The flair q&A

Leigh Bahnatka

Yes, that is a gleam in the eye! Smart, funny and really darn nice, please meet Leigh Bahnatka. If you think there is a straight path to success, she is here to prove anyone wrong. This hard-working realtor (indeed, that is not her only professional experience) is a fan-favorite in the Hudson Valley. See why!

Tell me about your business or specialty.

I'm a Real Estate Salesperson with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices-Hudson Valley Properties, helping families and individuals find or sell their best home or property in this beautiful region.

How'd you get to where you are now?

My road here is unique. I’ve had excellent experience and gained useful knowledge over the years. My first job out of college was in property management (thus creating a preview of things to come). I went to grad school for Library Science and minored in Archival work in Detroit - and got a job with Ford Motor Company as a Librarian and then at General Motors in their media archives. I later moved to New York and worked at Brooklyn Public Library, and then for Coca-Cola pulling old film to digitize and add to the Library of Congress (these were really interesting jobs!). Once 9/11 happened, I moved back upstate to the Hudson Valley where I’m from, and began working at the family property management business. With all my corporate and admin experience, I started a storage business that managed various companies documents and records - my Dad took it over and turned into a successful shredding and storage company. I took the property management business he also had at the time, sold it in 2016, and became a realtor.

I think all of my experiences and research skills from working in libraries and archives, plus knowledge from property management, lends itself to my being able to research properties and see any issues in structures for my various clients. (Sorry so long winded!…but there you have it. By the way, I do believe anyone can switch career lanes, take what they’ve learned no matter what the takeaway, and start something new.)

What surprises you in your work, now or in the past?

My work path has been diverse and varied, as you can see. I’ve been involved with top corporate entities and local small businesses of my own. There is something to be learned from each and every position I’ve held. I often call upon training from Ford, for instance, in my current speciality of real estate. It’s amazing how all my job experiences have kept me on my toes - that is probably the most surprising thing, no matter the size or scope, you have to think on your feet. And there is always something new to learn, and learning is what I love (my Dad was a Social Studies teacher, after all!).

Did Covid affect what you do or how you work in any way?

Well, we all experienced the surge of real estate in the Hudson Valley during the height of the pandemic, it was wild! It definitely created a significant shift, which has now shifted again and stabilized. In terms of day to day work, it actually didn’t change the way I worked (matching the right buyer with the right property, or seller with the right buyer), but it did alter how I worked - with lots more more phone calls, texts, emails and zoom meetings, over any normal face to face time. Somehow, we all made it happen.

Any other interests or pursuits (big or small)?
I’m constantly trying to learn about new things, history and now architecture is one of my latest passions. Archeology is also fascinating to me. Again, growing up with a teacher in the house, I’ve become interested in digging deeper on so many levels (no pun intended!).

What drives you crazy?
What doesn’t!? Ha ha. I would say bad drivers is my #1 complaint. It’s getting worse, too. Oh, I almost forgot…my inability to remember things on the spot lately!

Who inspires you? (it can be anybody you know, or don't know)
My father was in the military’s Special Forces, a pro football player for the Buffalo Bills for a short time, and a high school Social Studies teacher. My mother was an accomplished marathon runner in her earlier years, and nearly getting to Olympic caliber qualification levels! My folks formed a medical equipment company, and then a property management company and now have the shredding and storage business. My sister, Bryn, has owned a clothing store and opened and sold multiple restaurants with her renowned chef husband (Chef Wesley Dier). So I’d say my parents, sister and brother-in-law for taking chances to try new things and see where it may lead. They are all fearless.

You're a trailblazer - what are some career highlights to date?
Helping people buy and sell homes and properties, and making sure everyone has a great experience. My very first sale was working with buyers who needed a place immediately. They had a specific bank loan that was pretty demanding, various other needs or restrictions and a precise closing date - it was like juggling on a tightrope (or something extremely precarious). We did it and I knew I could manage just about anything from that rookie experience! I strive to make each client feel like the most important one. Whether someone is looking to buy, sell, invest or rent, I firmly believe in treating every client with equal enthusiasm and expertise, regardless of their budget.

Words of wisdom or thoughts?
Taking chances and being willing to step outside of your comfort zone is crucial for personal growth and success. It's important to embrace the possibilities and opportunities that come your way, even if there's a chance they may not work out as planned. The fear of wondering "what if" or regretting missed opportunities can be far worse. By embracing the unknown, maintaining a positive mindset and taking chances, you open yourself up to new possibilities, growth and ultimately (hopefully!) a more fulfilling life. Your positive attitude can have a ripple effect.


Leigh Bahnatka (MLIS) is a Hudson Valley native, having grown up in Rhinebeck, New York and with deep and close ties to the community: her family has owned several businesses in the region, and many of her high school classmates are still close friends and colleagues today. As a professional realtor, her passion for homes and real estate stems from her parents and upbringing. Her mother's love for endless exploration and architectural marvels, combined with her father's historical knowledge as a former Social Studies teacher, shaped her appreciation for the rich history and diverse architecture of the Hudson Valley - and their stories. With its unique charm, scenic landscapes and vibrant communities, she’s proud to be part of the network of lifestyles in her favorite place to call home. Leigh earned a BA in Social Sciences from Castleton State College in Vermont, and a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science, specializing in Archival Administration, from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Her diverse professional journey includes positions with such leading organizations as Ford Motor Company, Brooklyn Public Library and serving as a Project Archivist with the Coca-Cola Company. She later returned the local region and established a family business called Record Storage Solutions, a leading shredding and storage business (and property management company, which she oversaw and later sold). RSS continues to be a beloved family operation today, run by her father. Leigh became a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices/Hudson Valley Properties several years ago, and continues to be dedicated to helping anyone discover the wonders of the Hudson Valley and find their perfect place to call home.
facebook/instagram: @leighbahnatkarealestate

(published 2023)