01 May Leslie Henderson on Renovating Homes, Rebuilding Neighborhoods and Raising a Family in Reno

Leslie Henderson and FamilyLeslie Henderson has a passion for rebuilding, renovating and restoring family neighborhoods. Her own home in Old Southwest Reno was a foreclosed, dilapidated and abandoned property when she purchased it in 2011. “The neighbors were delighted because the house sits on prominent corner and had been a blight. When I came in, I immediately began renovating the 1957 house,” says Leslie, who has over a decade of professional and personal experience in transforming distressed homes. Her home property has been entirely renovated with three spacious master bedroom suites and detailed custom work throughout. Leslie’s house sits on an acre-sized corner lot and had been through many additions over the years by previous occupants. By the time she moved in, the house was essentially an empty shell.

Redesigning and renovating an older home takes work, and as a relator, Leslie knows how to help others do the same. “It can be a wonderful process,” she explains, “the kids even helped to design their own rooms.” Leslie shares the home with her daughter, Erin, 12, and her son, Zach, 11, and loves the nostalgic environment of the older Reno neighborhood. “Our neighborhood has horses, goats, a creek, a golf course and so many amazing outdoor experiences for the kids; it’s a wonderful environment for families,” she shares. This is the tenth distressed home Leslie has personally purchased, renovated-while-living-in and plans to resell. Her experience infuses her career in real estate with hands-on wisdom.

Growing up in Kentucky, Leslie developed a deep work ethic by working on her grandparents’ tobacco farm. “The lifestyle was along the lines of—gather some vegetables by heading to the garden with a bucket and a knife, or go grab a chicken by literally catching and killing one, then hanging it in the smokehouse and preparing it for dinner,” she remembers. Her family is very large; her grandfather is the youngest of 16, her dad the oldest of 5 and her mom the oldest of 7. All of her blood relatives, including her 18 first cousins now live in Kentucky, Virginia or Georgia, but Leslie has found a sense of home here in Reno.

The Path to the Biggest Little City

From her Kentucky origins, Leslie’s life has been geographically and professionally diverse. After spending three years in Europe post-college working for the American Red Cross at Hahn Air Force Base in Germany, she returned to the States via Montana. There, she finished her BS in Marketing and Management and eventually moved to Missoula for a Master’s program. She worked for UPS, first in Montana and then in Colorado, where she connected with a client who mentioned she might enjoy a career in the pharmaceutical industry. A position at Pfizer steered her back to Missoula for a decade. Both Erin and Zach were born in Montana, and the peacefulness of the state is a fond memory. “They call Montana the ‘Last Best Place,” which is true in many ways.” Eventually, the Hendersons moved from the “Last Best Place’ to the ‘Biggest Little City,” where Leslie would apply her real estate license and passion for transforming properties.

Real Life and Real Estate in Reno

Leslie’s timing in entering the real estate world in Reno was aligned with the extreme rise in short sales around 2005. It was then that Leslie recognized she had a unique skills set among Reno realtors. With her previous experience in Montana working with a seasoned broker, she had learned the nuances of listing short sales. Leslie was ready to help sellers in trouble in the challenging Reno market. She recognized that there was no one specializing in short sales and launched a campaign aimed at helping sellers list their upside down homes. A short sale is when the bank allows a seller to sell the house for less than the amount owed. Leslie is very skilled at negotiating with the banks on behalf of the seller to get them a “full waiv-
er of deficiency,” meaning the shortage is completely forgiven. Leslie has helped over 1,000 Reno/Tahoe families avoid foreclosure by assisting them with a short sale on their home.

Between 2007 and 2011, Leslie maintained close to 80 listings at a time, closing between 15 and 20 short sales per month. Leslie’s year-end rankings have consistently landed her in the top 10% of realtors in Reno over the last seven years. She has completed over 1000 short sales in the Reno Tahoe area.

Through her experience as an agent in Reno, Leslie was in touch with the realities and real needs of the community and its families—using the situation in Old Southwest Reno as a model for “rightsizing,” which would become her new initiative.

What is “Rightsizing?”

With a first-hand understanding of what it’s like to buy a distressed home and live in an older neighborhood, Leslie was inspired to focus on a new area of real estate expertise that she calls “rightsizing” instead of the common moniker “downsizing.” She explains how “rightsizing” became her professional interest. “Having kids that go to Jessie Beck Elementary and Swope Middle School, I noticed that a large percentage of the children attending the schools are using their Grandparents or another family member’s address in order to attend the highly ranked public schools. I wanted to bring kids and families back into the homes that the beautiful Old Southwest neighborhood was designed for. I see a market for helping older residents who no longer utilize or can easily care for their large properties to find a more appropriate property. I also see a need for matching up families with kids to these amazing properties that might need a little TLC, but are a great investment if you have a guide for the renovation process.” Leslie knows the intensive maintenance that the older homes can take and sees Reno’s beautiful planned communities like Del Webb as wonderful options for retirement.

Leslie’s role as an agent for “rightsizing” is founded in her vision to rebuild Reno’s family neighborhoods. “For many,” says Leslie, “the idea of packing up a home occupied for 30 years and de-cluttering, moving, unpacking, selling and buying is a monumental and daunting task.” As an agent, Leslie has assembled expert processes and teams to support and facilitatejust that. “My passion in real estate is to help aging homeowners make that move into a lower maintenance environment, and to connect with others in related fields that can directly assist my clients and offer solutions.”

Community and Family Togetherness

On a typical day in the Henderson household, Erin, a 7th grader in Honors classes at Swope Middle School is enjoying one of her multiple pastimes. Erin loves softball, music, cooking, reading, drawing and above all, animals. She wants to be a veterinarian and plans to start volunteering at the Humane Society as soon as she’s old enough.

Leslie’s son Zach is an outgoing football player with an occasional class-clown attitude that makes everyone laugh. He’s a linebacker for the Reno Huskies SYFL team, and has played football for nearly half his life. In the future, if his NFL plans don’t’ work out, he aims at joining the Air Force like his Grandpa.

Outside of being a single mom and realtor, Leslie enjoys yoga and pottery in her downtime, and active outings to the wilderness for hiking and camping. Leslie is committed to serving the Reno Centennial Sunset Rotary Club. She serves on the sponsorship committees for TORT, the Taste of Reno Tahoe, which will be held this year on June 1st at the Atlantis Casino—it’s their annual fundraiser. Leslie also works with the principals at Damonte Ranch High School and Bishop Manogue High School through her work with the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy (RYLA) Committee. “In the RYLA ‘Choices’ program, we explain to the students how the choices they make in high school will influence their future lives. This program has been a joy to be a part of and has also helped me a lot being a single parent and relating to the needs and concerns of youth and teens in our community.”

When it’s time to sell their current house, the Hendersons will stay in Reno and likely do it all again. “We couldn’t be happier to call Reno home,” says Leslie. They will likely stay in the Old Southwest, where they can easily ride their bikes to Midtown for breakfast, window shop downtown, or get away to Tahoe for a day.