Reforming real estate’s wrongdoing
For nearly 30 years, Denise Mazone has dedicated her life and career to helping Minnesota residents realize the value of homeownership. A Minneapolis native, Mazone’s passion is finding avenues to bring more diversity into the local and national real estate narrative.
Recently named president of Minneapolis Area Realtors (MAR), Mazone represents the first Black person to hold the top position in the organization’s 135-year history.
The MSR had an opportunity to sit down with Mazone (DM) to understand her viewpoints on where the industry has faltered, and where it is heading to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.
MSR: What led you down the path of real estate?
DM: I grew up in South Minneapolis, graduating from Central High School and getting a degree at 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 on everyone in my neighborhood who I grew up with, encouraging them to consider buying a home. I now have my own company, Mazone Real Estate Group.
MSR: What sets you apart from other realtors in the area?
DM: While I help all types of clientele, I love focusing on first-time buyers—especially those who are struggling with resources or credit issues. I partner with nonprofit organizations like PPL, who assist homebuyers with building credit and creating long-term stability.
Many people do not realize these services are available, so I help them understand that down payment assistance money is within reach. One of my clients got into a house for less than $14, so the days of having 10% or 20% down are not true anymore. Homeownership is for all, and it is reachable.
MSR: As the new president of Minneapolis Area Realtors, where will your focus be?
DM: I believe in diversity, equity and inclusion, so I will be making sure it is a pillar every step of the way—including our staff. I need someone to come behind me like the young man on our board of directors who is also African American.
We all stand on someone’s shoulders, and I want to keep that going versus letting it just fade away. Additionally, in the next three years we will be working on strategic planning and member engagement because we have almost 10,000 realtors in the metro area that we serve.
MSR: The homeownership gap between Black and White Minnesotans is the largest in the nation. Where do you see progress, if any?
DM: The situation is getting worse, and the gap is widening. We owned more houses 20 to 30 years ago than we do now, and it is so unnecessary. But we must believe in the process, you know, and just put ourselves out there to pursue getting loans.
Sometimes I literally hold people’s hands and just talk them into moving forward. And when we get to closing day, they are so overwhelmed with tears of joy. That just speaks volumes to me.
MSR: What actions 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 down, so we need to make sure we are speaking up and upholding laws like the Fair Housing Act and Community Reinvestment Act.
Two years ago, the National Association of Realtors issued an official apology for all the wrongdoings such as redlining and racial covenants and has since launched new initiatives to combat housing discrimination.
On a state level, we have been able to make more space on the board of directors for diversity. We have more voices at the table from each affinity group, including LGBTQ+, Black, Asian Pacific, and Hispanic realtors.
I believe we are on point and doing a fantastic job. Can we do better? Always.
MSR: How do you feel when you serve multiple generations of families, helping them build wealth through homeownership?
DM: After 29 years in the business, I still feel like this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I love serving everyone, and it is really where my heart is. Everyone deserves to own their own home—that comfortable, nice place to stay where you feel safe. And guess what? Your communities are safer, too.
To learn more about Mazone Real Estate Group, please visit mazonerealestategroup.com.
Julie Gordon is a contributor to the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.com. To get in touch, email firstname.lastname@example.org.