REALTOR® PROfiles | Winter 2021

profiles - web

African American woman wearing a black leather jacket and scarf.

“It’s not about tolerating, but rather accepting, appreciating, and moving from prejudging or prejudice to curiosity...”

When Margo Wheeler started her real estate career in 1993, she brought with her 20 years of military experience. Having advanced to the position of First Sergeant during that time, Wheeler knew full well what it means to take care of soldiers and their families. She also knew that she wanted her second career to be one that wasn’t restricted to certain hours, and where she should set and achieve her own financial goals.

“Real estate was ideal because I had a sphere of influence that included many military families,” says Wheeler. “When I went through the experience of purchasing my own home here, I knew real estate was something that I really wanted to do.”

A John L. Scott broker since 2016, Wheeler says the company has taken an active role in helping to support a more diverse, inclusive industry. For example, she says the company offers the At Home with Diversity course to brokers, and at no cost. “Lennox Scott put a phenomenal diversity initiative in place,” says Wheeler. “As a result, diversity, equity, and inclusion are now hallmarks of what John L. Scott Real estate is all about.”

A military relocation specialist who holds NAR’s MRP designation, Wheeler says her strong suit is working with both active duty and retired military members. A past national president of the Women’s Council of REALTORS®, she gets quite a few referrals from other agents—an honor that she doesn’t take lightly. “Anytime you refer your son, daughter, or other family member to a broker or agent,” says Wheeler, “it's because you know they’re going to be taken care of.”

Having served on NAR’s Diversity Committee; served and chaired WR’s Diversity Committee; and actively involved with the Tacoma-Pierce County Association Diversity Committee, Wheeler also teaches NAR’s At Home with Diversity course. For her, diversity means acknowledging, accepting, and respecting one another as unique individuals, regardless of their customs, qualities, or traditions.

“It’s not about tolerating, but rather accepting, appreciating, and moving from prejudging or prejudice to curiosity,” says Wheeler, who adds that the industry is making progress in this direction, but that there is still room to grow. “NAR is doing a better job than it has in the past. We’re on a path now where we can make a difference.”

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“We’re having some hard conversations in real estate about the direction that the industry needs to go in, and how there has to be action—not just conversations.”

Blessed to have a mother who worked in human resources and who was also a member of the Hispanic Women’s Council in Albuquerque, Adan Trotter says he grew up understanding his own culture and that of those around him. After working for his father’s real estate company in Central America, and then working in the Washington tech sector (upon returning to the U.S.), Trotter joined Marcus & Millichap’s multifamily brokerage.

Today, he’s a broker and team leader with Coldwell Banker Bain, where he’s spent the last five years of his career. “I was looking for a very collaborative, nurturing space because though I had a real estate background, I didn't know the residential side of things,” says Trotter, who formed his team in 2018. Focusing on Kirkland’s east side, Trotter enjoys working with a wide range of buyers and sellers. Having taken NAR’s At Home with Diversity program plus company-run diversity training classes, he says he likes how vocal the industry has become about diversity and inclusion.

“They’re being very ‘real’ in these classes and I appreciate that, having come from a corporate background where they tend to shy away from that,” says Trotter. “We’re having some hard conversations in real estate about the direction that the industry needs to go in, and how there has to be action—not just conversations.”

Looking ahead, Trotter says he’d like to help some of the region’s commercial property owners fill the gaps left behind by businesses that closed their doors in 2020 due to the pandemic. “People are hurting right now, but with the vaccine coming out and with new talks of SBA loans, there will be an opportunity for people who are willing to take a gamble on themselves,” says Trotter, “and start a fresh business out on the east side.”

Red/Brown haired woman with glasses wearing a blue jacket and a gray pattern scarf

“Change the narrative both within and outside of the real estate industry.

The real estate market that Sandy McKenzie started out in doesn’t look much like the one she’s working in today. She got licensed in 2010, when Washington and much of the nation was in the midst of an economic recession and housing market decline. A stay-at-home mom who had been out of the workforce for seven years, McKenzie was eager to start a career that would allow her to be home for her children at the end of the school day.

“I also like real estate because you get out of it what you put into it,” says McKenzie, whose initial foray into the industry happened at a time when inventory was plentiful and buyers were hard to come by. Fast-forward to 2021, and she says it’s the exact opposite. “We can’t get houses on the market fast enough,” she says. “And when they do hit the market, they don’t stick around for long.”

Over time, McKenzie says she’s carved out a niche for herself by working with first-time homebuyers and seniors, with both groups facing their own set of unique real estate challenges. As WR's 2020 Diversity Chair, she says diversity starts with realizing that we’re not all cut from the same cloth, and that we haven’t all had the same experiences.

“In this position, the one thing that I'm really hoping to do is to change the narrative around diversity,” says McKenzie, who sees systemic racism, implicit bias, and lack of equity as three of the particularly onerous issues that professionals and individuals face on a daily basis. “We have the opportunity to begin tackling and eliminating those problems,” says McKenzie, who is pleased with WR’s progress on the diversity front over the last 18 months. “That's how I want to change the focus this year.”

Rather than focusing on the negative, McKenzie says she prefers to tackle these issues from a positive perspective, in hopes that it can help to change the narrative both within and outside of the real estate industry. “If we attack this from a positive perspective and actually address the issues and problems while viewing diversity as an opportunity,” she says, “I think we can make some very good headway.”

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