Finding Your Place In the Community: An Interview with Real Estate Agent Lizz Baxter

I met Lizz 3 years ago at a Speakeasy function. Speakeasy is a diverse group of Charlotte women who meet once a month to promote a charity and each other. Yet, I didn’t get to really know Lizz until a year ago when I ran into her in my Cherry neighborhood. Turns out we only live a few blocks away from each other. We met weekly that summer to write on Monday mornings and quickly developed a friendship. I have found that there are always more layers to her story and new ways that she inspires me each time we meet. So now I want to share the treasure of Lizz Baxter with you all.

Lizz, you have been through many transitions in life. Can you tell a little bit about your background growing up and your time in the military? What are some of the best coping skills that you have developed along the way?

I had a unique upbringing for a small town Nebraska girl. I am the granddaughter of migrant farm workers on my mother’s side and Rotarian world travelers on my father’s side. I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. I have always been an “old soul”. From a young age I was encouraged to follow my interests, be a life learner, and journal about my experiences.

I was a hard worker and good student. In middle school, I became a member of a blended family. I did not adjust well and quickly became a “troubled teen” but still excelled in school. At age 17, I graduated early and left home for the Army.

My goals were bigger than my small town and I wanted an all expense paid ticket out. I excelled in bootcamp and was toughened up from spending summers mowing lawns with my grandfather. A few months into my Army career, our country was shocked by an unprecedented attack on US soil on 9/11. My unit was located the closest to the middle east. In 2003, we were the 2nd unit to be deployed to Iraq from Germany, I packed 2 large bags and a trunk filled with the next 6 months of supplies needed to survive in the desert. After this deployment I knew the Army was not in my future. I finished my 3 year military contract to start college while my comrades finished their tour.

Leaving home at an early age was difficult. I missed out on a lot of “normal” activities like prom, senior summer, college orientation.

I had always been an outsider but it was worse after my return home. I coped by finding niche activities and environments where I could feel welcome. Luckily, I found yoga and dance.

I have always been shy and don’t mind being alone. Eventually I learned I needed more friends. I found movement in my own space helped me release anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress so I was open to meet others. Eventually, I made a few lifetime friends and always found these communities to be open and welcoming. Now wherever I travel or move I find the nearest yoga studio to find my people. I now share yoga with fellow veterans to help them find a place to reduce pain and stress and hopefully meet like minded people.

I love that you are an active member in your community. What inspires you to get involved? What are some baby steps that you would recommend to people to help build their/our community?

My mother taught me to volunteer. We didn’t have much when I was young. I think it was her way of giving when she didn’t have anything more than her time to give. Volunteering and church gave us opportunities that we couldn’t have otherwise afforded because we exchanged time and work for payment. It helped my mother and I through difficult times. Community support is priceless, because it fills the gaps for those that don’t have family or government support.

There are three steps to start and three to finish.

First, search inside yourself and find a cause that matches your experience, interests, and needs.

Second, research organizations that support and fill gaps for you and your people. Sometimes it means creating your own.

Last, get involved. Give time if you don’t have the funds. Give supplies and funds if you don’t have the time. Start something. Build a team. Giving brings people together and makes a large impact, lifts spirits, and creates hope.

To finish you must show up, stay involved, and listen.

Try not to show up and save the day, instead remember that community change and support takes years and may never be solved. Continued support is what keeps things going. Listen to the needs of those around you, they may be different than you intended and will change over time.

How did you get into Real Estate? What makes you passionate about it?

I was introduced to real estate investing by my grandfather and step-father in high school. They wanted to build wealth to give to the next generation. I watched and learned. I helped clean up after renters moved out and earned extra cash for painting and small fix up jobs.

After I arrived home from the military in my early twenties, I spent my deployment money on a down payment for my first home. It was a duplex. I lived on one side and rented the other. My tenant paid my mortgage while I studied abroad and completed college. Fast forward a few years to my move to Charlotte, I bought my second home in a neighborhood that was quickly appreciating. It was a fixer upper and after a few years I decided to sell. Coincidentally, this was during a time when I was forced into a career change. I saw great earning potential in real estate and decided to give it a go. I interviewed my realtor to learn her experience, signed up for classes and passed the test the day after I lost my job. I became a full time real estate agent and rest is history.

What’s your advice for those who want to start a new career?

I have tried a little bit of everything in my working years and quickly learned what I didn’t want to do. Originally, I set out on a career path because I wanted to make a difference so I chose non-profit work. After some years I learned that I could make a difference in other ways. I learned that I wasn’t using my strengths. I was forcing myself into a role that I thought I should be doing and worried that I had come too far to start over.

The most freeing and impactful tool I have learned is to “pivot”. To use the experiences and skills I had learned in other careers and activities and apply them to a new role. Mine was to start my own business. It was terrifying. As time went on, I realized I had the skills and drive. Once I filled the gaps I was unstoppable. This can apply to all career changes and is absolutely essential. Especially in uncertain times as these.

Many are looking to relocate to a neighborhood or community that feels like the right fit for them.  Through your professional and personal experience, what factors do you think people should consider when looking to rent or buy a house in a neighborhood? How can they find the right fit?  

Buying a house and relocating can be an emotional experience. Especially, if they are required at the same time! Be prepared to ask yourself a lot of questions about how you like to live your everyday life. Preparation and a solid plan will help to ease some worries. A “Boots on the ground” professional will help with research and recommendations. Finding a community quickly will be important.

Think of your favorite activities outside of your daily work experience and make a list of your must haves as well as your deal breakers.

Get involved with local organizations to determine the right fit for your new location. (Bike groups, yoga, church, meet ups, books clubs, volunteer organizations, veteran groups, etc.) 

In my experience there are three themes that arise time and again with moving across town or across the country. 
1. How close or far do you want to be from your people? Community is the foundation of the human experience and if you feel isolated or cramped. You may experience buyer’s remorse. 
2. Is the home or area at least 85% of your wants and needs? Even people that custom build their homes have a few things that they would change in their home or area. Give yourself a buffer and some wiggle room from 100% by allowing for small changes. 
3. Plan for your life now versus a focus too far into the future. Most American families move every 7 years or less. Ask yourself if you are moving into a home, area, or state that fits your life now. Many people buy homes based on a future that hasn’t happened yet. Life changes and there is always time to adjust in the future. 

About the Author: Julie Glaser is a healer who creates sacred spaces for people to share, release, and grow. She’s in the habit of being in awe and wonder and writes to share her own experiences and curiosities with other inquisitive souls in the process of transforming.

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