REALtor® LOVE: Tracie Mayo & Eileen Donovan
Their company’s name is Savvy Mortgage Lending, and it suits them. Tracie Mayo and Eileen Donovan radiate savvy — they’re knowledgeable and warm and share a quick, joshing wit.
“How’d you meet?” I asked the couple as photographer Todd Bates was setting up their portrait in the backyard of their new home, a pristine 1948 ranch in South St. Pete’s Bahama Shores neighborhood.
Tracie: “I picked her up on the side of the road. She didn’t even have her thumb out.”
Eileen: “I was working the corner in Charlotte.”
And when Todd asked them to look at each other, Eileen wisecracked, “Because we sit and stare at each other all the time.”
Which they may do occasionally, but really, how would they fit it in? They moved into their home only two days before our interview, and it’s the fifth place they’ve lived together during the seven years they’ve been a couple.
They did meet in Charlotte, though not via roadside pickup. Eileen was working as an underwriter for Wells Fargo and Tracie was “floundering,” having left her job at the U.S. Postal Service after 21 years. She’d started there when she was 20, following in the footsteps of her postmaster father, and worked her way up the ladder to labor relations, where she had to represent USPS in disputes with the unions — even when the agency was in the wrong. “It was horrible.”
Then, after a mutual friend connected her with Eileen and their love affair began, a new door opened.
“She was in the mortgage industry, she thought I’d be good at it, and Wells Fargo was hiring,” says Tracie.
This was in 2013, two years after the bank had set up improved systems in the wake of the subprime loan debacle. And she was good at it. So good that later when she moved on to another company, she asked Eileen to join her — as her assistant. Even though Tracie admits it felt a little weird to call Eileen “assistant,” especially after they were wed in South Carolina in 2015, “We don’t get hung up on titles. We just know that we work well together.”
“Tracie is so good at the things I’m not,” said Eileen. “And I’m so good at the things she’s not.”
Like what? I asked.
“She’s good at talking with people and hearing their needs,” responded Eileen. “I’m more a numbers person. But she’s not organized.”
“I have a short trigger, too,” admitted Tracie. “But she’s very level, very calming. Her weakness is sometimes I have to pull her along — ‘C’mon, we gotta do this!’”
“She’s the big-picture person,” Eileen says. “I’m more, ‘Let’s stay put.’”
But neither wanted to stay put once they saw St. Pete, their first stop in Florida in a search for what they thought would be a second home.
“We came here for four days in 2015 and fell in love,” remembers Eileen. “I’m not impulsive, but it spoke to us.”
“Then six weeks later,” said Tracie, “we lived here.”
A Google search for “Gay Realtors in Pinellas” led them to Connie Lancaster, one of the best-loved gay Realtors in town. She hooked them up with a house to rent and also reached out to a mortgage company that had a position inside a Keller Williams real estate office. “That’s when we decided — we can do this.”
After that head start, they worked in two other mortgage companies before deciding to form their own — first as Mayo Mortgage Group in 2016, and then at the beginning of 2019 as Savvy Mortgage Group.
While they don’t keep track of the numbers, they do have a significant number of LGBTQ clients. “They want to be comfortable saying, ‘This is not my sister, this is my wife.’ It’s specifically why we reached out to Connie. We don’t want to work with [a Realtor] who asks, ‘Is your husband going to join us?’ ”
Their own coming-out journeys were quite different. Tracie came out when she was 16; Eileen, who’s originally from Brooklyn and grew up in Staten Island, got married (to a man) when she was 19. “My only defense is I was young and not brave.” She had two sons, both grown now, and worked for 20 years in real estate on the Jersey shore before a cousin suggested she move to South Carolina to work with Wachovia (antecedent of Wells Fargo).
“Our differences, our strengths and weaknesses, balance each other out,” says Eileen. “That’s what makes our marriage strong. We’re not the same person.”
And that’s what makes their business strong, which is doing so well they may consider opening offices back in the Carolinas and Georgia while maintaining their home base in St. Pete.
I asked who handled their mortgage.
“A great little mortgage company called Savvy,” answered Tracie.
Added Eileen: “We happen to know someone who got us a great rate.”
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