Mihalcin, 28, moved to Pittsburgh 11 years ago from rural Lewistown, in central Pennsylvania. After getting hooked on the city, she's now committed to helping other young people see that Pittsburgh is a great place to live -- and to buy a house.
Did you always want to sell homes?
I actually came here to Pitt to study social work but I never finished. I ended up as a purchasing agent for an engineering company. After a while, I thought I needed to try something new. I love looking at houses, I love old architectural things, and I'm a people person, I love to talk. It seemed like a good combination, so I went into real estate. I also noticed that all of our friends were getting to that point in their life where they were thinking of buying a home, and none of us knew anybody who did that.
Why do you think it's hard for young people here to make the leap from the availability of relatively inexpensive property to their own home-ownership?
Younger people may assume that they can't afford to buy a house. But once you look into it, it's like "Holy crap, we can!" Most of the time, your mortgage payments are going to be the same as what you're paying in rent, if not less. As a renter, when you sit down and calculate how you're paying off someone else's house, it makes you sick.
Do you think that the banks, the city and other entities should do more to make that clearer?
I do, because there are so many different loan programs to help buyers. It would be great if there were more seminars to help first-time buyers, but it's always hard getting people to go to those things.
Maybe there should be a night-club intermediary?
Yeah, most of the people I deal with are young, and I think they'd be more likely to go to something in their zone instead of what they may think is a stuffy meeting.
Do you find yourself proselytizing about home ownership when you're, say, out at a bar?
Sometimes. I try to walk a line between my job and this thing that's personally important to me, which is helping young people get into homes.
Pittsburgh is city with a solid and affordable housing core, and yet we're supposedly hemorrhaging young people.
That's why I'm so excited to see young people buying houses. I'm like: "Yay, they're going to stay!" Because I love Pittsburgh. I like how you can go anywhere and run into somebody you know. It's like a small town.
What was one of your most satisfying sales?
My first one! It was scary, and it was probably the hardest one that I've ever done -- just a coincidence that it would be my first one. It was so stressful, but the other agent kept telling me they weren't all going to be like this is, and they weren't. It was a satisfying sale in that it did come to end.
What's the largest number of houses you've had to show a prospective buyer?
It can easily be over 20 homes. Some people feel they need to see everything before they can make a decision. I just laugh, though; I don't mind. It gets me out there to see the inventory. Every trip is a learning experience.
Did you look at many homes before you bought your own?
I actually put an offer in on the house without my husband. He was out of town, and I said, "Just trust me." It's a Sears-built home: You could order it out of the catalog in 1924 for about $2,000.
But can you order parts for it today?
Unfortunately, no. But the guys who lived there before us gave us all the cut-sheets of the catalogs and all the things that you could buy to put in your Sears house.
What do you do when you're not getting Pittsburgh's youth into property?
My husband and I love the KSWA league wrestling in Lawrenceville. It's very entertaining. In fact, my last sale was to a couple in Lawrenceville, and now I've got to get them to come to wrestling, so they can start taking part in the neighborhood's cultural aspects.