Real estate agent Linda Lifsey has a talent for helping her clients visualize a property as their own space even though she can't physically see it.
"In a lot of ways, my blindness can help me, because I don't pass judgment based on having vision," says Lifsey, who lives in Roy. "I tell everyone, 'You need to come with me to visit the house, smell the house, get a feel for the house in general."'
Lifsey says working to gain a client's confidence is an important part of her business.
"One of the ways that I earn trust as a blind person is to use the power of touch, starting with the first meeting," she says. "Once you shake somebody's hand, you establish some sort of a bond real quick."
Lifsey says she works to strengthen that bond by having her clients lead her around a prospective home, allowing her to maintain that touch connection and helping her to "feel" their response to questions. And she does her homework: She memorizes specifics about a house and its individual rooms in advance, so that she can answer a client's questions as they make their tour of a home.
She says that she usually tells prospective clients before she meets them that she is blind, in order to avoid surprises, and she often uses humor to "break the ice."
"I would say, 'Would you like me to drive, or would you like to drive?"' she says.
In the three years she has been a real estate agent, no one has declined her services due to her impairment, she says.
Lifsey, who grew up in Ogden, says she lost her sight due to complications from being born three months premature.
"I was kept in an incubator for six months and was exposed to too much oxygen, which destroyed the optic nerve and retina," she says.
But she says her blindness has never really kept her from achieving any of her goals. Besides being a married mother of two children and a real estate agent, she is also a licensed massage therapist.
Her work as a massage therapist has helped her develop the ability to gain people's confidence, she says, "because if you're going to have someone feel good, in massage you have to earn their trust really quickly."
That same principle applies to real estate, she says. "If you're going to have someone feel good about having you as an agent, you have to earn their trust very quickly."
On Friday, Lifsey put that notion to the test when she showed client Corrie Done of North Ogden two homes, one in North Ogden and the other in Willard. Done and Lifsey say the tours were their first experience with one another.
Done says that working with Lifsey was much like being with a sighted agent.
"There wasn't really anything different, other than I had to help her" by leading her through the homes, Done says. "I was very satisfied. She did great."
Lifsey's boss, Corey Hadley, says that having her with the company for the past year has been a learning experience.
"At first, I thought like probably everyone else did, How is she going to do this if she can't see?" says Hadley, who owns Exit Realty Wasatch. "She's proven to us that she can, and most of her clients don't have any problem with it at all."
Lifsey attributes her success to supportive parents who did all they could to help her have as normal a childhood as possible, and who taught her to be independent. She says her father even helped her learn to ride a bicycle as a child.
"He first started me out on training wheels, and I learned to navigate the bike, and then one day, he took them off and said, 'OK, it's time to fly!"'
She says she eventually learned to ride on neighborhood streets with her sisters by following the sound of cards they would put into the spokes of their bike tires.
"I had become very familiar with the streets by walking them with my friends," she says. "Wherever they would go, I would go."She has continued to go wherever she has wanted ever since.