House Into 'Home'

LGBT Realtors Reflect On What It Means To Make A Home

BY EMELL DERRA ADOLPHUS

While some houses may be sold on features alone (pool, garage, backyard), it takes a realtor to sell a "home," says Christopher Ayers of Shain Park Realtors in Birmingham.

"A house is a place people purchase when they want to invest for their future. A home is a place the people make once they start their lives," says Ayers, 32. "The 'home' is the place they build together and use to start the next chapter."

The realtor's job responsibility, he explains, is to help people see that next chapter. And part of that is clearing the clutter so the buyer, or seller, can dream.

"Each situation is a little different," Ayers says, in terms of staging a home to be viewed. "If it is one of my listings and I can get in ahead of the showing, I will get to the home earlier to prepare. I will then open all the blinds and window treatments, turn on all lights, light candles and air out the home. Homes show best when they are bright and airy."

Ayers has been a realtor for 13 years, but he explains his talent for making people feel at home came at an early age.

"I've known since I was 10 years old I wanted to be in real estate," he says. "When I was a child my parents had our family home for sale. An agent scheduled an appointment to show our home. The agent didn't show up, but their client did show up. I decided to let them in and give them a tour of our house. They ended up (buying) our home!"

The relationship between realtor and client can become very personal, explains Ayers, with the realtor acting as a trusted source in helping them find the perfect space. So it's always important as a realtor to quickly learn what people want in a home: "Open floor plan with entertaining space, three bedrooms, two baths, basement, garage and big backyard." And they don't want "oversized homes," he says. "People are looking for much more manageable homes."

An added advantage to being an LGBT-friendly realtor, he says, is to be someone other LGBT clients can relate to on a personal level.

"Being an openly gay man and realtor, I believe it's truly important to be in a personal and business relationship with someone that can relate to all things a person may know, feel or think about while making the largest purchase in a person's lifetime," says Ayers.

"The most rewarding aspect of my job as a realtor is seeing the smiles on my clients' faces and knowing that I helped them with probably one of the biggest decisions that they'll ever have to make in their entire lives," says Jim Powell of Powell Real-Eastate in Ferndale. "That's the reason why I wake up every morning."

Helping people make good decisions started at an early age, Powell explains.

"Back when I was a kid, I'd play Monopoly by myself. I'd set up four players and go about the table and make the best decision for that player. I could never understand why I loved that game so much when I was a kid. I just knew I did. Now as an adult, it makes perfect sense to me."

And to Powell, home starts with the house's bones.

"Good 'bones,' making sure that the structure is safe, updating electrical and plumbing, etc. Then of course, adding your own touches (like) paint, flooring, decorating," he says.

The healthiness of a home's bones could be the difference between a client falling in love or feeling heartbreak, says James Cristbrook of Shain Park Realtors.

"One of the most difficult things that a realtor must do is separate a buyer's emotion from his or her financial decision making," says Cristbrook, 52, explaining that this sometimes includes purchasing a home that turns out to be a money pit. "The 'perfect' home is a balanced combination of lifestyle needs, wants and desires and a sound financial investment."

To meet this need, it is important to find a realtor you can trust says Cristbrook.

"Buyers and sellers should be confident that their best interests are being represented and that their realtor is competent and qualified," he says. "The purchase and sale of real estate is almost always the most expensive item an individual will ever buy or sell. Representation should reflect the client's own ideals and lifestyle in order to best serve their needs."

And when you find the right realtor to find you the right home, the person can feel like your hero.

"My son once told me when he was about 8 years old that he thought I was a hero because I helped people find a warm, happy place to live that would shelter them from the rain and cold. And when they move into that home, they create wonderful memories, celebrate holidays, raise their families, share meals and sleep safely," says Cristbrook. "That's a pretty cool thing to be able to accomplish for the hundreds of people I have represented. Who wouldn't love doing all of that?"


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