Real estate has helped transform the lives of several PAR members, who shared their stories to mark February’s Black History Month.
Tri-County Suburban Realtors® member Michael Howell has overcome some challenges in his past to become a successful real estate broker. Howell has been in real estate for 22 years, earning his broker license in 2016.
“I dropped out of high school and was later arrested,” Howell said. “I wanted to turn my life around, so I went to barber school and opened my own business for several years. I eventually wanted to buy my own building and worked with Lou Muscella, who later became my business partner. That interaction piqued my interest and that’s when I decided to get my real estate license.”
“Being a Realtor® has changed my life from an income perspective, but I also realized there are so many different ways to earn money in real estate,” he said. “The more you learn, the more you earn. And I realized that I was now able to provide opportunities for other people to be successful and to build wealth by owning property.”
Howell said his family was the first Black family to purchase a home in their neighborhood in the late 1970s. “No one in my father’s family had ever owned a house before that, but I realized what a difference that was for me and my brother,” he said.
Today, Howell and his wife Lori, as well as their sons, Mike and Marcus work in real estate together.
He does more teaching, training and coaching now, for both agents and consumers. One class he teaches is called Everybody at the Table, which focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion. He also has a coaching company that focuses on leadership, business building, entrepreneurship and building generational wealth through real estate.
Greater Harrisburg Association member Tracee Carter has been a Realtor® for 17 years. She became interested in a real estate career while watching female characters on TV who were investing in commercial properties.
“I was always interested in real estate, working for myself and building communities,” Carter said. “I’m a firm believer that you create wealth through owning real estate. I love the idea of that for any and every community.”
Carter, who earned a degree in finance at Clarion University, and her husband owned several rental properties when her children were young.
“When I stopped working, we still had income coming in because of our investment properties,” she said. “And over time, our investments gave us freedom and afforded us the ability to take vacations and provide opportunities for our children. We were also able to give to community charities.”
In addition, she began noticing that many of their tenants were qualified to own a property, but they never thought about homeownership. “It’s not that hard to buy a property, but so many people think it is. They never considered it a possibility,” she added. “I’ve made it a mission to educate the underserved communities to help them understand that owning a home is possible and it builds wealth. Working in real estate allows you to help others and make a difference.”
Fontineese Green has had similar experiences in her real estate career. Green served as the first Black female president of the Greater Mercer County Association of Realtors® in 2021 and 2022.
“I started in real estate as a career, but it quickly became a passion,” she said. “I fell in love with who I was selling homes too. I’m helping people who are first-generation homeowners.”
“Many in the Black and brown communities never talked about owning a home. It wasn’t discussed,” she added. “We need to be patient and explain homeownership to people who haven’t experienced it in their families before, because many people don’t think they can purchase a home because they haven’t seen it before.”
Green works to recruit more diversity into the industry. “We need people of color in lending, appraisals, home inspectors and as real estate agents,” she said.
She also sees local associations working with local municipalities as a positive influence. “As president of my local association, I was introduced to the mayor, city manager and others and I wanted to work with them to see how we can further support the community. And we continue to talk about opportunities and creating events that will bring the Black and brown communities together so they can learn more about the benefits of owning real estate.”