It’s been over 20 years since Coldwell Banker agent Sabrina Cohen was in the car accident that left her a wheelchair user as the result of a spinal cord injury. Today, with her portable ramp in tow, she doesn’t find it difficult to get her wheelchair into most homes, but that isn’t always the case for other disabled individuals.
As president of the Sabrina Cohen Foundation, she works fervently in Miami to provide better access to homes and beaches for those with limited mobility. Most recently she successfully lobbied to create the first fully-accessible beach and adaptive recreation center.
Awarded Hero of the Year in October at Coldwell Banker’s Generation Blue conference, Cohen aims to help homebuyers and sellers from all walks of life. By using her background in running a foundation, incorporating her life coaching skills and using her pre- and post-disability experiences to address sensitive needs, Cohen is serving a truly diverse clientele she connects and empathizes with.
Breaking down barriers
Cohen’s real estate career began when an Austrian contact seeking help finding a home in Miami reached out to her through the foundation. Cohen saw it as an opportunity to earn her real estate license and began working as an agent in January 2016.
Coldwell Banker Miami Beach immediately embraced her altruistic goals, and Regional Vice President Nancy Corey just “got it,” said the agent.
Cohen’s business doesn’t cater solely to those with disabilities — she helps everyone, and she is well placed to assist forward-thinking baby boomers and Florida seniors with mobility problems as well.
“A lot of people are conscious of getting older and want to know how to be prepared or have homes that are accommodating that possibility,” Cohen said.
Cohen can give you chapter and verse on Universal Design, or barrier-free design, and has a wish list for beneficial accommodations she would like to see in homes everywhere; her goal is to collaborate with a developer to design something from scratch.
In the meantime, she uses trusted contractors to complete customizations such as removing the bath tub, widening doorways, taking out rugs or carpets, opening the kitchen layout and lowering counters, among other design changes.
Tackling mental obstacles
Cohen’s background as a trained life coach has also helped her build her business to a sales volume of $2 million since starting in 2016.
Being a life coach is about getting people to take their next step, she says. And with homebuyers and sellers, hesitations and doubts can be as much mental as they are physical.
Cohen was working with a couple who seemed uncertain in their search for a new home. As she gently tried to gauge the root of the problem, she discovered their fear: if they were to buy a bigger home, their extended family might visit more often. Once this was acknowledged, they were able to move forward and purchase a nice home.
In another situation, Cohen found herself helping a woman with limited mobility who had been living in the same building for eight years. The developers wanted to demolish and rebuild, and the woman was apprehensive of what a move would mean.
“I found her a beautiful apartment,” Cohen said. “It was the fear of leaving that comfort zone, but it’s opened up new possibilities. Now she’s calling me every day asking about the next step in the closing. It was just a mind shift.”
Coldwell Banker has asked Cohen to speak to other branches about how they can be more sensitive to the needs of those less mobile when assisting with the home search.