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Realtor knows how to sell

Founder of Torelli Realty in Costa Mesa boasts an impressive record over a nearly 30-year career.

July 24, 2013|By Bradley Zint
  • Valerie Torelli, the owner of Torelli Realty in Costa Mesa, has been in business since 1984. She's personally sold more than 2,000 homes.
Valerie Torelli, the owner of Torelli Realty in Costa… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Valerie Torelli started out in the real estate business as a bookkeeper in 1970s Los Angeles, but after seeing the salespeople take "six-hour lunches" while making $70,000 a year, she figured she could do the job too — only better.

"I'm taking care of the accounting and I said, 'If they can do this, I can do this,'" she said.

So in 1984, she founded Torelli Realty in Costa Mesa. The Pasadena native started with just a few employees. It was a "scrappy" operation out of some rented rooms at the Piecemakers Country Store in Mesa Verde.

In her first year, she sold about 25 houses. By her second year, she was the No. 1 agent in Costa Mesa. She kept busy with 80-hour work weeks, "at a minimum."

Today, Torelli, 59, humorously calls herself a "recovering workaholic."

Nonetheless, The Orange Park Acres resident — who describes herself as "quirky," "non-conforming," "creative," "impatient," and a lover of "change and innovation" — has no plans to retire after personally selling more than 2,000 homes, mostly in Costa Mesa, over a nearly 30-year career.

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"Real estate is not quick money," Torelli said. "Everybody thinks it is, but it's not. Thirteen out of 14 fail because they don't have the skill set, and they don't have a business plan."

Former Costa Mesa Mayor Peter Buffa once called her "super-Realtor Valerie Torelli, who has more than enough energy to power a small city for 180 days."

Since her company's small beginnings, Torelli has greatly expanded the operation. She counts about 20 employees, 17 of whom are agents.

Her company has also been the top seller in Costa Mesa for the past 20 years.

Now Torelli Realty is at 1700 Adams Ave. in a former bank building whose interior decor runs the eclectic gamut found at The Camp and The Lab across town. Torelli says clients love it.

The style even extends to the bathrooms, which have Ken and Barbie dolls on the doors and various repurposed elements inside.

Holes in the wall near an archery and darts setup represent misses.

"You can tell where I didn't do so good," Torelli quips.

"We try to bring serenity to the process," she said of her business philosophy. "People have huge anxiety when they sell and buy. Huge. It's not a shirt. It's not even a car. It's not a baby carriage. It's their home, and people get huge issues."

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