Author Archives: Steven Gendel

The first step is....

A leap of faith? Clients, friends, and colleagues, for years have been asking us to tell our story.  However would it inspire thought? Can this blog challenge people to think bigger, look outside of the traditional and see another opportunity?  These questions are what have been holding me back from getting started.

They say the hardest step is the first one so here we go…on with the first step.  Today you are reading the first ever blog to discuss the topic of real estate and working with families with special needs. I hope this can be forum of open discussion and spark thoughts on an area that is growing but is not heard about.  The special needs community is a rapidly changing one and has a short and long term effect on real estate, real estate values, and our communities as a whole.  If we are not prepared at the grassroots level to take on this challenge then we will be faced with bigger community challenges in the future.


I believe this blog can generate new ideas to share and help build our communities to be larger, and bigger, and more INCLUSIVE for all!  This is my passion to see our real estate professionals grow and learn how to work with families with special needs and make the communities we work in INCLUSIVE.


So who am I?  I am a husband and father.  I am also a Dad of a child with special needs.  My son Joshua is currently 13. My wife Erica and have dedicated ourselves to helping Joshua reach his fullest potential!  Joshua has spent about two years of his life in a hospital, has had over 30 neurosurgeries and too many other surgeries to count.  He also has a delicious smile and has a high level of communication with everyone he meets. I am also a real estate professional.


I have spent the last 10 years full time in real estate sales and currently am the Operating Principal at Keller Williams Realty in Livingston, New Jersey.  For many years I have helped numerous people with the housing challenges they face with a family member with special needs.  It does not matter what the issues are, we have helped people feel part of a community and move into the RIGHT home for their situation.


It is has also been an honor and a privilege to be involved in this community. They families I work with have taught me so much.  Everyone has a different experience and challenge.  Our goal is to make the challenge seem less daunting.  So after all of these years helping families, I decided to go forward and help others learn about the opportunities in front of them.  I am willing to “put myself out there” and leverage the systems we have developed and my own experiences to help other Realtors learn what to do and how to help.


I hope you enjoy what is next!

How to make the person feel whole

What works and what doesn’t.  The number one thing I can implore upon you is to ask questions, ask questions, and ask questions!  The right questions will always get you the appropriate response. What I mean is that to help understand the special needs community is to understand that you must use PEOPLE first language.  If you focus on the PERSON and not the issue, challenge, or disability you will always receive a great outcome.   Here is an example…”What are your child’s challenges?”  Or, “what housing challenges are you facing?”  Instead of “what is wrong with him/her?”  The first two question will receive a much better response than the last question.


One of my favorite questions to ask a family is, “Which of your children will have a more difficult time with your move?”  This one simple question usually reveals something they don’t want to share (but makes the client comfortable to share).  By asking I was able to have a family open up about their child’s challenges and turn them onto resources they so desperately needed, such as doctors, schools, hospitals, therapists, and support groups.  When they first reached out to me to move to the area they had no idea I had Josh.  I had no idea they had a child with some similar issues!  It was just an internet lead that turned into a special needs situation because I kept asking questions.  Once they felt comfortable and we were on the same page everything opened up and I found them the RIGHT home!!


If you think you have asked enough questions keep asking.  Make your clients feel important, focus on the person and not the challenge or disability, by doing this we make the person feel whole.  More importantly we as real estate professionals are recognizing we are not just selling a house but helping a family make a smooth transition to a home.


Overall what I learned is that to become the best real estate professional you can, you must keep asking questions!  The more questions the better.  Not the rapid fire kind but the conversational, curious, and inquisitive kind that makes your clients feel special and safe.  The more you work on mastering this skill the better you will be at helping your clients facing a challenge or special need.

What does the special needs community want from real estate?

What do families with special needs in the community want?  Overall it is to be included and treated like everyone else while having the real estate world understand that families with special needs may take a little to buy a home but we are extremely loyal!!  In fact since we have so few people who work to understand our world we typically use a small but loyal group of providers.  So if you are an awesome resource to the special needs community then we will refer you around our group!  It does not matter what challenge you are facing, it matters that you cared and took an extra half second to help.  The more you help, the more we give back.  And give back we do.
Though it was not my intent to focus on this area of real estate, the families with special needs are growing around us at an incredible rate and have become an amazing source of referrals. Also it provides an incredible amount of joy to help this community feel like a part of the larger community, to be accepted!
The focus on families with special needs has allowed a greater understanding of many types of challenges and the real estate issues faced.  It has also opened my eyes to the community at large.  We are constantly looking at ways for inclusion for our son and his friends in our community.  One of the most exciting area of inclusion is being built right now it is called LifeTown.  I encourage you to check out what this 45,000 sq foot city will be and see what happens when the community comes together to make ALL people  feel like everyone included.
You can also check out a video of LifeTown at  It is amazing when people come together what can be accomplished.

