Queen of Celina

Lori Vaden - Queen of CelinaBack in 1999, Lori Vaden and her family purchased 30 acres of land on the outskirts of Celina. The population was just over 2,000, and the slow lifestyle the town offered was a far cry from that of her hometown, Arlington.


She finished building her home in 2002, and she loved having her three boys grow up on the acreage. It made for imaginative, resourceful boys, she said. It was worth all of the thorough grocery store trip planning (because “you couldn’t just pop over to the neighbors’ and borrow an egg”), and the excessive number of miles put on her car. With a daily two-hour commute between the school and their home, “I put over 30,000 miles a year on my car as a stay-at-home mom,” she laughed.


She wouldn’t change it, though. The countless miles were a small price to pay for the community they were grafted into, and her family certainly wasn’t alone in their lifestyle choice. “Most parents left the city and even the busy suburbs to be able to give their kids a small-town life, but they still commuted into downtown Dallas for work. It was a sacrifice, but parents were happy to make it because of what it afforded their kids,” Lori noted, “We all wanted our kids to be part of a community that loved them, cared about them, knew their names.” Celina, it turned out, was just that.


It takes a village, as they say, and the old adage is as true in Celina as it is anywhere. In fact, Lori had just shared a story from years ago in which a Celina parent called her to inform her of some mischief their children had gotten into when, lo and behold, said parent strolled right into the cute cafe where we were having lunch!


Celina is the kind of place where when the waitress doesn’t recognize you, she asks if you’re from “out of town” then recommends the brisket. It’s the kind of place where when you ask if we could have access to the City Council building, a reasonable response is, “Let me text the mayor and find out.” It’s the kind of place where it’s the norm to run into ten people you know before 10 am on a Saturday morning. There is something idyllic about neighbors waving as you pass them on the road and knowing that the entire population will turn out for the games.


Lori’s been a licensed Realtor since 1999 but took a hiatus to raise her boys. Looking back now, she remembers how difficult it was to sell the area to prospective Texans when she jumped back into the real estate game. She couldn’t take clients past Main and the Tollway before they began to get antsy, she said. She would watch them grow more fidgety the further out they’d get. Celina was just too rural — especially for folks relocating from places like New York, California, and Illinois. Oh, how the times have changed! People’s comfort zones in regard to proximity to the city are expanding, meaning land and homes in Celina are selling like hotcakes. Plus, with the uptick in remote work, more native Dallasites are venturing outside the city center in favor of a quieter lifestyle in the country.


In 1999, just after Lori purchased her 30 acres, she remembered reading a news article that forecasted a bright and busy future for Celina. It projected tens of thousands of residents flooding in, prices of homes and land increasing exponentially. The new Plano, Lori remembered it being called. “Then the market crashed,” Lori recalled, “And that boom was delayed.” But now, 20 years later, the prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes. Fortunately, Lori said, the local leadership in Celina has been preparing for this growth for years. As a former city council member herself, she spoke highly of the city’s decision makers, describing them as forward-thinking and praising their efforts to ensure a robust and progressive infrastructure strategy that could handle the rapid growth.


Lori got remarried two years ago after 12 years as a single mom and is building a new home in McKinney with her husband, Al West. She makes a point to stay in close contact with the head of Celina’s Economic Development Center and the mayor, as she’s still in Celina at least five days a week with clients. You can take the girl out of Celina, but you can’t take the Celina out of the girl. Well, on second thought, in Lori’s case, maybe you can’t take the girl out of Celina. “I bleed orange,” she said, referencing the school colors, “Celina will always feel like home.”


While markets and economies have been precarious over the past year and a half, Lori has flexed her adaptability and creativity by embracing technology to stay in touch with her clients and develop more robust coaching methods with her team of agents. While others were resisting the necessary evolution brought on by the pandemic, Lori — much like the leadership in Celina — was looking forward to the challenges, counting them as opportunities to learn new skills and serve her clients in new ways. The embrace of technology, in fact, was what finally convinced Lori to join Compass after 14 years at another real estate company. “I watched them take over Dallas,” she began, “and that’s no small thing.


was curious about the way they shifted from tech to real estate.” She calls herself an information junkie and one of her top priorities is to be on top of market, leadership, and technology trends. She’s on multiple leadership calls each week, continuously working to be a better resource for her team and her clients and is grateful to play a part in the evolution of the way real estate is bought, sold, and managed.


Additionally, Lori takes pride and finds fulfillment in maintaining relationships with her clients even after the transaction and noted that she ends up listing 90% of her listing appointments because of the trust she’s able to cultivate with sellers. “I love everything about real estate. I love getting to help people and meet their needs. It doesn’t get better than that,” she said.