– Story by Toby Tannas Photography by Darren Hull
Jane Hoffman is a giant in the world of Kelowna Real Estate. Her name is synonymous with luxury, lakeshore listings. While Hoffman represents the lion’s share of waterfront buyers and sellers in this city, for a good portion of her life, she considered herself more of a lamb.
“I was the youngest child, I never said a word; I hardly talked,” she recalls. “Even as an adult, for the first years I was at this job, I just couldn’t quite see that it was really me.”
A career in real estate was not even on the radar for the raven-haired, small town girl with kind eyes and a quiet strength. A young bride at the age of 19, Jane and her RCMP officer husband left her home town of Revelstoke for the big city of Vancouver. On weekends they built houses together. Glen Hoffman’s construction dreams quickly overshadowed his RCMP career and the couple eventually moved to Kelowna to grow his company, Braniff Construction Ltd.
Jane kept busy with a young son (Michael); she helped Glen with the company and attended classes at nursing school. But the course of her life changed forever on a winter night in 1982 when one of her greatest fears became reality.
“Glen always had a passion for flying. I was always nervous about him flying.”
Glen and his business partner, Jim, who was Jane’s sister’s husband, were flying home in their private, company plane and crashed before they could land at Kelowna airport.
“I had a bad feeling and I was looking out my front door and down the hill came the RCMP. I knew. It had really happened, just the way I thought it was going to happen. It was like a nightmare,” she recounts with tears in her eyes.
As Jane and her sister grieved the tragic and sudden loss of their husbands, she came to a decision, one that to this day she believes was the most important of her life.
“I remember thinking when the RCMP left, I can go upstairs in my bed and throw the comforter over my head and fall apart — that’s what I wanted to do,” she admits. “Or I can keep going, ask for a few things from up above and be the person that survives.”
Jane chose to survive. She took the reigns of Glen’s company, managed 150 employees and wrapped up the remaining projects that Braniff was committed to. It took five years and an incredible amount of strength. Jane admits to feeling like she had a helping hand from above.
“I thought, oh Glen, I hope you help me somehow and I think he did. I think when people die you can take what you learned from them and you just kind of do it.”
As Braniff’s operations wound down, a casual comment from her cousin David got Jane thinking about the next chapter of her life. He reminded her how much she loved the lake and lakeshore homes and suggested she think about selling them. Jane was quietly intrigued.
“When I took the real estate course, I didn’t tell anybody.”
At the age of 34, Jane re-invented herself as an agent.
“It was really hard. The first year I sold five homes in the whole year. The next it was 15 and then it started compounding.”
She recalls tons of work, rejection and disappointment in the beginning, but then something clicked. She bought herself a little cottage on the lake and her love for it naturally formed the basis of her selling strategy.
“Selling houses on the lake brings so much joy to people. I had a passion for it myself, so I’d convince people they should do it too. That’s how I started.”
As she threw herself into work, raising her son and acquiring more properties, Jane never let go of that first lake house and the healing comfort it provided her.
“In the summer I would move to the little beach house. I was very lonely at the time and I’d say to Michael, ‘I love the lake. I feel like someone is always home when the water is there because it’s ever changing.’”
Jane lives in a beautiful waterfront home in Kelowna’s lower mission these days. Michael and his family live just a few blocks away, and Michael has followed in his father’s footsteps, undertaking various development projects in the city. Thanks to Michael, Braniff Construction Ltd. has been re-born, something that makes his mother very proud.
“My son took on all of Glen’s qualities, except the desire to fly — he didn’t pick that up at all.”
After 35 years in the real estate business, 16-hour days are still the norm for Jane.
“I may have gotten that from my mother,” she says with a smile, referring to Kay Beruschi — a Revelstoke pioneer, who opened the renowned Regent Hotel in Revelstoke with her husband Fred during the great depression. They ran it together until Jane’s dad died in 1976. Kay remained a constant presence at The Regent until the age of 92.
“Everyone knew Grandma Kay,” chuckles Jane. “She was a character, a true entrepreneur who was ahead of her time.”
Kay passed away at the age of 100 in 2014. Jane, her brother and sister still own The Regent and two other hotels in Revelstoke. Her nephew Brady operates them.
Jane’s primary focus is The Jane Hoffmann Real Estate Team. With 14 people who have become her work family and more than 150 active listings, Jane doesn’t take much time off. When she can get away, you’ll find her on the slopes or travelling to a favourite destination like Hawaii. Jane’s other passions include raising money for various charities, including the Central Okanagan Hospice Association, and listening to live music. If you invite her to a concert, she will never say no.
“I’ll go to any concert, it doesn’t matter the music, I just love the energy.”
Jane Hoffman brims with energy. At an age when some might consider retirement, she still feels that rush of excitement when a buyer and a house match up.
“It’s like destiny. When I see it happen, I find it so fascinating,” she explains. “Sometimes when a house isn’t selling, I remind myself just to let go, someone is meant for that house and when it’s right, it will all come together.”
Selling real estate doesn’t come without stress and uncertainty but Jane takes it all in stride.
“It seems to be good for me. It keeps me healthy, vibrant and relevant. I’m so used to being busy and interacting, I’m not sure what would happen to me if I retired.”
Jane has found love over the years but has never re-married. Through all of life’s ups and downs, she’s taken tremendous comfort in being near the lake. It’s a deep, personal connection to the water that provided solace for a young widow so many years ago. These days it’s a peaceful escape during chaotic times and even just a glance out the window is enough to fill her with an immense sense of gratitude.
The course of Jane Hoffman’s life may have been altered by tragedy, but somewhere on that journey the once timid lamb found her voice and roared her way to the top.
“I live stronger, better because I feel like I’m living for two people not just one. I got to stay, so let’s make it worthwhile.”
Check out some of Jane’s listing on her site here.