So what are you seeing?

So what are you seeing???


Are your eyes wide open?  I  mean REALLY wide open?  What are you seeing in your community?  Are the blinders up to the special needs community?  I hope not, however many people with special needs are treated as invisible.


It was amazing today because in our yard I saw a small pack of deer.  We have about 9 deer in our small suburban yard at random times.  The incredible part was today one of the deer was missing part of its back right hoof.  The deer had a special need!  What was even more special was how the pack treated this deer.  I watched in amazement how the other deer did not abandon the deer with the need. The deer all stayed in the pack helping each other, in spite of need.


They treated the special deer like all the other deer!  Why can’t we do this as humans?  I watch as people with special needs get left behind, talked down to, and disregarded.  So now is the time where this stops!  Look around you and your community.  If you see a person with special needs just remember treat the like a person!  The feeling you will give the other person is immeasurable.  Your community will thank you, you will be the ambassador for a new way of accepting all people, as PEOPLE.


Remember the deer.  Look around your community and see what the housing needs are in your WHOLE community and start with one step toward becoming the advocates of fair housing for all.

I wish it was all…

I wish it was all…


I was having a conversation with my son, Josh, today.  It was fascinating!! Why?  Because though Josh has limited verbal skills he has a high level of comprehension and communication.  Most people don’t see it at first but if you spend one-on-one time with him his personality comes shining through!


During our conversation Joshua asked and though it would be neat if the world could be completely wheelchair accessible.  Wow, I was blown away by this.  He made it clear that it would just be easier if EVERYTHING was wheelchair accessible so he could go where he wants when he wants!  I held back the tears and said, yeah Josh, that would be awesome and I wish we could make that happen too. He verbalized a loud yeah and smiled.  The other thing that shocked me was the Joshua did not wish he could walk because he said that he has walked many times in his dreams and being in a wheelchair at times has its advantages.


The conversation then turned to labels.  We discussed how he wished people did not give the word “special” or “special needs”.  Though he likes the extra attention he gets sometimes he also asked that all labels be dropped.  Another wow moment.  I agreed, we all use labels as descriptors for various scenarios.  Joshua stated very clearly that he wanted the label to describe him to be dropped.  He just wanted to be accepted as Josh.  Not Josh who is special or Josh who uses a wheelchair.  In fact he wanted what we all want to be treated fairly and honestly like everyone else.  What an awesome goal. This conversation was so enlightening because he was so excited and started to verbalize answers to questions so he is very passionate about becoming “unlabeled”.


What did I learn? Joshua keeps amazing me.  His wanting to be accepted as a productive member of society is growing and growing. He wants to shed his “label”.  Josh expects you to treat him as Josh a 12 year old. He is NOT letting his limits define him.


So I ask you look at yourself, what labels are you putting out there? Can you shed them?  Can you drop all labels and look at creating opportunities for ALL in your community so that we can make the steps to make the world really accessible!!


Joshua is all in, all the time! Please join us to make it happen.



Preconceived Notions

Preconceived notions or not?

Today I saw the fantastic video with Susan Boyle (of Britain’s Got Talent fame) singing her song to the judges.  I watched in amazement as to how she was viewed by the audience as someone who could note accomplish her dream!  Now I have seen this video many times before but the depth of the moment was an aha!

Here was this person that by her looks, dress, and other features was viewed as someone who would have zero chance of anything, let alone singing an impressive song the way she did!

This aha moment lead me the thought of why? Why do we pre-judge someone and their abilities? We are automatically filled with what can’t be done instead of what is possible!  I see it when people see Josh’s wheelchair instead of his light up the room smile.

The truth is…possibility is what drives us.  It makes us get out of bed to take on the day ahead. To move forward even if it is only a centimeter to get better. Actually, to be better than the day before.  It drives ALL of us!

Which brings us back to the topic at hand, special needs.  We are set to judge that this community is less than… when actually it is more than what it seems! I have seen the community with special needs have all the same feelings and thoughts as the abled people around them.  Yet we still judge as less than.  My dream is that we have the opportunity to be treated equally and with a little help and patience.

We as a real estate community have a responsibility to help all live the dream of home ownership.  Families with special needs have the same wants and desires, so slow down take your time and keep asking the big questions to help this community make the home ownership process possible.  A little empathy (but no pity) goes a long way.

As Gary Keller reminds us in his book, The One Thing, no one succeeds alone! That is true for the community with special needs AND the fully abled around us.