The first time someone suggested to Melanie Girard that she get her real estate license, she laughed. That just wasn’t for her, she thought. After moving to Chapel Hill at the end of the ’80s, she’d graduated from UNC in three years, worked briefly in advertising, and then, for years, ran a successful small business cleaning commercial awnings. She enjoyed the satisfaction of physical toil, customer service, and entrepreneurial independence. But rheumatoid arthritis insisted she look for a new career. Still, real estate? “The image,” Mel remembers, “was of a fluffy job, with no meat to it.” She took the class and then the test and found, much to her surprise, how involving real estate could be on so many levels. There was a lot more to it, turns out, than a pretty portrait on a yard sign. The legal requirements of the contracts were rigorous. The intimate interactions spoke to her passion for customer service, of helping people find what they needed in their lives.
For the last two decades, Mel has done exactly that, working for agencies both large and small and ultimately starting her own firm. Meanwhile, she has raised two children at home in Chatham County, launched a series of local rock bands, and helped nearby senior citizens through an area nonprofit. As a realtor, such interests often connect her with clients who are experiencing intense life transitions, whether it be divorce, marriage, empty-nesting, or seniors looking to downsize. Those moments are a challenge for anyone, and she finds fulfillment in her job by making them less so, by reducing the load of the most burdensome times people will ever face. “Real estate is about being a human and understanding what folks are going through,” she says, “and, then, helping them along the way.”