Realtor® Donna Palm: From Homeless to Hopeful

Realtor® Donna Palm: From Homeless to Hopeful

VENICE, Fla. — Donna Palm, broker-associate of RE/MAX Alliance Group in Venice, started her real estate career not because she loved selling homes, although she did enjoy the work. She chose a career in real estate because she needed to redesign her life, she says.

“When I was in my 20s, I was living in Chicago and was homeless. I worked seven days a week at four jobs, sometimes 20-hour days,” says Palm, who lived with her 100-pound Doberman in her Datsun until she could earn enough money for first and last month’s rent on an apartment.

“I was living in my boyfriend’s apartment. We broke up, he moved and I refused to move back in with my parents,” she laughs. “I made friends with the supers in an apartment building and they would let me sneak in to use the showers and sometimes sleep on the floor of a vacant unit.”

That early two-month homeless experience, she says, “made me tenacious in life.” In 1987, she became a union electrician, working in that field until 2002.

“I was an industrial electrician (the first female in her union) and a heavy equipment operator,” she recalls. “But I was a single mom, divorced and feeling like a failure. I took some training courses in Chicago, and I learned some things that blew me away.”

That year, she redesigned her life, followed her dreams and moved to Florida.

Palm says, “That was my aha moment. I got my power and passion back and was able to change my life.”

Looking for a flexible job to take care of her kids, Palm chose to earn her real estate license.

“Up north, I was a real estate investor, so it was a natural move for me,” she says.

Within three years, she became a broker and opened two RE/MAX offices, which she sold in 2008. She continues to work for one office as a broker-associate. To break into the market, she asked her broker to introduce her to as many people as possible.

“I put on my RE/MAX name tag and shirt and got out of the house,” she says. “I got so many customers in drugstores, grocery stores, even sitting in places for ‘happy hour.’”

Now, Palm adds, she’s living the life of her dreams. She even wrote a book about it, called “Dream Bigger, Live Better – Second Edition,” available on

“Can you imagine? I’m driving a Maserati now,” she says. In addition to her position as a broker-associate, she loves baseball and is a huge fan of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago Cubs.

Other favorite hobbies? “I love getting out on the water in my boat. It centers me,” she says. And, when she’s back in Illinois, Palm says she enjoys hiking through the woods.

“If I had a mission statement, it would be, ‘In my dreams, I want to be a breath of fresh air and inspire others,’” she says.

Florida Realtors® serves as the voice for real estate in Florida. It provides programs, services, continuing education, research and legislative representation to its 165,000 members in 54 boards/associations. Florida Realtors® Media Center website is available at

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