“So would you like a tour?”
Chris Leavitt heads across the shiny marble floor of a living room you could fit some entire apartments in, beckoning you to follow past the sunny kitchen to the vast foyer and the base of a staircase, curving elegantly upward to another level of unimaginable elegance.
Oh, yeah, we want a tour of this five-bedroom home in the south end of coastal Boca Raton, with a genuine Tiffany chandelier, a resort-style pool and hot tub, elevator and custom painting throughout.
This former designer show home is so “elegant and timeless,” as Leavitt puts it, and so — let’s be honest — expensive, that mere mortals might be afraid to breathe wrong, let alone drink the coffee and eat the chocolate croissants he offers.
» GET MORE: Want to see more million-dollar mansions? Follow the Post's Real Time blog.
But for Leavitt, who strides authoritatively through this $3.9-million showplace he’s representing as a real estate agent, it’s his joy and his business, which is about “showcasing luxury,” says the Massachusetts native and current Palm Beach resident, whose experience in the world of high-end properties as a broker for Douglas Elliman Real Estate got him a gig on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing: Miami.”
Viewers of the show know the lithe 41-year-old as a direct, confident and impeccably dressed personality who represents some of the most gorgeous spaces for sale between Miami and Palm Beach.
Those in the world of very, very expensive dwellings know him as one of the best at selling them — his sales are in hundreds of millions, and he represented a Miami Beach condo that went for $34 million, the highest sale price ever for a Florida condominium.
But under the well-fitted suit jacket and the perfect hair — and it really is perfect — is a kid who, at an early age, came to appreciate beautiful, well-built places with a character and a soul.
He’s lived in enough of them, including New York’s Plaza Hotel — “I was Eloise!” — and childhood winters in the expansive villas at Palm Beach’s Colony hotel. Leavitt, and those who know him, say his success comes not just from intimate knowledge of the world he travels, but a confidence that comes from knowing himself.
“Basically, I strive to be uplifting, to be real and genuine. Really, that’s what I’m about,” he says. “I love all the good things in life, but you have to peel that away and at the core there’s a real person … I love drama, but I’m a business person. My first job is to get the job done, not be a TV star. I’m a personality.”
His sister Paige Leavitt says he’s not putting on airs.
“This is very, very natural to him,” says Paige, who lives in Massachusetts. “He’s as comfortable in a tiny little shack in Maine as he is in a house on Palm Beach. Of course when it’s luxurious, that suit fits, but he might look nice in something else, too … There’s not a sense of snobbery there.”
Becoming one of the youngest snowbirds
The “Million Dollar Listing” franchise began in 2006 in Los Angeles, then spread to other cities. Leavitt paid close attention to the show, and when Bravo came to Miami, he says he knew “I had the full package, a little of the drama, and the experience” for the job.
“We knew from the moment we saw that twinkle in Chris Leavitt’s eye that he’d be a fan favorite,” says Fenton Bailey, co-founder of the World of Wonder Productions, the company that produced the show. “Chris gave us and the viewers everything they wanted right down to his vivacious style, his joie de vivre, and of course his expert knowledge of Miami real estate.”
Leavitt’s success as a TV personality wasn’t a surprise to his family. In fact, “I thought ‘What took him so long?,’” his sister says. “I think most (of us) figured he would be some sort of personality, some kind of star. All this stuff seemed automatically like part of an innate destiny.”
He grew up in Manchester By The Sea, what his sister calls “a blue blood, wealthy area in Massachusetts.” His grandfather was a manager at Worth Avenue’s Maus and Hoffman, and while “my grandparents weren’t wealthy people at all, they definitely sort of opened me to the world of Palm Beach,” he says.
Leavitt and his family started spending winters at The Colony hotel when he was 12, and they eventually bought a place nearby on Peruvian Avenue. Early on, Leavitt became a very, very young snowbird.
“He was unbelievably independent and driven to want to get on a plane and go visit his grandfather in Palm Beach,” sister Paige recalls. “I remember him packing his little suitcase and heading off and thinking ‘There goes Chris off on his mission.’ He was already savvy, going to shops on Worth Avenue and sending trinkets and postcards.”
