From Mending Bones to Mending Homes Renovating houses is as familiar to Valda Crowder as resetting broken bones. She has traded in 13 years of emergency medicine for a life of wheeling and dealing in the real estate market.

From Mending Bones to Mending Homes

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As we often do on Wednesdays, we're going to Take Two and meet a woman who has reinvented herself through her work. NPR's Ketzel Levine profiles an emergency room doctor turned real estate mogul.

Ms. VALDA CROWDER: Come on, Dick. You've got to be reasonable. Now I'll get you good money for it. I'm not sure if I can get you that much but we'll get you good money for it.

DICK: All right, Valda.

Ms. CROWDER: OK. See you.

DICK: I'll...

KETZEL LEVINE reporting:

She is unadorned, save for her gold hoop earrings. Her slightly graying hair is pulled back off her face. Her clothes are loose, her shoes sensible. Valda Crowder is poised to leap into her day.

Ms. CROWDER: So we're going to run over to the property and go take a look at the one that we're going to put on the market.

LEVINE: She calls herself a real estate strategist. She's licensed in DC, Maryland and Virginia. She is the listing agent for the house we're en route to visit today, but she's often the buyer, the landlord or the developer. Valda Crowder, until recently an emergency medical doctor, is addicted to the real estate game.

Ms. CROWDER: My mother always tells me, she goes, `Valda, Valda, you're not buying shoes. You act like you're buying shoes.' And so I love buying property.

LEVINE: Were you a big Monopoly player when you were a kid?

Ms. CROWDER: I love Monopoly and I bought everything I landed on in Monopoly.

LEVINE: As she maneuvers the clogged streets and back alleys of downtown DC, Valda Crowder points out lifeless block-long buildings and multistoried gutted remains. She is intimate with each of these property stories, what they were, why they failed, what they're going to be.

Ms. CROWDER: It's kind of an interesting commentary on our society when our schools and our hospitals are turning into condos.

LEVINE: And our doctors are selling them.

Ms. CROWDER: Yeah, and our doctors are selling them, exactly right, and having a better time than they were practicing.

LEVINE: She is certainly enjoying herself, thriving as is her want on the intense and the unpredictable. In the ER, it was trauma cases and Code Blue; today, it's a frantic housing market where house prices here are leaping as much as 3 percent a month. We pull up to a nondescript row house in one of DC's so-called transitioning areas. This is her latest listing. Her client is also a real estate investor.

Ms. CROWDER: Now this house is interesting. She renovated it but her neighbor--he's an elderly guy. His porch is kind of falling off. That's going to be the one deterring factor but he's a very, very sweet guy.

LEVINE: The neighbor's collapsing porch notwithstanding, Valda Crowder will put this two-bedroom, two-bath house on the market for $479,000 barring some finishing touches.

Ms. CROWDER: The yard's got to be cut. The garage in the back is half painted.

LEVINE: Renovating houses is ironically as familiar to Valda Crowder as resetting broken bones. Throughout her 13 years in emergency medicine, she was amassing a real estate portfolio that now includes a 24-unit apartment building, a mixed use development site and any number of rental properties. Valda Crowder is nothing if not pragmatic.

Ms. CROWDER: The most I ever made practicing medicine was probably about 160, $170,000 a year. This year I think I'm going to be on track to make about 450, 500,000.

LEVINE: She's also in control of her schedule, her staff and her colleagues and is out of a medical system she sees on the brink of collapse.

Ms. CROWDER: Hospitals are hiring nurses that aren't really qualified, shifts being short-staffed, lab being short-staffed, X-ray being short-staffed, so that sort of stuff. I was almost like a--I almost want to call it, you know, almost a conscientious objector to the system the way it's running.

LEVINE: Surprisingly, Valda Crowder has moved from medicine to real estate with equanimity.

Ms. CROWDER: There's a lot of negotiating that goes on in medicine that people don't realize, trying to convince patients and families to actually implement your treatment plan, despite the fact that they don't want to give up on their cigarettes or give up on their grease or, you know, not eat past midnight, you know, really getting buy in of everyone, and real estate is all about getting buy in of all the parties. I find I'm using really the same skill set.


LEVINE: Not for the first time while we're in transit, Valda Crowder takes a call.

Ms. CROWDER: Hi, Mario. How are you? OK. So we're going to settle then? Today?

LEVINE: A buyer she'd written off suddenly wants to settle within 90 minutes. She doesn't blink.

Ms. CROWDER: You fax me over the HUD one and everything looks good, I'll go pick up my client personally and we'll be there. OK? All right. Bye-bye.

We are not going to settlement today. I don't even know why he's playing like that.

LEVINE: She's playing, too, having put this property back on the market just this morning to pressure the buyer. With surgical precision, Valda Crowder will close this deal, then meet with an architect about her own condo conversion project, the work being handled by her own renovation group. She says she's still invested in the future of American medicine and wants to write a book. So, first, she says, she'll have to hire a writer, but with the dice in play and her players covering the board, the future she's investing in is her own.

Ketzel Levine, NPR News.

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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