Michael Fowler: Selling Success

Michael Fowler beat the odds to become a major D.C. Realtor through devotion to customer service and community activism

Ever wonder what percent of D.C. Realtors are gay?

“There are tons!” exclaims D.C. real-estate agent Michael Fowler. “Of the male ones, most of them. You could throw a rock at Cobalt on a Friday night and probably hit three Realtors.”

Michael Fowler Photo by Todd Franson

Michael Fowler
Photography by Todd Franson

Still, even an extremely well-connected gay man isn’t guaranteed success in the real estate industry. Fowler himself was cautioned about real-estate risks years ago. “You need to have money in the bank, and this much savings, because you won’t make any money your first three months,” local Realtor powerhouse Bill Hounshell told him. At the time working at the former Georgetown hotspot Nathans, Fowler knew he didn’t want to be a restaurant manager forever. He also wasn’t sold on work in international relations, despite his degree from American University. “The numbers didn’t make sense,” he says of how much he could earn as an entry-level global do-gooder versus how much he owed in student loans. And so, weaned on HGTV and the prospect of a lucrative career in real estate, Fowler took the plunge.

“I broke the lease at my apartment at the time, put all my stuff in a good friend’s garage, and couch-surfed for six weeks,” he says. “Didn’t even own a car.” If he failed, he reasoned, he would just move back to Houston, where he grew up.

“I was literally terrified,” he says. “[But] fear was my best motivator to get out there and do it.”

Fowler was able to make an income within the first two months after starting, in December 2011. By January 2013, he was working as an independent affiliate with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty. And last year he was crowned Rookie of the Year by the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR), in recognition of both his realty success and his level of community involvement, which includes his work leading The DC Center for the LGBT Community.

Fowler, whose client base is mostly straight, attributes his success in part to his outlook. “I don’t think of it as a sales position. I think the sales happen before I’m actually hired,” he says. “Once I’m hired I become a customer service person [working] to make sure the client has what they actually want,” regardless of how long it takes to find.

Fowler’s drive for social and community activism — not to mention avid use of social media — is one clear reason for his success. But it’s also literally how he grew up. “I had a pretty large network starting from when I was 16 and old enough to drive,” says the 31-year-old, who’s been out more than half his life. “I found a kind of network of older gay men who met at this coffee shop every Thursday night. And that’s where I got my bearings in the gay world. And I believe in that kind of network helping one another — the importance of serving the community and giving back.” In addition to serving as board chair for The DC Center, Fowler is also active in the Shaw Main Streets organization, the local chapter of the Lupus Foundation (his mother has lupus), the DC Association of Realtors and GCAAR, where he works refurbishing old houses in the city as part of the organization’s Community Service Committee.

Fowler lives with his boyfriend of a year and a half and a rescued 2-year-old miniature pinscher in a brand-new apartment he rents in Shaw’s O Street Market. “My partner and I are not yet at the place where we want to get a mortgage together,” he says. Though for everyone else, he says, “I think that the time to buy is now.” And also to sell.

“Right now we’re in a strong seller’s market,” he says. “Most things are generating multiple offers. Interest rates are only going to go up and right now money is cheap.”

But where to look? Some of the hottest emerging neighborhoods in D.C. real estate include Northwest’s Bloomingdale, Northeast’s Trinidad and Southeast’s Anacostia.

“The trends follow, to a certain degree, the gay population,” Fowler says. “But I think it also happens to be that there’s nowhere to go now but east.”

Michael Fowler is an agent with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty. Contact him at 202-812-0272 or fowler@ttrsir.com. Follow him on Twitter @202Realtor.

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Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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