“The weather was the number one reason,” he says now of his insistence at visiting Palm Beach. “I just loved the luxury and the classiness of it. That hasn’t changed. I knew exactly what I wanted. I don’t have to sit and meditate on what I want.”
Consenting one’s life to reality television takes careful consideration. Many of his wealthy and private clients wouldn’t consent to be on the show, and he understood that. For his part, he knew that an unguarded moment “could affect your career. My whole idea was to be authentic, but the minute the camera came on, I was there to do work.”
As comfortable as Leavitt is in such a rarefied world, he also doesn’t hesitate to represent properties with price tags that are a little less rare.
He talks about agreeing to sell a condo for about $350,000, something another agent in his usual market might have referred to someone else. Good thing, too, because “two days later he says his dad has a $3.5 million house he wants to sell. If I hadn’t sold his place, I’d have missed out on that … Everyone is equal. I treat that person who calls me to buy a $350,000 apartment the same way I treat someone who is spending $10 million, if they’re serious. It’s about relationships.”
His career seems like a foregone conclusion. He says he remembers falling in love with “grand staircases in big, big homes,” not unlike the winding iron and marble centerpiece of that Boca house.
“I grew up watching ‘Dynasty’ and all those shows. They weren’t just big McMansions, but big, stately homes that look like they’ve been there for 100 years. They had them where I grew up and in Palm Beach. And they were fabulous.”
That staircase, just like the ones Leavitt describes, do indeed look like Alexis Carrington or Sue Ellen Ewing should be perched at the top, dripping with diamonds and disdain, ready to angrily hurl a cut crystal tumbler of Scotch to whoever’s unlucky enough to be standing at the bottom. For young Christopher, those staircases evoked a sense of “drama, drama at the center of the house.”
Love from Bravo, love in life
His confidence is obvious and innate, but that’s not to say that it hasn’t been shaken. Sister Paige says that even with the advantages her brother had, there was “adversity” around at an early age when Chris, and then other people, realized he was gay. For he and “other children growing up, knowing who they are, being out there about it, it can be very difficult. He knew how to channel it,” she says.
Leavitt says that as a kid, he had no reason to believe he was different, because he was just being himself “when I was playing with Barbies, or reaching out to girls as friends instead of boys. All that was normal. I was shocked when I was told by my peers that it wasn’t right.”
He learned “very early on that even with people saying one thing, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go with your passions. It could have gone in a horrible direction, like so many young, gay people. But my parents, fortunately, saw something in me and inspired me to keep going.”
They sent him to a private school in sixth grade that “was very supportive of being an individual … I was able to glide right through from sixth grade on, while continuing to feel that everything I did and was doing was OK.”
On the Bravo site for “Million Dollar Listing: Miami” is a story about Leavitt declaring that he was ready for a relationship. That’s a lot to put out there, and so far, “nothing’s come of it,” he says.
Love from the show’s fans is already there. Leavitt says he’s recognized frequently, something he takes in stride with what his sister calls “an excellent sense of humor. ”
The future of “Million Dollar Listing: Miami” is up in the air, as Bravo has neither canceled or renewed the show. But Leavitt promises he isn’t “going far away from TV.”
He recently signed a development deal for his own project with Pilgrim Studios, a company that produces other reality shows like Lifetime’s “Bring It” and OWN’s “Welcome To Sweetie Pie’s.” He won’t elaborate, as the deal is in its early stages, but says fans can expect the same Chris Leavitt — fun, earnest and hard-working.
“TV’s a fun medium to express yourself,” he says. “I think I like it.”
Chris Leavitt’s Palm Beach
Some of the reality star’s favorite local haunts:
HMF at The Breakers, 1 S. County Road: “It’s fun. They turn dinner into a nightclub. And I can walk home.”
Bricktops, 375 South County Road: “I love their outstide area.”
The Colony hotel, 155 Hammon Ave.: “We lived there part of every year. I love it there.”