SPOTLIGHT ON: Deborah Waters
Mary Prenon | September 18, 2023
Rising Above the Waters
Deborah Waters, an agent with Howard Hanna | Rand Realty in Central Valley, has been in the industry for just three years, but already she’s making a huge impact on her local community of Highland Falls. Following July’s flash flooding that damaged many area homes—including her own—Waters jumped into action to help.
“I got a call from Jana Currier, HGAR’s Interim CEO, who asked about the Realtors and homeowners who were affected by the floods,” she recalled. “I shared my experience and those of my neighbors and clients, and Jana got the ball rolling to secure funding from NAR’s Realtor Relief Foundation.”
For Waters, it was a loud rushing sound outside of her home that let her know that nature was about to get very nasty. “It was like the rapids that came out of nowhere, and when it was over, my fence collapsed and water came pouring into the basement. We gathered up a 75-pound German shepherd and a 14-year-old cat and got out of there as quickly as we could,” she said.
All around her, she saw retaining walls succumbing to the floods, and make-shift rivers rushing into homes. “We were lucky that we had a sump pump, so it got rid of the standing water, but it left a coating of mud and dirt everywhere,” she added.
While the fire department and various church groups were on hand to help, Waters said they were all disappointed that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has not yet come through with any funding. “It’s been a wonderful experience to be able to provide the Realtor Relief funds for homeowners,” she said. “I’ve received the same response from everyone—this is the first, the only financial help they’ve received.”
Many residents are without flood insurance and can’t afford to repair their homes. Waters described an 80-year-old man whose home was “red-tagged,” meaning it’s risky for habitation. “He’s on a fixed income, so he has nowhere else to go right now,” she said. “Others who are still working are digging into their 401Ks or IRAs and some are having to take a second mortgage.”
Waters will continue bringing these much-needed relief checks to her community members through the Fall, as the deadline for applications is set for October 15. In the meantime, she’s busy helping potential homebuyers find their respective American Dream. “I especially like working with first-time homebuyers,” she said. “It can be a scary experience, especially in this market.”
She knows first-hand how challenging that can be, as Waters purchased her first home at the age of 52. “I grew up in Bethpage with my friend and fellow Realtor John Chewens, who actually helped me find my first rental,” she recalled. “He always told me I should become a real estate agent, and I finally listened!”
Her background in computer science, high school sports coaching, teaching and serving as a West Point tour guide made the transition to real estate sales fairly seamless. Waters admits her experience as a former military spouse also helped her to make friends easily, as her family traveled nationally and internally for over two decades. “We lived in 17 different homes in 21 years,” she revealed. “We were all over—New York, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Hawaii and Germany.”
Her three children – now 29, 28 and 26, grew up believing that constant moving was the norm for all families. “When they were ready to go away to college, it was no big deal for them. I also got to know so many people and now have friends everywhere. I think I’ve been to 46 of the 50 states,” she said.
Waters spent a lot of time researching the housing areas for their various homes and became an expert in relocating. “I’m totally able to relate to people who need to move, and I understand the stress and pressure they’re under,” she added. “Every real estate deal has different challenges, but I know we can always work our way through them.”
As someone who now loves what she does, Waters admits she wishes she had started sooner in real estate. “I love meeting and helping people with one of the biggest transactions of their lives,” she said.
While she has traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe, Waters’ favorite place is still New York. “At one point, we lived in Germany for about four years, and I took German courses to be able to converse with my neighbors,” she said. “They used to tell me I spoke German with a New York accent!”