Real-estate agents are among the most visible of professionals locally: After all, their faces are on signs in neighborhoods all around town. We wanted to get to know the people behind the photographs, so we asked a number of agents to share their stories:

Elizabeth Aston

Gladys Manion Real Estate

How did you begin working in real estate? I started working in real estate during my summers in high school, and it has stuck with me ever since!

What’s your favorite St. Louis neighborhood and why? St. Louis Hills, because it is a community rich in its architecture, it is walking distance to lovely parks, and the curb appeal of each charming residence is unique and inviting. But most important, St. Louis Hills is conveniently located by Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work? I enjoy attending local charity events, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

What’s something many people don’t know about you? A lot of people don't know that I modeled for a national Walmart campaign, and that I have been a shoe model!

What advice do you have for people trying to sell a home? Make sure the house looks clean and not cluttered. Good curb appeal, fresh coats of neutral paint, and trimmed landscaping and yard will draw the buyer into the home.

Kim Carney 

Coldwell Banker Premier Group

How did you begin working in real estate? I was looking for a house for myself and my fiance at the time. I loved the process, and I realized that I could do a much better job than my current agent did; so once I met with my broker, I started right up and didn’t look back.

What’s a typical weekend for you like? In this spring market, weekends are crazy, between open houses, people wanting to see my listings, and buyers wanting to see houses. Usually, I have a pretty good work/life balance, but not during the spring market! We do have a pool and we opened it early. So when I’m not working, we’re out by the pool a lot and we love hanging out in the neighborhood.

What are some of your favorite spots around St. Louis? I live so close to Clayton, in Ladue, and we walk to Clayton a lot for the restaurants. Napoli is one of my favorites, and so is Ruth’s Chris. The kids and I also frequent the Original Pancake House and Five Star Burgers. The area is very walkable—you couldn’t ask for a better location, with the restaurants, Shaw Park and the bike trail.

What’s something many people don’t know about you? I am a stage 3C cancer survivor. I’m completely recovered and feeling great, and now I do a CrossFit-type workout five days a week, called Iron Tribe. I’m now giving 10 percent of my commissions to Siteman Cancer Center, because they saved my life, really.

What advice do you have for people trying to buy a home? Definitely interview realtors who specialize in the area. The realtor you choose is key to a smooth and successful transaction. By hiring the correct realtor, you can save money and make things go smoothly. Buying a house is a difficult transaction without hiring an experienced realtor—being a good negotiator doesn’t hurt, either.

Ellen Casey (Pictured with partner and mother, Trish Casey)

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Alliance Real Estate

How did you begin working in real estate? My grandmother was an agent—she went to work at about age 60, after her husband passed away. She did really well, and my mom started helping her out and she also did well. I went to law school and hated it, and then I started working for a child-care company, while helping with the real-estate business on the side. I discovered that I loved it, and have been doing it ever since!

What do you do outside of work? I’m dying to see the Lantern Festival at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and I do a lot of exercising—walking, running and different types of classes. I also like to visit restaurants in different areas of town; Mia Sorella is one of my favorites.

What’s your favorite St. Louis neighborhood? There are so many that I love that it’s hard to narrow them down! I was born and raised in the Richmond Heights/Clayton area, but I’m getting married this year and I’ll be moving to Ballwin—and I think they’re both great areas.

What’s something many people don’t know about you? I’m a third-generation realtor, and I’m getting married! He’s in real estate, as well, so we picked January because it’s our down-time.

What advice do you have for people trying to buy a home? Work with an agent they know they can trust, and to listen to them. The market is competitive right now, and agents are doing marketing amongst other agents, so your realtor will have some insights. Be ready to move when you find something. Have a list of things you want, and know which ones you might compromise on.

Sandra Coburn

RedKey Realty

How did you begin working in real estate? I began in real estate—after having been in journalism—when I was going to sell my own home, in the late-‘90s.

What’s a typical weekend for you like? I work every weekend, because I have buyers and sellers from all price ranges, up to a $10-million listing; however, I make sure I get in a bike ride, yoga, and time with good friends and family.

What’s your favorite St. Louis neighborhood? There are so many wonderful neighborhoods in St. Louis; I couldn't choose a favorite. Friends and clients are living all over this city and enjoying great quality of life: Tower Grove, Lafayette Square, the Central West End, Kirkwood, Webster, Ladue Schools' neighborhoods and Clayton!

What’s something many people don’t know about you? I am fascinated by how people all over the planet live, and survive challenges: from the Sherpa culture (who helped us survive climbing to Base Camp of Everest), to Southern Sudanese people struggling with so many issues (whom our family has formed lifelong relationships with), and crazy research scientists I spent time with who are a bit wacko, living in Antarctica. Many, many blessed journeys, too many to share.

What advice do you have for people looking to sell a home? Preparing to sell your home is never easy because there are so many tasks a seller must undertake, in addition to finding the right realtor to help in the process. Sellers need to clean out every closet, nook and cranny, and freshen up their home to the best of their ability, so that buyers can imagine themselves living in the space. I have heard it said, If you wouldn't see it in a new display home, don't have it out in yours! Once a house is on the market, it may be difficult to accept that buyers see it as a commodity in the marketplace, not necessarily a dwelling they have lovingly cared for...It's also a good idea to check out comparable houses in the neighborhood to develop realistic expectations of what their property is worth—and trust their agent will do their best to negotiate the best price the market will bear.

