Brenda Love is a popular REALTOR® in Vicksburg, Miss., but not because, as she says, she can sell a house faster than you can fry an egg.
No, Love does much more than sell houses. In Vicksburg, and the surrounding communities, Brenda is a life saver. She helps anyone and everyone, regardless of their financial situation, be able to find a home they can own.
“Everyone has a right to own a home,” she said. “Even those people who lenders will shy away from, I will work to get them the money they need so they can buy that home.”
Love considers herself a real estate advisor and consultant. When potential clients come to her, she does a detailed buyer consultation session and she works with them to fix their credit and get their score to a place where they can secure a loan.
“A lot of people would shy away from these folks, but not me,” Love said. “I’ll talk to them, advise them, check in with them and work with them for months, even more than a year before we even look at buying a home. I want to help them do the things they need to do to fix their credit so that they can buy a home and become a homeowner in Mississippi.”
And she does it all by word of mouth. She does not pay for online leads or spend money marketing her agency like most other brokers do. Nope. Love believes in a personal touch – help one person who never thought they could buy a home, and they’ll tell five friends, who will tell their five friends each, and the Brenda Love real estate assistance tree grows many roots.
And she helps everyone – people with no credit or bad credit. She helps them establish lines of credit and teach them how to borrow and pay it back to improve their credit. This is what makes her happy.
“Seeing the look on their face when they realize they can now get the money they need for a down payment is what warms my heart,” she said. “I stay in touch with my clients after the fact too. I want to be sure they are making their payments and doing what they have to do to be a homeowner.”
Homeowner At 23-Years-Old
It reminded Love of what she endured as a young woman in Vicksburg. She was only 23 years old when she purchased her first home. She and her husband Jacob were working for the Corps of Engineers at the time, and they were doing seasonal work on the Mississippi River.
Since the work was seasonal, they also used to collect unemployment checks. They saved their unemployment money to buy their first home. In the process, Love started taking real estate licensing classes in 1990 – not because she wanted to get a license. Heck no. She never showed up for the licensing test. Nope, she just wanted to learn more about investment properties and what went into the purchase of them. It was something she and her husband started doing around town – buying properties and renting them out as landlords.
That’s when she realized this community needed help.
There were good people out there in Vicksburg. Hard-working families who banks wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole if approached for a loan. These folks were living paycheck-to-paycheck renting properties rather than owning them. It was a vicious cycle, and one Love decided she wanted to fix.
So, she went back to the licensing class in 2002, and this time she took the test – and passed.
A Labor of Love
She’s been helping the people of Vicksburg ever since. She focuses her efforts on the underprivileged, the poor. The uneducated and uninformed. It’s a segment of the population too often forgotten by the hustle and bustle of everyday America.
But it’s a labor of love, so to speak, for Vicksburg’s most popular REALTOR®.
“I like to take the underdog and show them how to win,” Love said. “And it doesn’t matter how young or how old. [Earlier this year] I helped a 72-year-old woman buy a home for the first time in her life.”
But Love also knows that in the deep south, there are still roadblocks to traverse – some that aren’t as prevalent in other parts of the country. Most of those hurdles have to do with lenders being unwilling to work with people who might not have the best credit – or any credit for that matter, but Love indicated there are still some local lenders who might be letting a level of discrimination factor into their decisions to deny loans.
“I know the people I can go to and who not to go to,” Love said.
But even more daunting in Mississippi are the attempts to scare minorities from purchasing properties.
Which reminded Love of an incident back in May.
“There was this property for sale, and I had an African-American woman who wanted to buy it and convert it into a church,” Love said. Everything was moving along fine, but then there was some talk in the community about not wanting to have this church come into the area. That’s when I knew something wasn’t right.”
The whispers among some whites in the neighborhood was that they didn’t want a black church in their community.
“We were supposed to go to closing on the Friday before Memorial Day,” Love said. Then, all of the sudden, the closing was cancelled. When I asked why, I was sent a copy of the deed and there was a covenant written in there that under no circumstances was this property to be sold to a black person or family. Of course, those covenants aren’t legal, but by sending that to me to share with the buyer, that was a blatant attempt to scare her and to get her to change her mind about buying the property.”
The sale eventually went forth a couple weeks later. The covenant was removed from the deed, and the buyer became the new owner of the property. But Love said the buyer decided not to make it a church.
“She got the feeling that it was probably not the best place for it at this time,” Love said.
Challenges Continue Across the State
Brenda is not alone in Mississippi, where the challenges that the Fair Housing Act was supposed to eradicate when it was signed 50 years ago still exist today.
“As we reflect on the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act in Mississippi, we have a story to tell that is uniquely ours and that we resolutely own,” said Karen Glass, 2018 President of the Mississippi REALTORS®. “At Mississippi REALTORS®, we do not hide from the pain of the events that sparked the Civil Rights movement. We embrace our history and offer a shared bond and commitment to help ensure equal housing opportunity for all Mississippians.
“Throughout the state, we pride ourselves on our servant leadership and hearts as property professionals but also community champions. As we celebrate our fair housing commitment all year long, Mississippi REALTORS® Diversity Task Force is planning a portfolio of benefits, services, and education outreach to affirm what we know is true. That in Mississippi, all are welcome and deserve the highest opportunity to call Mississippi home.”
Delivering that message is of the utmost importance in Mississippi for the REALTORS®, which is why their Fair Housing Task Force is so active all-year long.
The Fair Housing Task Force
“Diversity in Mississippi to a REALTOR® is a pretty complex issue because Mississippi is not a normal place,” said Chris Wilson, a REALTOR® and member of the task force. “It has a pretty painful history, but it was true. My generation came of age in the 1960s and civil rights was the most pressing thing this side of war. We were sure we were going to change the way we face civil rights. President Kennedy and President Johnson made significant changes, but we still have to educate people in Mississippi and that starts with our own members.”
Wilson is one of nine members on the task force. He said of the nine, seven are millennials. “It’s really wonderful to see colleagues who have a completely different perspective at their age than most people my age did when we were that young,” Wilson said. “They grew up accepting diversity. But we also have to show that to our members. We need to have diversity not only in the numbers in our membership, here in Mississippi, but diversity in leadership too.
“And not just making it a black and white thing either. We want Russian immigrants, [Middle Eastern non-Christians] and members in the LGBT community to be an equal part of our association. That’s the only way to make sure fair housing stays in our conscience.”
It’s why fair housing is an ongoing priority for the Mississippi REALTORS®. They earned a diversity grant from the National Association of REALTORS® and created a nearly five-minute video that drives home the importance of fair housing in Mississippi. That video is prominently displayed on their home page, has been shared on social media and has been sent to several Mississippi civic organizations.
Wilson said that his best REALTOR® buddy today is an African-American woman.
“We both grew up here and she never went to school with a white person and I never went to school with a black person and we’re good friends today,” he said. “We sit around and say, wouldn’t it have been great if we could have been just as good friends back then too.”
For more on Brenda Love and other Mississippi REALTORS® championing fair housing in their community, be sure to check out this back issue of the Real Estate Leader, which had an entire section dedicated to fair housing in Mississippi.