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Tyra Baxter has always been an artist. She has loved to draw since childhood.

In 2016, the Houston-based REALTOR® was looking for a way to create her art while offering unique, personalized gifts to her clients. She started giving house portraits as closing gifts.

“I love connecting with people and their stories,” she says. “Every client ends up being a friend of mine. So it’s not about the art itself; it’s the story behind the home. Our homes are everything to us.”

A Gift That Brings Out Emotions

Baxter uses a reference photo to sketch the house on Bristol paper. She then traces over her pencil lines and applies color using professional grade markers and colored pencils. Baxter gives herself a week or less per project and usually completes the portrait across several sittings. The work may total up to six hours if there’s a lot of detail.

Her art is always well received, with some clients being deeply moved by the gifts. She’s had seller clients who have lived in their houses for 40 years. Receiving the handmade art is almost like bringing a piece of home with them to their next address.

“I’ve cried with my clients. Some of the most memorable times are when the clients are selling the home they raised their children in and it’s time to downsize,” she says.

Building Art into Her Brand

Baxter was creating portraits for her part-time real estate business while working full-time as a Crosby ISD art teacher and mother. She did not want to lose her connection to art after switching to real estate full-time, so she kept drawing.

Baxter is an agent with Turner Mangum, and while the brokerage focuses on new construction, most of Baxter’s business is resales.

“Everyone in real estate works on their personal brand. Mine is that I’m the real estate artist,” she says. “I’m creative but also capable on the business side. I can help you through what’s probably the biggest transaction of your life.”

Other agents who saw Baxter’s art became interested in the portraits and started requesting artwork for their clients. Baxter set up a website and started taking orders.

She describes much of her artwork as memorabilia: she also creates portraits of personal milestones as well as clients’ deceased family members and pets. She has completed over 100 portraits to date with many repeat customers.

“People ask me: ‘Can you make a portrait for my new house to go with the portrait of the house I just sold?’ They’re building a collection,” she says. “It’s always very rewarding … I never thought people would care so much. It’s a simple drawing on paper, but it’s much bigger than that.”