Kathy Holman

Dielmann Sotheby’s International Realty

How did you begin working in real estate? I come from a real-estate family. Previously, I was the director of community relations for Clayton School District, and I was going to be retiring from that position. A couple of my friends were in real estate at the time, and my friend said, You know so many people, you really should do this. So that’s what I did, and I’ve loved it. I moved over in 2000, so it will be 15 years this fall.

What do you do outside of work? I love to be with my grandchildren, family and friends. I read, needlepoint and love to travel. I also do volunteer work with Special Education Foundation.

What’s your favorite St. Louis neighborhood? We just moved from Lake Forest, where my children went to Clayton Schools, to the Willows neighborhood off Bopp Road. Lake Forest is just a wonderful family neighborhood and we loved living here. We downsized but I love it here, too: We’ve gone from perfect to perfect, depending on our lifestyle needs.

What’s something many people don’t know about you? I was the first woman president of the Clayton Rotary Club, and president of the Missouri School Public Relations Association (MOSPRA). I think the Rotary Club is so philanthropic and does so much for the community, and it’s wonderful networking for business people. We had wonderful programs and i made some lifelong friends.

What advice do you have for people trying to sell a home? Work with a knowledgeable, respected agent in a good firm that has good networking, and listen to the realtor. When we put our house on the market, we painted the first floor a neutral color and got it in great shape. That’s what you have to do—many times, people don’t want to put in the effort or spend the money, and in my opinion that’s penny-wise, pound foolish.

Julie Lane

Janet McAfee Real Estate

How did you begin working in real estate? I was working for a large pharmaceutical company and wanted a job that offered more of a sense of community, and not as much travel.

What’s a typical weekend for you like? There truly is never a typical weekend, but I am learning to take advantage of any downtime I can find. You never know when you will get it again.

What are some of your favorite spots around St. Louis? We like to try local restaurants. There is so much culinary talent here. Of course, Truffles is great because it is close to our home and the food is always great!

What’s something many people don’t know about you? That I grew up in the same house that my father was born in.

What advice do you have for people trying to buy a home? Get professional assistance. Unfortunately, all information is not accurate information. So, it is imperative to only deal in the true facts so you can make your best decisions.

Helen Reid

Coldwell Banker Gundaker

How did you begin working in real estate? I started as a real-estate agent part-time in 1988. After one year, I quit my job at Monsanto and went full-time in real estate because it was so exciting to me. I am a rather high-energy person, and this business is a great fit.

What’s a typical weekend for you like? My typical weekend is a working weekend either with buyers, sellers or both. I start around 10 a.m. and go until early evening. Sundays are always crazy.

What’s your favorite St. Louis neighborhood? There are so many great neighborhoods in the St. Louis area that picking a ‘favorite’ is nearly impossible, and I list and sell just about everywhere in the metro area. I live off McKnight Road between Clayton Road and Highway 40. We love the convenience and the people who live in the area are wonderful.

What’s something many people don’t know about you? I'm an early-riser and often start my day tending to the plantings and flower beds in our yard. I also totally enjoy getting a bushel of veggies at the local farmer's market and doing home-canning; it seems relaxing to me.

What advice do you have for people looking to buy a home? My advice for people looking to buy a home today is to be prepared to pounce on one they like. That means get pre-approved for any financing, including a bridge loan if the current home is to be sold. Our area has the lowest number of homes for sale that I can ever remember, and good homes, well priced, just seem to sell instantly—often with multiple offers.

Alison Schneider

Laura McCarthy Realtors

How did you begin working in real estate? Having moved state-to-state nine times in my life (both as a child and as an adult) and having owned seven houses with my husband, real estate seemed like a natural fit when I decided to go back to work after staying home with my children for 15 years. Before having children, I worked for Andersen Consulting (now called Accenture) and Washington University. Both of those experiences entailed building relationships, managing and organizing large-scale projects and events, and working long hours.

What do you do outside of work? My husband Michael and I have three sons (11, 14 and 17 years old), so most of my time outside of work is spent with my family. My boys play soccer, tennis, and baseball, so you can usually find me at some sort of sporting event on the weekends. As for myself, I love playing tennis, taking long walks, hunting for bargains at second-hand furniture stores, and reading great books. My husband would say I also have a slight addiction to home design magazines and websites.

What's your favorite St Louis neighborhood? I have to say I'm partial to Claverach Park in Clayton since I live there! However, I love all of the older, established neighborhoods in St Louis and its close-in suburbs. I'm partial to neighborhoods with sidewalks and streetlights, lots of kids playing outside, and shops and restaurants within walking distance.

What's something many people don't know about you? That's a tough question because I'm pretty much an open book! Having moved so many times in my life, I am outgoing, friendly, and love meeting new people, so it doesn't take me long to share my deep, dark secrets. That being said, my dream jobs (other than real estate, of course!) would be writer, interior designer, or professional baker with my ‘office’ located within walking distance of a long, sandy beach.

What advice do you have for people trying to buy a home? Smart buyers know what they are looking for in a new home (a bigger kitchen, perhaps, or a fantastic back yard for the dogs or kids), but also know that there is no such thing as a perfect house. Make a list of all your desires and prioritize them. I know first-hand from when I lived in New Hampshire that having the ’perfect’ house won't make you happy if it's not in the right neighborhood. You might have to give up the perfect garage in order to gain the perfect neighborhood!