Mark Hite entered the real estate business less than a decade ago, but the 46-year-old Realtor is quickly making his mark in the industry.
Amid the worst housing slump in decades, Hite has boosted his business by double-digit levels in each of the past three years. As the incoming president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors, Hite is eager to help others in the industry to succeed by adapting to the changing real estate market.
"The amazing thing for me is that I'm having the best year of my life," Hite said Wednesday, pointing to a 35 percent increase in business this year after a 32 percent rise the year before.
"There's business to be had. You just have to work it and work it differently today," he said. "That's one of the things we're working on at the association is to give our members more tools not just to survive, but to thrive."
Hite said new technologies and business arrangements are needed today to help generate business and more efficiently deliver services.
Hite, who is an affiliate broker for Keller Williams Realty, employs a half dozen assistants to help him do what he does best.
Hite says he enjoys being an entrepreneur, which is why he walked away from a six-figure income with Saks Inc. in 2002 to pursue selling real estate.
Mark Hite at a glance
Job: Affiliate broker with Keller Williams Realty and incoming president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors
Education: A native of Paducah, Ky., Hite is a graduate of the University of Kentucky
Career: Hite started working at the former Snyder's department store in Louisville and through promotions and mergers rose to become regional vice president for Saks stores. After 15 years in retail, Hite became a Realtor in Chattanooga in 2002.
At the time after working 15 years in retail management, Hite was overseeing 16 stores with more than 1,400 employees in seven states.
Hite said the discipline and skills he gained in retail have proved valuable in the real estate business.
"I learned the value of getting up and going to work every morning and the importance of marketing in different ways and delivering quality customer service," he said. "The same basic principles of marketing and service apply in both industries."
Hite also knows the value of being flexible.
After his only year of a sales decline in real estate in 2008, Hite said he shifted his approach and began assembling a team of associates at Keller Williams with administrative support and buyers agents to help the lead agent.
"As we shifted in this environment, my business has grown exponentially," he said.
For Chattanooga's overall market, sales have declined. But Hite said the downturn here has been less than in many markets. Even with the likelihood of more foreclosures in the next couple of years, Hite said he believes the worst of the drop in home prices is in the past.
"We did not see the spike in prices here that some parts of the country did, so we've seen only a 9 or 10 percent price adjustment here [compared with 30 to 40 percent price drops in previously hot markets]," he said.
As the new head of the Chattanooga Realtors group, Hite said next year he hopes to work to continue to promote private ownership of property while upgrading the Web, video and political presence of local Realtors.
"You are going to see us with a new public face on our website and a new search platform for homes that will be state of the art," he said. "We're going to also work to enhance communication with our members."
The number of those members in the Realtors group has dropped by more than one-fourth from the peak reached four years ago. Today, the Chattanooga Realtors group has 1,495 members and that could drop even more as part-time Realtors decide not to renew their membership in the next few weeks.
But Hite said those remaining in the industry are likely to be better trained and more experienced.
"I think we have returned to a somewhat normal pace we saw nearly a decade ago," he said.