Metro real estate agents elect their first black president

Denise Mazone
Courtesy of John F. Walsh, Jr.

Reform real estate misdeeds

For nearly 30 years, Denise Mazone has dedicated her life and career to helping Minnesota residents realize the value of home ownership. Hailing from Minneapolis, Mazone’s passion is finding ways to bring more diversity to the local and national real estate narrative.

Recently named president of Minneapolis Area Realtors (MAR), Mazone represents the first black person to hold the highest office in the organization’s 135-year history.

MSR had the opportunity to sit down with Mazone (DM) to understand her perspective on the pain points in the industry and the direction she is taking to improve diversity, equity and inclusion .

MSR: What got you on the path to real estate?

DM: I grew up in South Minneapolis, graduated from Central High School and graduated from the University of Minnesota. After spending a few years in California, I came back to Minnesota and got my own real estate license.

I started calling everyone in my neighborhood that I grew up with, encouraging them to consider buying a house. I now have my own business, Mazone Real Estate Group.

MSR: What sets you apart from other real estate agents in the region?

DM: Although I help all types of customers, I like to focus on first-time buyers, especially those with resources or credit issues. I partner with nonprofit organizations like PPL, which help homebuyers build credit and create long-term stability.

Many people don’t realize these services are available, so I help them understand that down payment assistance money is at their fingertips. A client of mine moved into a home for less than $14, so the days of 10% or 20% down payment are no longer true. Home ownership is for everyone, and it is accessible.

MSR: As the new president of Minneapolis Area Realtors, where will you focus?

DM: I believe in diversity, equity and inclusion, so I will ensure this is a mainstay every step of the way, including our staff. I need someone to follow me like the young man on our board who is also African American.

We all stand on someone’s shoulders, and I want it to continue rather than let it fade. Additionally, over the next three years, we will be working on strategic planning and member engagement, as we have nearly 10,000 real estate agents in the metropolitan area we serve.

MSR: The ownership gap between blacks and whites in Minnesota is the largest in the country. Where do you see progress, if any?

DM: The situation is getting worse and the gap is widening. We owned more houses 20 or 30 years ago than we do now, and it’s so unnecessary. But we have to believe in the process, you know, and strive to get loans.

Sometimes I literally hold people’s hands and just ask them to go ahead. And when we come to closing day, they are so overwhelmed with tears of joy. That says a lot about me.

MSR: What steps has the real estate industry taken to address racial inequality?

DM: Once again, all eyes are on the industry. Everyone knows we have all these different issues that started from the government all the way through so we need to make sure we speak up and follow laws like the Fair Housing Act and the Community Reinvestment Act .

Two years ago, the National Association of Realtors issued a formal apology for all wrongdoing such as redlining and race pacts and has since launched new initiatives to address housing discrimination.

At the state level, we were able to make more room on the board for diversity. We have more voices at the table from every affinity group, including LGBTQ+, Black, Asian Pacific, and Hispanic realtors.

I think we are on the right track and doing a fantastic job. Can we do better? Still.

MSR: How does it feel to serve multiple generations of families, helping them build wealth through home ownership?

DM: After 29 years in the business, I still feel like that’s exactly what I’m supposed to do. I like to serve everyone, and that’s really where my heart is. Everyone deserves to own their own home, that comfortable and pleasant place to stay where they feel safe. And guess what? Your communities are also safer.

To learn more about Mazone Real Estate Group, please visit mazonerealestategroup.com.

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