Gayle Becker: Helping people move on, in more ways than one

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When a woman, grieving the loss of her mother, faces the prospect of selling an outdated and neglected house, real estate agent Gayle Becker steps in.

(Southern Shutter Photography/Gina Holcomb-Hankins)

The Pikesville resident specializes in brokering distressed properties for investors who pay cash and handle the clean-out and updating so children can settle their parent’s estate expeditiously and stress-free.

“In this one case, the woman was so caught up in her grieving that she could not bring herself to even clean it out,” said Becker, 63, who is a community volunteer and member of the Reform Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation in Baltimore. “I have a very large network of investors that buy these properties as is. I would say, ‘Take the treasures and leave the stuff.’ It just makes that process so much easier for the seller.”

Anyone, acknowledged Becker, can sell a beautifully renovated, freshly painted house. But she turns her attention towards problem houses to help people during their hardest times.

“In traditional real estate transactions, there’s so much emotion involved,” she said. “If you’ve ever bought or sold a house, you understand that people get very attached to it. If you’re a buyer, you’re so particular about every little thing, whereas when I work with investors, they are really just about the numbers.”

‘Need to cash out to take care of mom or dad’

Owners of distressed or problem properties are usually eager to sell with a cash offer. There’s no appraisal, no inspection. The parties can go to settlement in as little as two weeks. “The property just needs so much work that they want to get rid of it. Oftentimes, they need to cash out to take care of mom and dad,” she said.

Becker, who gets referrals from estate attorneys, works with court-managed processes called probate or estate. “There are usually multiple siblings that need to share the proceeds, so they’re eager to get this transaction done. They’re paying insurance, utilities, taxes. They just want out.”

She does give sellers the option of freshening up a property: “If they give it a little cosmetic love, they’ll make a lot more money than selling it as a problem property. Some just don’t have the emotional energy.”

In one case, she was able to bring the seller back to a property after an investor renovated it in just under two months. “She was so happy and said, ‘What a way to honor my mother.’ ”

Another woman’s parent was a hoarder and hadn’t done anything to the house in many years. “It was just full, full, full, full, full, full, full of stuff,” recounted Becker. “I was able to bring in an investor who had an appetite for a bigger project like that. He made her an offer, and she took it knowing that she was getting below market value, but it was never going to sell at their market value, and it was just such a relief that she didn’t have to clean out or paint it to get ready to be shown.”

Becker said she has been in this property investment niche for five of her eight years in real estate.

Before that, she worked in sales and marketing, including stints as a franchise broker and career counselor.

Her husband, Steve Becker, is a dentist practicing in Ellicott City. They have four adult children and four grandchildren.

‘You don’t have to write big checks’

The Beckers regularly volunteer with two main communal organizations: Weekend Backpack food program and Next One Up.

As for the first, she explained that low-income children are fed in public schools, but Weekend Backpack gets them through the weekends and school holidays, as it did during shutdowns in the two years of the pandemic. “It’s grown tremendously thanks to our wonderful generous community and help raising awareness,” said Becker, whose chapter was started through her temple.

The other organization, Next One Up, mentors disadvantaged students starting in middle school. The students are offered guidance in academics and help filling out college and financial-aid applications. Next One Up also provides funds for incidental expenses while in college.

“Our role is in raising awareness to raise money,” explained Becker. “We sponsor four kids a year and make a financial commitment to them for as long as they’re in school. The gratifying part is knowing where they came from and seeing them now, becoming contributing citizens of the community. Now they’re ready to give back.”

She recommended that everyone find a way to volunteer in their local community, noting the fact that is is a Jewish tradition to do so.

“It’s where we come from,” she said. “And if we don’t take care of our people, if we don’t demonstrate to our kids … it’s just really important to give back. You don’t have to write big checks. You can donate time, ideas — whatever you’re good at. That’s how you can contribute.”

Find out about Weekend Backpacks and Next One Up at: weekendbackpacks.org and nextoneup.org.

Contact Gayle Becker at: gayle@gaylebecker.com (www.newdigsmd.com).

Ellen Braunstein is a freelance writer.

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