With more than 30 years of experience listing and selling real estate, Renee Celli brings unmatched expertise to each and every transaction. She’s honest, tenacious and ready to go the extra mile for you to achieve your goals.

Whether you’re buying or selling, if you’re a first-time home buyer or looking for a second home, or you’re looking for your first place together, Renee is the one call you want to make. She specializes in St. Petersburg homes, notably in the Old Northeast neighborhood; downtown St. Pete townhomes and condos; waterfront homes; commercial property in St. Petersburg; and residential and commercial properties on the gulf beaches.

OUTCOAST sat down with Renee Celli to learn more about what sets her apart from those in her industry and why she’s the go-to real estate agent when buying or selling in the St. Petersburg area.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Greenwich Village,  New York. When I was 6, my family moved to a small town outside of the city in Westchester County. I moved back into the city as a teenager and lived by myself near Gramercy Park, where I earned a high school degree and worked several jobs to make ends meet. When I was 17, I decided to follow family to Florida (Fort Lauderdale).

When did you become interested in the real estate industry?

 I had been working as a driver for UPS, but suffered an injury that required I switch jobs. My then partner and I had been buying houses and fixing them up as rentals. So when I got a settlement for my injury, I decided to use it to get my real estate license and started my real estate career. I loved working in one of the gayest areas of the East Coast,Victoria Park and Wilton Manors.

 When did you establish your current real estate business? And what led you to work with Remax?

After I met my future wife when she visited Fort Lauderdale, I decided to move to St. Petersburg in 1997. St Petersburg was not a destination city at that time and had just begun to remake itself from “God’s waiting room.” When I first got here, I worked with a number of builders who helped spark the renaissance in downtown St. Petersburg housing options. I helped them with design, sales, site supervision — you name it. It was an exciting time.

What is the highlight of your day when it comes to what you do? In other words, what is the most rewarding thing about your job? 

 Waking up and looking forward to helping as many people as I can to make the best real estate decisions possible. 

I really enjoy when people come back to me months or years later and say, “Thank you for getting us into that home. It’s been a great fit for us and we love it.” Or, they invite me out to lunch to tell me what a lifesaver I was for getting their house sold. When my clients are happy, I’m ecstatic!

What sets you apart from others in your industry?

 For me, helping people buy a home is all about their needs, not mine. I have been blessed to be successful in my business, so I am not under a lot of pressure to close a deal just to close a deal and get a paycheck. I genuinely want the choice to be as close to absolutely right as we can get it. A house is such a huge purchase. Getting it right for my clients is my No. 1 priority.

I also think because I have a background in construction (thanks to those years renovating rentals), I can act as the “visioneer” for people who have a hard time seeing potential in a home. There are some gems here in the area that, with just a few structural changes, can become a cozy space.

Do you have an experience that stands out to you where you went above and beyond to help a client?

I’ve had many, but the one that absolutely stands out is this one:

I was selling a townhome that had tenants. A week before our scheduled closing, they somehow managed to snap off a water valve, and they panicked. As water started cascading through the bedrooms and down the stairs, they took off for the Home Depot to find a water key to turn it off. By the time they returned, the damage was enormous! I got a call from the seller and we flew into action. I showed up to help her and her dad rip out the upstairs carpets. We got a water mitigation specialist in with huge fans to start drying everything out. Then I got a demolition specialist to rip up the damaged wood floors (a huge job, as they were glued to the concrete). In the middle of trying to restore things to normal, the buyers showed up at the door to see what was happening. Rather than sugar coat the situation, I used it as an opportunity to help them get upgrades on the flooring. The closing ended up being delayed by only three days. Both the sellers and buyers could not have been happier with my diligence in making things right. In fact, the buyers have become some of my best friends.

You can also check my website www.teamcelli.com for testimonials. 

What is your favorite thing about St. Petersburg?

I love the city’s diversity and the potential for the city to be an even better place to live, with all of the growth that’s extending west from the downtown waterfront. More local businesses, more visitors, more potential buyers. It’s such a welcoming city that people just come here and wonder, “Why haven’t I ever heard of this great place before?”

Why should people consider purchasing in St. Petersburg versus other regions around the state?

St. Petersburg real estate, while it is inching up in price, is still a bargain compared with other parts of the state. We had been undervalued for so long, that we’re just now starting to catch up with the likes of Sarasota, Fort Lauderdale or Miami. You can still find affordable housing that’s minutes from the beach or just a short Uber ride from vibrant nightlife.

I also think that St. Pete, because of its Midwestern sensibilities, is more welcoming than most cities. It’s easy to get to know your neighbors or to strike up a conversation with a stranger in a craft beer pub because everyone is so friendly and laid back.

And I just have to say: Our waterfront is gorgeous — and it will never be developed. It’s there for all to enjoy. Not many cities, including Tampa, have such a great amenity.

What are some of the key events throughout the year that visitors to the area should know about? Which of these is your favorite and why?

Well, of course we love Pride in June — especially since the parade moved downtown and is mere blocks from where we live. We love all of the outdoor festivals that take place all over the area in the winter months: Gasparilla Invasion and Parade, Gasparilla Art Festival, Blues Fest, WMNF’s Tropical Heatwave music festival. The Tampa Bay Gay and Lesbian Film Festival always is a fun time at the Tampa Theatre in October. We could go on and on. There’s something to do virtually every weekend year-round.

When you aren’t working, what are you doing for fun?

We love to try out new restaurants. Our  current favorite is the Reading Room, a lesbian-owned restaurant that has amazing food. We also try to sample new breweries because we’re fanatics about hoppy IPAs. And we love sitting on our porch in the Old Northeast neighborhood, visiting with our neighbors who drop by.

What makes working with an LGBTQ realtor better for LGBTQ clients?

I think it’s a sense of comfort that you can ask us questions about things you might not be comfortable sharing with other Realtors. We also live and play in the gay community, so we can share insights into some of our favorite places and causes.

Why do you invest time and money in marketing to LGBTQ clients?

They make the job a little more fun, of course! But more importantly, they are well worth reaching out to. They often have a good sense of what they’re looking for, so it’s easier to narrow a search area or the type of house they’re looking for. LGBTQ buyers also tend to be on top of things like getting pre-approval letters or lining up loans.

How do you give back to your LGBTQ community?

We love to support Equality Florida, an incredible statewide advocacy group that works on behalf of the LGBTQ community to guarantee equal rights and treatment. Florida has not always been very progressive in this arena, but thanks to this group’s consistent efforts, we’ve made tremendous progress. They also have a fabulous gala every year in St. Pete’s Mahaffey Theater that helps us meet new friends and reconnect with old ones. Team Celli has been a big sponsor of the the event several times over many years.