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Dialing Up Diversity

Galveston Realtor Tom Schwenk partners with an industry inclusivity program to increase LGBTQ representation.

For more than 20 years, Tom Schwenk has been a fixture on Galveston Island, helping those who are looking for their home-sweet-home. Now, the gay real-estate agent is giving back by supporting an inclusivity program that aims to increase LGBTQ representation in the real-estate industry.

Tom’s Galveston Real Estate (TGRE) joined the Coldwell Banker network late last year, and he now operates as Coldwell Banker TGRE serving Galveston County. Coldwell Banker’s Inclusive Ownership program is part of this business venture, an initiative to recruit and support people of color, women, LGBTQ, and veteran entrepreneurs looking for a career in the real-estate industry.

“I’m passionate about customer service and helping people buy, sell, and lease in Galveston,” Schwenk says. “Coldwell Banker has wonderful tools for sellers and buyers, and they offer an incredible marketing reach. Like me, they are committed to creating a team of professional Realtors focused on what’s best for their clients. It’s a good match.”

It’s been clear to Schwenk since moving to the island that the community welcomes people from all walks of life. The Inclusive Ownership program is a great way to help other people like him get a fair chance at building a career in the real-estate business.

“Galveston is a diverse, welcoming place, which is one of the reasons my husband, Jack, and I love life on the island,” he says. “Diversity is also important to Coldwell Banker. They have some great programs in place to increase diversity within the real-estate industry.

“Being a visible role model is important to me. Being a successful entrepreneur and professional Realtor is a great way to change people’s minds. Inclusion is important to Coldwell Banker, and their program offers help and mentoring to minority businesses. As a successful gay-owned real-estate firm with a proven track record, I was invited to become a Coldwell Banker affiliate. Our partnership is amazing, and being celebrated and wanted as a gay 65-year-old feels unbelievable.”

Galveston is not only a great place to live, but it’s also become a strong real-estate market over the past 20 years, Schwenk notes. While some may be wary of buying a house due to the current rising interest rates and recession worries, Schwenk believes Galveston’s market is in good shape. 

“Not only am I a Realtor and homeowner, but I also have investment properties on the island,” he says. “Things have stabilized since the high prices and low inventory of the past two years. While the high interest rates may be a concern for some, real estate consistently comes out as a good investment over time. Galveston has such diverse housing options. I think there will always be interest in what this unique place has to offer. While prices have increased, Galveston is simply catching up to other beachfront communities. I also think that there will be more price adjustments in the midrange price points.

“Thanks to the cruise ships, we have a vibrant downtown with restaurants, cafes, and boutiques that are the envy of larger cities,” he explains. “We have wonderful parks, wild spaces, fascinating history, historic homes, and fun festivals. Of course, all of this is made possible by the people. Galveston is diverse and welcoming, people here have an independent spirit, and they care about each other. People want to live here because you can really get involved in so many fantastic things. So many clever and passionate people have invested time, energy, and money to keep Galveston growing and developing while still retaining its special historic charm,” he explains. “I see this area continuing to be a popular spot for those looking for a residence.”

Schwenk’s advice to people looking for a property in the area is to make sure they know what their needs are. “Think specifically about what you value. What is really important to you? Is it being able to walk to a cafe? Is it having an extra bedroom? Talk to local lenders and get your finances sorted out so that when you are ready to make an offer, everything is ready to go. Don’t forget that this is an emotional adventure, so try to be long-range in your planning.”

Going forward, Schwenk will continue to focus on helping people—something that’s guided him throughout his life. “What I do is ultimately all about people,” he concludes. “I love helping people buy, sell, and lease. I’ve had lifelong clients who started with me out of college renting their first place. Then they get married and buy a home, and they want me to find a bigger place for them when they have children. Other clients want second homes to enjoy a beach lifestyle or even to have an investment property. There is always something different—a different problem, a different angle—and it’s great to get out and be part of it. One of my clients said I was the “unofficial mayor of Galveston” because I knew everyone and how to sort out any problem. I thought that was the highest compliment. Keeping my clients happy is what it is all about.”

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Connor Behrens

Connor Behrens is a communications graduate from the University of Houston. He has written for the Washington Post, Community Impact Newspaper and the Galveston County Daily News (the oldest newspaper in Texas). When he's not writing stories, he is likely watching the latest new release at the movie theater.
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