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She sang opera before real estate.

posted Sep 4, 2015, 4:14 PM by Joyce Evans   [ updated Sep 4, 2015, 4:15 PM ]
You might know Laura Houle as a past Association president. She served as president of the East San Diego County Association of REALTORS® in 1996 and 1998. She was named Realtor of the Year in 1997. She was named an honorary REALTOR® For Life by the California Association of REALTORS® in 2009. Since 2006, she has considered herself as semi-retired.
 
But did you know that she was an opera singer before her real estate career?
 
She was born in Oneonta, New York. Her father Carmelo Ferlazzo worked as an engineer in the shipbuilding industry in Florida before he relocated the family to San Diego in 1944 to work at Ryan Aeronautical. Laura was 10 years old then. At age 16, she graduated from Grossmont High School (class of 1951).
 
“I remember San Diego when Mission Valley was a two-lane road, surrounded by dairy farms, and there was a stop light at Texas Street,” said Laura. “It was a big deal to go downtown and shop at Marston’s department store on Fifth Avenue and have lunch at the store’s Tea Room restaurant. When the Mission Valley Shopping Center opened (in 1960), that ended downtown shopping.”
 
After high school, Laura attended William Woods College in Fulton, Missouri, to study music and later spent three years studying music at the Luigi Cherubini Music Conservatory (Conservatorio di Musica Luigi Cherubini) in Florence, Italy. “I love opera and had a wonderful time studying in Italy,” she said. 
 
Laura returned to San Diego, met husband Bill, got married in 1958, and then graduated in 1961 from the San Diego College for Women, an all-women’s catholic college at the time, which later became the University of San Diego. They lived in La Mesa’s Calavo Gardens community and Laura taught music and third and fourth grade classes at St. Martins of Tours Academy in La Mesa. They later built a home on Hilltop Drive in El Cajon and lived there until moving Downtown in 2006. They live at Horizons, a condominium community on Front Street. Laura is currently in her second, one-year term as president of the homeowners association.
 
“In 1964, I recorded an album of popular songs with a local record company and soon after that started a family with the birth of our first child in 1965 and singing then took second fiddle,” said Laura. “My father had begun working in construction and building houses, so I decided to get my real estate license. I remember when the sales offer paperwork consisted of one piece of paper. My 40-year career has included residential and commercial and land development, and building some spec homes. I became a broker in 1970, and added mortgage services to my company in 1987. It’s been a rewarding career that allowed us to travel around the world.”
 
Laura and Bill call themselves “time-share junkies” with properties in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and New York. They have visited Europe, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Malaysia, Australia, China, Japan, South America, Hawaii and Mexico. They are gone roughly 11 weeks every year. As newlyweds, they spent three months traveling on trains touring Europe. “Back then, you could visit Europe on $5 a day, but today you can barely buy a cup of coffee for that amount,” Laura said. Laura and Bill also both volunteer at the USS Midway Museum. At a recent event, Laura had her photo taken with a Tom Cruise impersonator dressed in a Top Gun costume.
 
Laura says her career was enriched by getting involved in the REALTORS® Association. “I met many wonderful people and lifelong friends,” she said. “My business grew as our Association grew. Our role in protecting property rights was very important to me. The professionalism that an Association promotes is a definite plus for our industry.”