Military couples learn to pack many boxes. Over and over.
You learn a lot, too, when you move so often. For Chris and Dana Pape, with Papemore Real Estate at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Carolinas, each home was a chance to leave an upgraded mark. A bar installed in one, a stone waterfall in another. They’ve even installed a putting green at a home.
Along the way, they learned the art of buying and selling a home.
When Dana retired from the Air Force, she and Chris took the plunge into real estate. Chris went first, leaving behind a career in video production. Dana joined him soon after, and the couple has become a hospitable force on the Lake Norman real estate scene.
“We were always interested in the dynamics of local real estate markets,” Chris says. “We’d buy a house, and for three years, we’d be checking out other people’s property values. We’d make sure we made a good investment.”
They check in with a dynamic set of combined people skills. Chris, the creative, brings the vision. Dana, the former military trainer, brings the discipline. Together, they connect people with their dream homes.
Their style is also a study in contrasts. Dana’s background “doesn’t mesh with Chris’ creative side sometimes,” she says. “That’s what makes us a great team. We are complete opposites. We balance creativity with punctuality, standardization, and organization.”
It’s helped especially in the lake community – particularly among service veterans and those who support them. Chris and Dana stay involved in veteran charities, including two organizations they’ve created.
“It’s more than understanding property values in local communities,” Chris says. “It’s also understanding life, people, and situations. It comes with age and experience in any industry. If we would’ve tried to get into real estate ten years ago, we wouldn’t have had as much fun or been as successful.”
If Chris and Dana took a circuitous route to real estate, their roads to each other were even more complex.
Chris grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and received an Electronic Media degree at the University of Cincinnati. He shot video for Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia and learned to tell stories through his work. He moved to Colorado to work with Big TV, shooting local and regional commercials and shows.
Dana grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and studied art at the University of Northern Iowa. On a day she didn’t make it to class, she wandered into a recruiter’s office. “Next thing you know, I’m raising my right hand to go into the Air Force and the best job ever,” she says.
That job: Training pilots on the physiological effects of flight. Then came combat survival, water survival, and jump school. “I had a blast,” Dana says. A scholarship took her to Colorado State University, where she earned a degree in exercise science – and met the man she’d marry.
“It’s fun watching clients gravitate to one of us,” Chris says. “They gravitate toward her because they like her style. Or, they gravitate toward me because they like my style.”
Ken Inch and Sharon Jayne gravitated toward them both. They remember meeting their new neighbors, Chris and Dana, years ago, as both couples were walking their dogs. Sharon says their two German Shepards are “best friends” with Chris and Dana’s dog, a Lab-mix rescue dog named Norman. (Yes, he’s named after the lake!)
Friendly neighborhood small talk turned into a friendship, and an appreciation for their work in the community.
“I admire how Chris formed his own group that supports military spouses,” Sharon says. “I know Dana is a regular at a coffee shop that supports veterans. It’s impressive how they get out and meet people at events around Charlotte.”
“You can tell a lot about someone by how they treat others, and their animals,” Ken says. “Right from the get-go, they seemed like ‘salt of the earth’ folks. They loved their pup, and they were very approachable and friendly. Both are good conversationalists. We struck up a good conversation from the first time meeting.”
Connections and conversations are what fuel their business partnership, too. So is genuine concern, above the pursuit of the sale. Sometimes, the home a client wants isn’t in their best interest. That’s when Chris and Dana must gear up to be responsible guides ahead of real estate agents.
“Sometimes, you get to the car and kick yourself,” Chris says. “Man, did we talk them out of buying this house? We didn’t mean to do that. We wanted to play devil’s advocate. But it works both ways. We hope our clients know we have their best interest in mind.”
Lake Norman is a crowded playing field in real estate. People dream a lifetime of grasping a slice of lake life. Chris and Dana have achieved a level of success that allows them to call the shots in business. It also gives them space to do good in the community. And their partnership gives them the agility to serve and chance to live a life they’ve always wanted.
“Working within a community and being with people is where we are meant to be,” Chris says. “Making a living at it and being able to afford to live here and enjoy the community. Real estate is integral. I can’t imagine, at this stage of our lives, working a Monday-through-Friday, 8-to-5 gig.”
Drive the streets of Cornelius or the country roads around Lake Norman. You’ll see beautiful homes. You’ll also see the American flag flown with pride on decks and docks everywhere. “This community is patriotic,” Dana says. “And it is so exciting to finally have a forever home.”
They’ve found their “forever home” in an industry that suits them both. And, through veteran support. Chris founded Macho Spouse, an organization which supports the men and women married to military personnel. The couple also started LKN Vets and Patriots to seek out veterans on the lake. The group, which spotlighted veterans on a Facebook page, expanded, and now includes small local businesses that support veterans in various ways.
They pitch in on their own as well, donating a percentage of commission to their veteran clients. In 2018, that was more than $7,000.
“We get our inspiration from these networking groups we’re in,” Chris says. “We’ve watched these small-business owners give back. It’s not as hard as you might think. It’s as simple as going out of your way and doing something for a half-hour for somebody. It doesn’t have to be giving thousands of dollars.”
It’s a seamless connection between real estate and community ties for Chris and Dana.
“The whole reason we moved here since we met, was to find a house on the lake,” Dana says. “That happened for us finally about a month and a half ago. We love hanging out with Norman (their dog). Touring all the breweries, of course. Eating at restaurants, and simply getting out and about and seeing what’s going on around this place.”
Reach Chris and Dana at 704-951-7636; firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com; and online, at papemore.com.