Real estate group strives to make home ownership a reality for people of color

It's been said doors will open to those bold enough to knock. Which might be why Minneapolis realtor Julia Israel is so fearless.

"If you are fully educated on how this works [it] removes the fear," she said.

Her real estate philosophy: It's not about what you have, it's about what you know.

"We want to help educate people on how to help get their kids through college using real estate as a tool and using home ownership as a tool to stabilize our communities," she said. 

Licensed at 18 years old and a first time home buyer at 19, Julia has been around the block long enough to know the struggles of buying and selling--especially for people of color.

When you compare the Twin Cities to the largest metro areas in America, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area has the highest white to black home ownership gap. Ten times higher than Tampa, for example.

"If someone keeps telling you you don't have this you don't have that, you can't attain this and it's not true," Israel said. "Many of us do have. Many of us are buying investment properties, we're real estate professionals, we're mortgage professionals, financial advisors."

Enter the changing face of Twin Cities real estate: A group of female, African-American real estate professionals that are making their mark.

"In an industry that's typically a male dominant or a white dominant industry, we come together to make sure we are successful in these careers," Israel said.

They're called the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, or NAREB. It's the oldest minority association in the country, started more than 60 years ago to promote fair housing. Minnesota just got its own chapter last year.

Sharmaine Russell helped bring NAREB to the Twin Cities and is one of its driving forces. She also brings serious credibility to the table, having started from nothing herself. 

"It takes a lot of commitment to yourself to your family," she said. "When I purchased my first home I was a single parent of two children. I sacrificed. There were no more Jordans there were no more fancy clothes and I explained that to my children."

In just the couple of days Fox 9 shadowed them, we saw these women saturate the community.

"Having events like this to come out and listen to the professionals explain what it is I need to do step by step and if I do that coupled with my own knowledge and expertise.. voila," Kecia Hayslet said. "We can make this thing happen."

Israel said the group has made a strong impression on kids in the area.

"[They] actually call us for an internship," she said. "[They] didn't think it was even something that would even be an opportunity for [them] because [they] don't see people that look like them."

And sometimes that's all it takes. Seeing someone else knock first, with no fear.