Homegrown podcast: Meet Karla Thomas, Managing Broker of Urb & Burb
Step 2 to homeownership: Find a real estate agent who understands your taste
I was a handful. I’m not even sure if I would’ve quit myself if I was my own real estate agent: “Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.” I first heard this quote from Afroflow, an Ethiopian music group, but Neil Gaiman probably deserves the credit. But Karla Thomas, managing broker of Urb & Burb, successfully balanced my level of crazy and helped me buy a condominium. I knew that when I saw the place I wanted, it would look like “me.” I don’t know how to describe this. But everyone who enters my home now says it without me saying it, “This looks like you.”
Click here to listen to Episode 2 of “Homegrown: An Ode to Sugarbowl Sam
There’s something nerve-wracking about finding a home that you want to live in — permanently. It’s one thing to find a place that’ll do for the length of a leasing agreement. It’s another to agree to a six-digit number and take on all the responsibilities of appliances, plumbing, painting and homeowners insurance. I wanted to own a dog, to live near public transportation and to be as close as possible to a lakefront.
I had ideas — and some of those were deal-breakers. I needed to work with a real estate agent who understood them. I went straight down the line of real estate agents on a Google search and just started clicking around on everyone. Karla Thomas was one of the first five who I reached out to, out of at least 30. There was no science to my search. I approached it the way you look up recipes and just lucked out. But there is a definite science to being an agent. They have to be matchmakers for their clients. Except instead of people-to-people, they have to figure out the compatibility level for the homebuyer and the home — and know when they’re going to get an immediate “no,” a “meh,” a “maybe” or a “I want to put my earnest money down now!”
And boy, did we have a comedic time of my search. There was the sunflower seed condo, the nightmare condo with 11 inspection problems, the 25-day wait on a homeowners association (HOA) reserve decision and the HOA with no reserves at all, the lady who rear-ended her car on our way to a location, the “game of chicken” between the closing officer and my mortgage company on closing day, and my “crush” on the inspector (who reminded me so much of my grandfather).
But after four choices — two of which flopped — I finally chose the place that had been at the top of my Excel spreadsheet (I told you I was a handful). The day I closed on my home, she trotted into the closing office with a gift box. I suspected I knew what was inside. After all, she was a “matchmaker” and already knew what I liked. I could smell it before I opened it, and when I peered inside, I smiled when I saw the candle. A trait from my maternal grandmother, not a day goes by that I don’t light incense or a candle — yet another way to light a room without turning on the electricity. I don’t remember when I told her this or even why, but for whatever reason, she glued that into her memory bank. That added touch mattered.
So it made absolute sense that she would be one of my first guests on the podcast “Homegrown: An Ode to Sugarbowl Sam.” Please check out my interview with Karla Thomas for a conversation about what it’s like to go from an engineer to real estate specialist, the housing market after coronavirus and social isolation scares, what first-time homebuyers need to know in the planning stages, why the history of discrimination in America has led to such a hesitation in homeownership for black folks, and why being Trinidadian and loving a good deal made her even more interested in the real estate market.
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