the Year is something only a few real estate professionals ever achieve.

Colleen-receiving-award“Only the elite hold that award,” explains Brenda Rodgers, executive director for the REALTORS® association. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime honor given by peers who are past recipients. The winners are considered to be the ‘elite of the elite.’

“Our association has grown by leaps and bounds because of members like Colleen,” Rodgers continues. “She’s one of the people who looked to the future.”

The award honors association members who contributed the most to the profession, to fellow real estate agents, and to the community over time. Criteria are based on ethics, business accomplishments, community involvement, character, and personality.

And Burns’ personality is something that shines through whether it’s selling houses, striking a pose for a photo shoot, or making a tongue-in-cheek YouTube video about a super agent. She was so surprised by the Realtor® of the Year honor that she wanted “to meet that person” when association president Jim Mariucci read the accolades.

“It wasn’t until he mentioned that the winner lived in Montverde that I realized it was me,” she says with a laugh. “I am very honored and appreciative of the recognition.”

Real estate seems to be a natural fit for Burns, who had a long and successful marketing and management career in the corporate world before joining Century 21 in 2004 and quickly becoming a Top 10 producer among 250 agents. It could be that real estate was her destiny. When she was a student at Manhattenville College in New York, she took a career assessment test and the results recommended real estate as a possible career. Instead of that career path, however, she went on to the University of Miami for a Master of Business Administration degree.

“Real estate was always in the back of my mind,” she says. “It was years later when I was at Chatham Village Foods and they sold out that I thought it was time to get my real estate license.”

QUOTE-Realtor-of-the-Year-0216STYThe real estate career was put on hold awhile longer when a corporate headhunter came calling and offered her another corporate job making good money and a car.

“I did not think I could make that kind of money in my first year of real estate,” says Burns. “I kept my license and took the test every two years. When I was working with Farmland Foods and they got sold, I put my faith in God that I could succeed in real estate.”

Burns belied her own prediction about early real estate earnings and became a multimillion-dollar producer in her first year with Century 21.

She said getting an MBA degree gave her confidence in herself, but she attributes her success to her father, who worked his way up from driving trucks for Pepsi-Cola to being president of company plants.

“He always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be,” she remembers. “I also have never taken no for an answer.”

Her persistence and positive attitude helped her market everything from Kellogg’s cereals to King Cola (a venture developed by her dad and a friend) to pre-packaged croutons long before they were popular.

“Chatham Foods was the first one to bring ready-made croutons to market in about 1993,” says Burns, who was responsible for developing Chatham’s crouton business throughout the U.S. “I made calls and got us in with United, American, U.S. Air, and others. I learned a lot by getting something new off the ground.”

Today, all that experience has led her to be a successful realtor, serving clients in Lake, Sumter, and parts of West Orange. She says some people believe being a Realtor is easy, but it’s not always as smooth as it seems.


“The easy part is finding a house,” says Burns. “A lot goes on behind the scenes. You have to stay in touch with other realtors and sometimes they don’t do what they should do.”

She says being a good communicator is vital to a real estate career just as it is in any field.

“You have to be a good listener and stay in touch with your clients,” she adds.

Burns once had a prospective client in England who she sent listings to for six years before he finally bought a home.

“I have a lot of patience,” she says with a laugh. “I also have faith that when one door closes, God will open another that’s even better.”

For Burns, the most rewarding part of the job is helping families find homes.

“I’m very careful that they are getting a good investment, because it’s often the biggest investment in their lives,” she says. “It’s especially rewarding when they thought they couldn’t afford to buy a house.”

Trends that Burns is seeing in this area include more energy efficient homes and new development, especially in the Minneola area.

“Minneola is going to get hotter than ever…it’s going to take off like crazy,” she says. “The area has benefited from Lake-Sumter State College becoming a four-year school.”

She’s also seeing prospective buyers from northern Lake County retirement communities who still want 55-plus communities but want to be closer to Orlando’s theme parks for visiting grandchildren.

Burns’ downtime is spent with her family. Her husband, Glenn, is a town councilman for the city of Montverde and a Geographic Information System (GIS) consultant who wrote the grant for the Florida Scenic Highway. She often spends time driving around with him when he’s on assignment. The couple has two daughters: Megan, who graduated from veterinary school at the University of Florida last year, and Anna, currently a student at the University of South Florida.

She likes to read and play backgammon but thoughts about work are never far off.

“I love what I do…I don’t think of myself as a workaholic because real estate is not work to me,” Burns explains. “I see it as helping people. After all, I consider myself your Realtor for life.”

People use the terms REALTOR® and real estate agent interchangeably, but that is incorrect. There are differences between REALTORS® and real estate agents. They are not the same. Although both are licensed to sell real estate, the basic difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR® is a REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. As such, the main difference that you hear a lot about—but are likely confused about —is that a REALTOR® must subscribe to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.

PHOTOS: Fred Lopez+Provided

Protected by Copyscape Online Plagiarism Checker

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *