Her path to selling mansions in the Hamptons started in a South Shore bungalow

Crain's Chicago Business

by DENNIS RODKIN
Jan. 11, 2022

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Mia Calabrese, the only Black agent among six featured in a new reality show called "Selling the Hamptons," said her parents and grandparents taught her about homeownership and intergenerational wealth.

Growing up in a modest South Shore bungalow that was owned first by her grandparents and then by her parents, Mia Calabrese learned to appreciate the stability of homeownership.

In school, “I had friends who were always moving from apartment to apartment, and I could see it created a certain amount of instability,” says Calabrese. “I knew I was always going home to the same house.”

Calabrese’s family—and in particular, her grandmother, Myrna, who immigrated from Belize —understood that owning a home was a path to developing generational wealth, Calabrese says. The family held onto the bungalow for 46 years, from 1970 to 2016. By the time they sold it, Calabrese was living in New York, where she eventually became a real estate agent and beginning Jan. 20 appears in the Discovery+ television show “Selling the Hamptons.” The show focuses on Calabrese and five other agents working in a wellknown string of towns, where mansions regularly sell for more than $20 million and as high, last year, as $107 million. As the only Black person among the six, Calabrese says she understands homeownership in a different, possibly more visceral, way than the others on the show. “My grandparents and my parents owning a house gave me the stability and safety to make my plan, have my goals,” she says. Homeownership, Calabrese says, was a fundamental part of the package her parents and grandparents modeled for her. "You grow up, and part of being an adult is finding your partner and buying your house," she says. The lesson of intergenerational wealth is the same in the Hamptons, she says, only with more zeroes in the numbers. “People who bought these homes 20, 30, 40 years ago and sell now,” she says, “they pass that wealth down.” Her grandparents did the same, selling their bungalow to her parents in 1993 for $78,000, which was “below market value,” Calabrese says. “That was something they could afford to do for their family.”

When grandmother Myrna and her husband, Gilbert Innis, arrived in Chicago from Belize, friends suggested they apply for public housing in Cabrini-Green, but “my grandmother said that wasn’t for her,” Calabrese says. “They rented and she started saving her pennies until they could buy a house” in 1970, about two years after they arrived. Gilbert worked for Metra and Myrna was a housekeeper. Calabrese believes it was working in affluent clients’ homes where her grandmother “learned what it means to own your home.” The couple bought a red brick bungalow near 79th Street and Oglesby Avenue for $15,000. Later, Myrna urged two other branches of the family to buy South Shore bungalows as well. As Black homeowners, the Innises were rare. In 1970, two years after the Fair Housing Act was passed, 42% of U.S. Black households owned their homes, compared to 65% of white households. “Black homeownership is about the same now,” Calabrese says. “Not much has changed.” In Illinois, the change has been more significant: from 29% of Black households owning homes in 1970 to 39% in 2018. Calabrese’s parents, Sam and Dawn, who were both in sales, bought the house from Dawn’s parents in 1993, when she was two years old. Growing up there with her parents and her brother, Nick, Calabrese “saw South Shore changing,” she says. “When I was growing up, there was industry, restaurants, veterinary clinics, grocery stores, but there’s been so much disinvestment.” She was last in South Shore in the summer of 2020, volunteering at a mask-and-food giveaway at the Avalon Regal Theater on 79th Street, a mile west of her childhood home. While none of her family is still in South Shore—her brother, “my best friend,” joined her in New York last year—Calabrese told Crain’s she plans to “do something to attract investment to South Shore,” but was not yet ready to give details. In the meantime, Calabrese said, she hopes that her presence on “Selling the Hamptons” will give some South Shore kids a roadmap for their future. “I want kids on the South Side of Chicago, and kids all over the country who maybe didn’t grow up with a second home in the Hamptons, I want them to look at me and say, ‘If that girl coming from 79th Street can do it, I can do it too.’ ”

Source:  https://www.chicagobusiness.com/residential-real-estate/how-mia-calabrese-went-south-shore-selling-hamptons



Mia Calabrese Mia Calabrese
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson