Blind realtor offers unique perspective to home buying process
When William Madison learned he would soon lose what little vision he had left, he decided to pursue one of the most visual careers out there: real estate.
A Realtor for Windermere in Hillsboro, people may be puzzled about the idea of purchasing a house from someone who has never seen the home before, but friends say what Madison brings to the industry is a completely unique perspective, and one that has so far impressed his peers.
Madison, who lives in Orenco, has fallen in love with the career, he said, and his coworkers say he exceeds all expectations.
While the road leading Madison to real estate has been rocky, his ability to communicate with others is something he has never lost, and something that makes the visual-dominant industry possible for him, he said.
Madison was born without irises. His left eye was blind since birth, and was considered "legally blind" in his right eye. His condition, known as Aniridia Syndrome, is commonly linked with other eye-related issues, such as glaucoma, which Madison was also diagnosed with.
Growing up in California, Madison's childhood included monthly, weekly, sometimes daily visits to the doctor 90 miles away in San Francisco, he said.
Madison and his family eventually moved to Hillsboro to be near a glaucoma specialist, and then to Idaho, where he met his wife. The pair married in 2001.
At the time, Madison was trying to pursue a career building and repairing computers, something he had loved since he was a child, he said.
Just months after getting married, however, during a visit to Hillsboro for one of his routine glaucoma surgeries, Madison hemorrhaged a blood vessel in his left eye.
Madison's family knew they had to be closer to his glaucoma specialist, so they frantically made the move once again back to Hillsboro.
"After that experience, I realized that pursuing the computer stuff was great, but I needed to figure out how to generate income effectively as rapidly as possible, because my doctors had told me that I was going to lose my vision by the time I was 35 or 40," he said. "When you're given a deadline like that ... you start having to think differently, and that's kind of what happened here."
Anything but easy
For the next decade, Madison tried job after job, looking for something that interested him, but also worked with his disability.
He tried to become a stock broker, worked as a mortgage consultant, spent time in call centers at several car dealerships, tried his hand at internet sales and even started a photography company, he said.
"Through all of these job changes, my wife is the one who has been the stable income earner and my whole exploration through my 20s was to figure out how to take that off her so that she could do what she wanted to do," Madison said.
But it was anything but easy.
His remaining eyesight deteriorated quickly. In 2013, at the age of 32, Madison lost his vision completely.
After that, Madison said, the years became increasingly difficult.
Madison had studied neuroscience and psychology at Portland Community College in his own time, he said. He began working on projects that would better himself, and people like him. He started a Youtube channel and worked on a brain enhancement audio training app, he said.
"I knew that if I lost my vision, my brain was going to be my asset," he said. "The more I knew about how to utilize it the best, the better off I would hopefully be."
Madison accepted that his life would be different than he had hoped, but he said he didn't let go of the idea of one day finding a career he could thrive in, he said.
Two years ago, Madison began talking with a man from his church, Mick Nelson, who had a background in real estate and asked Madison if he had any interest in the field.
"Real estate was always one of those things that kept up popping up on my radar," Madison said. "But I didn't ever believe I could get my license, because the perception about real estate is that it's all visual and that Realtors are always out driving from one place to the next. It just didn't seem possible, so I never pursued it."
Nelson asked Madison if he would be interested in working with him and his son, Evan Nelson.
Madison sat on the idea for a while, he said, struggling to think how he could realistically contribute to the field without his vision.
Last summer, however, Madison decided it was worth a try. The three began working at the Orenco Station Windermere office earlier this year.
Five months into his new job, Madison said he has no doubt this is the career he was meant to pursue all along.
Not having his sight has turned out to offer some added benefits for his job, he said.
"Being blind means that my attention cannot be scattered," he said. "When I work with a customer I have significantly more listening power, attention and focus for that individual and what they need. There is a willingness to spend the time to get the information so that I can give them the best outcome possible."
Soon, Madison will be speaking to local organizations giving "tips, tricks and feedback" about the buying and selling process, something he feels very comfortable with, he said.
"I feel much better about this because that's where I really shine," Madison said. "I have no problem communicating with a group and it's actually what I prefer."
So far, both the Nelsons and his co-workers at Windermere are impressed by Madison's ability to perform in the industry with simply the power of his voice.
"I think he's catching on quickly," Evan Nelson said. "He's good with people and getting them to open up and talk honestly. That's half of the real estate business. It should be considered a people business, because it really is about interactions with others and that's his strong suit."
Finally finding a career that both excites Madison and shows promise, he has high hopes for his future. Beyond being successful, he wants to strengthen the communication side of the industry, he said.
"My motivation with getting into real estate, and taking on the challenge, is to bring a diverse perspective to it," Madison said. "I'm a white male, but I'm also blind which puts me at a significant minority to have a different perspective on how things are done and what questions maybe aren't being asked. Beyond making the process accessible for me, what I want to do is provide a unique perspective both for my office here, and also for clients that I serve."
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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