Novelist E. M. Forster once wrote, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
This simple quote perfectly reflects Allen Tate real estate agent Suzanne Cowden’s personal story. Cowden, a Charlotte native, was first introduced to real estate at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she enrolled in a real estate elective course on a whim. This last-minute decision not only allowed her to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business but also a North Carolina real estate license.
The years immediately following graduation were a whirlwind for Cowden. She got married, dabbled in property management with her husband, moved to Texas, became an economic forecaster for GTE, and had two girls – Ana and Adrienne.
She enjoyed her time with GTE. “I’ve always loved statistics and interviewing and getting to know people,” Cowden explains. “The GTE position gave me the opportunity to work with new and growing businesses and engineers to forecast the construction of additional phone lines and equipment.” Flash forward to 2000, Cowden returned to Charlotte, raised her daughters as a single mom, and transitioned back into real estate. “Real estate had the flexibility I was looking for in a career. It allowed me to be there for my children when they needed me without sacrificing my full-time real estate responsibilities. Plus, the industry gave me the opportunity to do financial and statistical analysis while getting to know a variety of people – two of my joys.”
That was 17 years ago. Since that time, Cowden has made a name for herself in the Charlotte market. She is consistently ranked among the top 100 agents working for Allen Tate Company and has received numerous awards, including Chairman’s Circle, the H. Allen Tate Award, and the President’s Award. She was also recently named a preferred Realtor for Windsor Run (ericksonliving.com/windsor-run), a retirement community currently under construction in Matthews, NC.
“I really enjoy working with the transitioning client who is starting to focus on retirement and downsizing their home,” explains Cowden. “Most of these sellers have been in their home for many years and are intimidated by the process. I provide vendors to help them with de-cluttering, making repairs, packing, and staging. Spending time with them, drinking tea, and asking them important questions, such as ‘What’s the secret to 60 years of marriage?’ is such a joy.”
For Cowden, it’s not only about building those client relationships but also making an impact on someone else’s life. That’s what gets her and husband Jeff –whom she married in 2005 – excited about beginning each day.
Jeff, who owns a renovation business, enjoys the process of transforming homes. “Through our real estate business, JSC Home Connection, we have the opportunity to help families purchase their haven and sell their greatest asset, which is extremely rewarding. I get such fulfillment at the end of a transaction when I see a client excited about a new home and knowing that I contributed to the family’s happiness and future in some way. Each transaction and client is unique, so I’m always learning and developing new relationships.”
“If your business becomes all about the transaction, you’ll burn out,” she adds. “But if you seek to be present and invest in those relationships and truly get to know the people involved, you’ll find you enjoy your job more and more every day.”
People. Relationships. Being present. To many, those are just words. But to Cowden, they mean everything, especially after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013.
Cowden admits she wasn’t the best patient in the beginning. She had been experiencing warning signs for weeks but put off scheduling a doctor’s appointment. It wasn’t until her symptoms worsened during a church mission trip in Haiti that her husband urged her to see a doctor when they returned to Charlotte. She did and heard the three words a patient never wants to hear, “You have cancer.”
Unfortunately for Cowden, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, which meant a more aggressive form of treatment. She underwent multiple surgeries and received chemotherapy, radiation, and Herceptin treatments. The road to recovery was long – almost a year. And while Cowden lost her hair and a lot of her energy during that time, she didn’t lose her business. In fact, with the help of Cindy Ransone, a fellow real estate agent with Allen Tate, and Cowden’s husband Jeff, who is also a real estate agent, she surpassed her goal that year.
“My business is typically 50 percent listings and 50 percent buyers,” explains Cowden. “But that year, the majority of my business was listings, which was a blessing in disguise for everyone involved. The workload was easier to manage, making it an almost seamless transition for Cindy and Jeff to step in and take the reins for a while.”
Cowden completed her last chemo treatment on her 50th birthday in 2013 and is enjoying life cancer-free. She and Jeff stay busy visiting their children (he has two sons from a previous marriage – Ben and Michael) and three grandchildren, entertaining friends – they love a houseful, taking weekend trips to the mountains or Charleston, and caring for their Goldendoodle, Sadie. When not spending time with loved ones, the couple enjoys investing in real estate, managing rental properties, and remodeling and flipping properties. “It’s something we both enjoy doing together. I get to pick out the colors and accessories, while Jeff does more of the heavy lifting,” she says laughing. “We love seeing the before and after, and it’s usually difficult to let them go once they’re finished.”
Now, four years post-cancer, Cowden feels as though she has finally hit her stride. Her real estate business is successful, the business with her husband is flourishing, and most importantly, she has her health. “After a health scare, you tend to become more reflective and what you value most in life changes,” says Cowden. “Today, I find joy in the simple things – waking up every morning, realizing the day ahead of me is a gift that I get to spend either doing a job that I love or being with my family and friends. If I’ve ‘checked those boxes,’ then I know I’ve succeeded and I’m living the life I was meant to always have.”
Written by Mallory Benz, Charlotte Real Producers Team