I purchased my first home, on the west side of Vicksburg, Miss., in 1987 when I was 23 years old. After about a year, I told my husband we should see about buying another house down the street. No one was living there, and the yard was so overgrown you could barely see the house. I contacted a real estate agent and told him I wanted to offer $3,500. He didn’t want to put in my offer because he thought it was too low, but after some convincing, he submitted my offer and the owners accepted. It became my first investment property. That’s when I decided to take a real estate class at a local junior college. I thought that if I’m going to be buying real estate, I need to know how to advocate for myself. From there, I started buying single-family homes and renting them out and then expanded to commercial properties. More than 20 years later, after I had my three children, I found a commercial property I wanted to purchase. However, I couldn’t find an agent who would help me the way I wanted to be helped. They weren’t looking out for my best interests. So in 2011, I decided to take more real estate classes and get my license. It took me 25 years to figure out my calling, but once I became a real estate agent, I realized that’s what I was meant to do all along.
Helping an Underserved Niche
The majority of clients who ask for my help are purchasing in the $100,000 to $125,000 price range. Not everyone is going to fit the typical buyer profile, but I generally pick clients whom I know I can help get somewhere. I show people how to budget and how to clear up things on their credit. I have stacks and stacks of consultations I’ve done with clients to put them on the right track toward purchasing a home. To see them go from a credit score of 400 to 700 and buy their first house makes me grateful. I’ve helped both younger people and older people who’ve never owned a house in their life—some in their 60s and 70s who didn’t think they could do it. I love what I do, and people know I care about them. I fuss at them when they’re not doing something they’re supposed to, like putting money in a bank account instead of a box in their bedroom.
A Recipe for Confidence
One client told me he didn’t have any credit, but he was interested in buying a house. I was the first agent who agreed to help him. I found that he paid his utility bills, rent, DirecTV, and gym membership on time, and he had saved money. He qualified to buy a house because the bank was able to see his payment history.
A lot of my clients grew up in black communities and didn’t have houses of their own. No one ever sat down to look at their credit and how they’re paying their bills—or explained that they should keep their credit utilization down. I teach a Vicksburg community class every two to three months about what people need to know to buy a home. I tell them not to give up. If they want it, I want it for them.
I worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 20 years, first as a payroll clerk, then as a supply technician in logistics, before I took early retirement in 2004. After I got my license, I was a Coldwell Banker agent until I started my brokerage a year ago. I’m an entrepreneur, so I knew becoming a broker-owner would eventually happen. I also own a banquet facility for weddings, which was the property I was trying to buy before I got licensed. I already owned the building, so I just fixed it up and now we’re booming. The only prospecting I do is on Facebook; otherwise all my business is word of mouth.
I’m blessed. My mother, Martha Lewis, taught me that if you work hard, pay all your bills, and keep your credit straight, you can get anything you want. I’ve been a top producer in my market for four years. I was REALTOR® Associate of the Year in 2016, and I’m a Diamond Humanitarian Award recipient due to my work with clients who need grants. I understand grant programs and what it takes for people to qualify, whether it’s related to a disability or an other scenario. Everybody deserves a home. Both awards were presented to me by the Vicksburg-Warren County Board of REALTORS®.
Steeped in Gratitude
I’m grateful for my clients, agents, and fellow REALTORS®. I believe you should never mistreat anyone, because you never know what they’re going through. I lost my brother in January 2016. He went to the hospital with some breathing problems and went into cardiac arrest. He ended up on life support, then passed away after 41 days. After he passed, I created the Grant Jones Jr. scholarship in his honor. He served in the Army, so the award is a $500 college scholarship each year to a local ROTC student who’s shown leadership, academic achievement, and dedication to their education.
Recently, I took my first vacation to Walt Disney World with my entire family, including my two grandkids. Being able to do that filled me with gratitude because life is short.