By Karen D. Lorentz
Fifty years ago on Oct. 15, 1972 Judy Storch founded Killington Valley Real Estate (KVRE) with Pat Denis. Sally Bridges became her partner after Denis left, and when Bridges left to become an appraiser, Storch became KVRE’s sole proprietor. She sold the business to Bret Williamson and his wife Kim in 2017 but continues to work listing, selling and renting properties.
Storch notes she didn’t retire because “I meet too many terrific people and besides my social security checks wouldn’t cover my credit card bills,” a reference to her many trips and cruises to interesting places around the world — China (three times), Mexico, Croatia, Europe, Africa, Azores, Alaska among others. A grand Baltic sea cruise and a trip to Scotland are on her upcoming agenda.
Selling the business has permitted her to take more time off for her travels, photography hobby (a recent photo safari to Africa), snowshoeing, and enjoying life. But she notes, “I only retired from ownership, not from sales and marketing.”
Williamson began working at Killington Valley Real Estate in 2004. He had already been working at the Basin Ski Shop since he was a sophomore at Castleton College where he ski raced on the Nordic Team. A passionate alpine skier, after graduation he had stayed in Vermont and bike raced while continuing to work at the ski shop.
But having grown up with a family in real estate, he also joined Killington Valley Real Estate in 2004. With his “strong retail background and knowledge of all aspects of the region,” he said he found real estate sales “a natural fit.” His enjoyment in showing properties and enthusiasm for Killington and its future led to the decision to purchase the business.
Since that time, the real estate business has been exceptional, Williamson notes.
He attributes that to the growing popularity of the region, driven in large part by the growth of summer business due to Killington Resort’s investments in mountain biking and the Adventure Center. The ski area’s hosting of a Women’s World Cup race has also brought a lot of attention to Killington as has the reputation of the Killington Mountain School, a ski academy which both of his children attend in its alpine ski racing program.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic also contributed to greater demand for properties, and the Killington Elementary School, which is ranked as one of the best in Vermont, and the town’s recreation department’s summer camps for kids are additional positives that make the town attractive for both vacation and primary homeowners, Williamson said. “All of these factors have contributed to the increasing demand for properties and an increase in prices,” he added, noting they “reflect the value to be found in the Killington region.”
Williamson also noted that he’s been extremely lucky to have Judy stay on at the firm. “I rely on her a lot. She’s like the Google of Killington real estate. If I have a question, she can answer it,” he noted of her familiarity with the region and being “a great mentor.”
Storch was one of the original “ski bums” who moved to Killington for the skiing and worked for the ski area before striking out on her own.
In February 1964, Storch learned about a job opening and a week later started as a general secretary for $1.50 an hour. “When the snow left, I went back to New York to work,” she said.
In October Storch returned to Killington and as General Manager Paul Bousquet’s secretary worked at a variety of jobs from personnel and operations to ski school and marketing.
With the advent of Killington East she got involved in real estate sales, after taking courses and becoming licensed in 1968. She sold Killington East lots in 1969-70 and remembers the round lots as well as the first chalet.
She left the ski area’s employ in 1970 and ski bummed for two years, waitressing, bartending, and working for Jim Judge’s Property Management company before opening KVRE in the red house farmhouse next to the Wobbly Barn.
Asked about the major trends she has seen in her five decades of listing, selling, and renting out properties to thousands of clients, Storch said the “major change was price. When I started one of the most expensive houses was $95,000 and A-frames sold for $20,000. Now prices on everything — condos, houses, lots and rentals — are higher.”
Other significant changes include the advent of condominiums; an Edgemont one-bedroom condo went for $26,000 and now one bedroom condos overall are selling for well over $200,000, she said.
“In 50 years I’ve never seen such a shortage of listings, which we have now due to supply and demand. Time on the market has changed, too.
“I’ve sold properties to the children of people I sold to earlier and it’s great to see the generational interest in Killington,” she added.
Having survived the ups and downs of the economy and real estate market, Storch noted the worst times occurred “during the early 1980s when interest rates reached the 20% range. The early 1990s recession and the more recent 2007-09 national meltdown were part of the challenges and saw an abundance of listings with few buyers,” she recalls.
The Killington rush
Recalling the early days and why she has stayed in town, Storch observed, “It was like the California Gold Rush, only you came for the Killington Ski Rush. There was a pioneering spirit and you came for the growth. We were at the right place at the right time, and with a strong work ethic you could succeed in building a business. Today it takes financial means to do what I did. We started with a $1,500 investment and had both our names on one business card to save money. But we had high end stationary,” she noted with a laugh.
“I still love the outdoors and living in Killington,” she added, noting she prefers “a resort community because there is always something happening and great people to meet. I’m single and love my social life here and the energy of the area which keeps me young. Grass doesn’t have time to grow under your feet here,” she added.
“Killington is my comfort zone. That’s why I stay. I travel for new adventures and to meet more people. I certainly meet plenty of new people right here in my own backyard,” she added of a life in real estate that has come with warm mountain memories and many friendships.