Born in Louisiana, Harriet had an early love of art and studied art education in college. Upon graduation, she went on to become an art teacher in New Orleans public schools.
She later moved to TX and taught art there; as well as science, speech arts, and other subjects like most young teachers do. First graders through ninth graders amazed her daily with their creativity and inquisitive natures.
While she gained experience and invaluable insight from those days, she found herself becoming disillusioned with the school system and its bureaucracies.
She had volunteered to go into the inner-city schools to teach, but the school system didn’t equip its young teachers for the cultural differences in those schools, and she was getting discouraged and took a leave of absence.
“You have to understand the culture before you can do anything,” she says, “and we were really not prepared to work with these kids.”
During her leave, she looked into the possibilities of working in real estate. Her grandfather had been a real estate agent, so, as she says, “Real estate was in my blood.”
She became an agent but took with her the lessons she had learned as a teacher in different environments with diverse populations. She learned to work with her real estate clients as individuals with unique wishes and needs; helping them clarify what it is they are really looking for.
Her skills as a teacher were a natural fit for this work: Once again she was not only imparting knowledge but had to encourage others to think about that information, plus how to wade through feelings to get to the core of what they really wanted.
There’s a delicate balance she has to strike between managing expectations while making dreams come true – a sort of very practical Fairy Godmother.
So how does someone with Harriet’s special blend of personal insight, love of art, and talent for real estate end up in Vallarta? By accident of course!
In the 80’s, she began participating in Mastermind Groups: a program made up of small collections of different professionals – women and minorities mostly – aimed at developing skills and professional mentoring.
Her group bought a timeshare in Conchas Chinas, and came once a year for about 20 years, ingraining a deep love for the Banderas Bay area. “We didn’t know September was a ‘bad month,’ or that it was low season,” she says, “It was always just magic!”
In 1996, Harriet needed a break to think over a career move, and so she came down by herself for an extra week to stay with some friends… and decided to stay.
She had always wanted to experience life in another country, and says “I knew, instinctively, that this was a journey I needed to take.”
She began working with a local real estate firm, but now in a completely new environment; after 25 years in the business, once again she was the rookie!
It didn’t take her long to form her own company, however, and Cochran Real Estate was founded in 1997.
Harriet chose the name “Cochran” as a bit of an homage to her grandfather who was a real estate developer. As he was part of the reason she found herself in the industry, it seemed fitting to use his name for her new company.
The Cochran logo is a Mayan spindle; a pre-Columbian symbol representing the Sun’s endless journey over the sky, down through the underworld, and back again, but it was also a common household tool used in weaving and spinning.
This bit of ancient iconography is the perfect image for her company: it conveys the “big picture” of the circle of life, but also recognizes the everyday small needs of the home, with a solid connection to Mexico.
Working in real estate in Mexico required some adaptation and flexibility. Harriet recalled her days as a teacher in Louisiana and Texas and found herself experiencing a bit of déjà vu. Once again, she had to listen to and learn about a new culture in order to succeed at listening to her clients and finding the right fit for them.
The challenges of running a woman-owned company were even greater in the more patriarchal culture of Mexico, but Harriet, who describes herself as “the tortoise, not the hare” was determined to make it work.
She had the advantage of her vast experience in other real estate markets, and she studied Spanish every week (as she still does) to maintain business-level fluency.
She is the current President of the Vallarta chapter of AMPI (after serving as Vice President under different Presidents for 15 years); and is AMPI certified in both the US and Canada, as well as a member of the NAR.
She is a proud Certified International Property (CIP) specialist – an achievement only attainable after intense training in real estate in markets all over the world.
In addition, she travels to many markets around the world such as Luxembourg, Russia, France, Spain, Greece, and the Netherlands to attend courses and presentations of internationally known economists, developers, and real estate companies.
She is also a member of FIABCI, a network of international real estate brokers who collaborate to share knowledge and expertise, as well as the designated Banderas Bay broker for Leading Estates of the World.
She is a Realtor with NAR International and travels each year to the FIABCI consortium of developers and real estate brokers.
BA in Art Education / Minor in Business
LSU Monroe, Louisiana
AMPI Puerto Vallarta 2014 to current
Mexican Association of Real Estate Professionals
AMPI Puerto Vallarta 2003 to 2013
Mexican Association of Real Estate Professionals
AMPI Certified in Mexico, US & Canada
National Association of Realtors (NAR)
Realtor and Member
Certified International Property (CIP)
International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI)
Member of USA and Mexico chapters.
ICREA International Consortium of
Real Estate Associations
Official National Real Estate Certification
CONOCER (Mexico) National Counsel for Standards and Certification of Professional Skills
Leading Estates of the World
What’s her secret? First, never stop innovating. The market changes over time, and you have to change with it. Harriet and her team stay on top of the latest laws, trends, and technology in Vallarta and internationally, in order to provide their clients with the best possible experience, in as transparent a process as possible.
Perhaps a slightly less obvious trick up her sleeve is her background in teaching. She has never forgotten her art teacher days, and uses those skills – listening, clarifying, and facilitating – every day. Teachers work tirelessly to see another person really blossom and flourish in a new setting, and it’s no different for Cochran.
To Harriet, the property sale is just the beginning of her process. There’s a lot of maintenance and follow-through required to support the client and keep the whole thing from unraveling and her team considers this stage to be essential for success.
To do all this while upholding the highest standards of ethics
is no easy task, but for Cochran it’s the only way to operate.
Harriet loves her adopted city. It’s worth picking her brain about the great restaurants and art in Vallarta, provided you have enough time to listen to her long list.
She’s a huge fan of the various film series shown each year, the art walk (she has “way too many” collections of Mexican and African art of her own), and the great performances in Vallarta’s theaters.
It’s not at all uncommon to find her at Page in the Sun: “I call it my second office!”
She has always been appreciative of the natural beauty and biodiversity of the Bay area. If there’s one piece of advice she could give to visitors and new residents, it would be to get out on the water to not only experience the breathtaking wildlife, but also the calming and centering effects of the Bay itself.
She supports many local charities – Corazon de Ninos, the SPCA and other animal organizations, scholarship programs for local children… really anything that benefits animals or children.
“There’s so much you can do,” she says, “and it never ends.” She has helped humanely trap feral cats to be neutered and released, and she keeps leashes, towels, water, and pet food in her car at all times, just in case she comes across a dog or cat in need.
This combination of decades of expertise, interest in art and culture, aptitude for helping others, and genuine love for Vallarta is what makes Harriet and Cochran Real Estate an invaluable resource for anyone thinking of relocating to the Banderas Bay area.
To date, Harriet has helped thousands of people find their perfect piece of paradise, and she has no plans to quit anytime soon.
She loves what she does: “It’s very satisfying to help someone start that next chapter,” she says, “and to know that I was the one to get them there.”
Because Expertise, Experience & Integrity Matters