In the past year, more than $2.6 billion of real estate changed hands in Hamilton County. Most of those sales were handled by one or more of the 1,837 Realtors who are members of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors through its multiple listing service.
The average Realtor sold 5.2 homes last year. But the top Realtors, and increasingly their real estate teams, are selling far more.
To find out the keys to success in growing real estate sales, Edge asked some of Chattanooga's leading Realtors how they got into real estate and what has made their businesses successful.
Linda Brock, Realtor for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Chattanooga
For most of the 21 years she has sold real estate in Chattanooga under the different brands at the Kelly family's Realty Center agency, Brock has been Chattanooga's top selling individual agent.
Brock has single-handedly closed nearly $700 million worth of business, including $54.3 million of home sales last year alone. Her mastery of the high-end market in Chattanooga helped Brock to achieve the highest average sales price of any member of the local Multiple Listing Service over the past two decades.
Earlier this year, Brock won the Top Agent of the Year and President's Award from the local franchisee for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Chattanooga.
How she got started: "In the winter of 1996, it was clear that in order to educate my children, I needed to invest time and education into a new career."
Keys to success: "Considering the long term impact purchasing a home has on the lives of all families. I have always sold a home with consideration of its future resale. It is their home but for most the greatest financial investment they will ever make. I have always approached selling real estate in with the same consideration as I personally buy or invest in it."
Advice to those who might want to get into real estate: "Get as much education as time will allow on the front end and find a strong mentor who you respect and shadow that person as closely as they will allow. I was fortunate that Berkshire Hathaway of Chattanooga, then Better Homes & Gardens Realty Center, had an amazing education program that you had to complete before taking the first call and there was no better teacher than Tom Cannon and no better mentor than Sue Shaw of Real Estate Partners. I was very fortunate to have them and work in the most professional real estate community I have ever known and as a former corporate wife, I was exposed to many."
Doug Edrington, CEO for the Edrington Team of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services
The 32-year-old head of the Edrington team has been in real estate since age 19 when he got his license as one of the youngest members of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors. His parents, George and Grace Edrington, started their real estate business in 2006 but soon turned the leadership over to their son who has helped build the team into one of the top selling Berkshire Hathaway selling teams in the country. In April, Edrington expanded his team in the Nashville market and he hopes to eventually expand to other Southeastern markets and to ultimately sell more than 2,500 homes a year by 2025. For 2017, Chattanooga's biggest real estate agency has set a goal of selling 640 homes — up 45 percent from last year's total — and more than $100 million in total sales.
How he got started in real estate: "When I was 15 my parents purchased a home in Ooltewah on three acres. It had a second home on the property that needed to be completely rehabbed. We basically tore it down and built it from the ground up. This led me to a greater interest in flipping and at age 18 I purchased my first home (a $40,000 house in Brainerd) which I fixed up and later sold for $80,000. But as our real estate business started to grow, I soon recognized that my mind was more valuable and would last longer than my body."
Keys to success: "A team can always outproduce an individual and provide better service because it can create an environment for specialists all working together, rather than just a generalist trying to be all things to all people. As a solo agent, you are put in the position of having to run your own business and be your own accountant, marketing team, compliance officer, buyer's agent and seller's agent. People usually get in this business so they can have more freedom over their schedule, but what they quickly find as a solo agent is that it is absolutely not that.
We've been able to diversify and have many different funnels of business. I personally think the Edrington team dominates the Internet lead generation market. We have more than 500 5-star customer reviews on Zillow, which ranks us among the top 10 in the entire country for customer reviews out of more than 2 million nationwide. That allows us to tap into those who are moving to Chattanooga or don't know a local Realtor. We're also very process oriented and that allows us to constantly look at what we are doing on a daily basis to make sure we consistently deliver excellence."
Advice to those who might want to get into real estate: "I definitely think you should join a real estate team. If you are going to go solo, you should have the mindset to think big and try to surround yourself with smart people."
Jay Robinson, president of the The Robinson Team at Keller Williams Greater Downtown Realty.
Robinson and his team, which he launched 15 years ago, has been involved in more than $500 million in real estate transactions and helped over 2,000 families find their new homes since he became a Realtor in 1988. Robinson has sold more $1 million-plus homes in Chattanooga than any other agent and in June he recorded a monthly record high value of transactions at more than $18 million. The 27 transactions that month ranged from $100,000 up to $1.6 million.
How he got started: "My dad started me out working construction when I was in my early teens, working as a "go-for" hauling shingles up a ladder for houses being built in the Hidden Harbor subdivision. That got me interested in construction and in real estate and ultimately led me not to go to law school and instead becoming a Realtor and broker."
Keys to success: "Our clients and the referral basis that we have got over the years has really helped us. We've got a special group of people that I have been blessed to work with. I have some clients that we've sold three or four houses to and now some clients are multi-generation. I think doing the right thing and getting the job done is key. We've also tried to always stay technological relevant so we've always had really good young people working for us and we've always reached out to really good outside resources when necessary to make sure we stay current. Moving to Keller Williams three years ago also was a big plus for us because we've gotten great support and one of the best technology platforms in our industry. But ultimately, real estate is a relationship business and about solving problems."
Advice to those who might want to get into real estate: "You've got to be prepared to work long hours. You've got to get up early and be prepared to work late and to sacrifice. There is no technological solution that will be a substitute for that."
Darlene Brown, president and founder of Real Estate Partners Chattanooga LLC.
Brown and Adelia Mosley formed the agency in 2006 as the only women-owned and the only locally owned, independent real estate company among Chattanooga's top 10 real estate companies. The company has nearly 70 agents and operates offices downtown and in Ooltewah.
How she got started: "I was working in a related industry and quickly became fascinated with all aspects of real estate. Real estate was then and still remains a profession in which a woman can really excel financially and as a then young, single mother that was very appealing to me. As a woman business owner, I advocate for women and feel a great deal of responsibility and gratitude to the people who are Real Estate Partners and to all the families who derive their income and livelihood from this company."
Keys to success: "Real Estate Partners Chattanooga is the leading locally owned, independent real estate company and that niche has been key to our company's success and growth. Decisions are made locally and we can respond quickly to the specific needs of the Chattanooga area market. Attracting and retaining like-minded and very successful real estate professionals has been the key to our growth to a now mid-sized company. Both my business partner, Adelia Mosley, and myself work to provide a platform of tools and technology and office spaces to support our agents and clients. At its core, real estate is a relationship business and that remains paramount as does our commitment to customer service, integrity and delivering the best possible home buying or selling experience."
Advice to those who might want to get into real estate: "Every real estate agent is launching his or her own business. Treat it as such. Educate yourself, plan, have a budget and tangible goals, have money to fund your business and personal expenses for at least six months, surround yourself personally and professionally with people who support you and your business goals. Get up every day with your goals and activities in place and go to work."
Mark Hite, owner and Realtor for the Mark Hite Team of Keller Williams Greater Downtown Realty
Hite, a 15-year Realtor, has built one of the biggest residential real estate teams in Chattanooga, under the Keller Williams franchise. He expects to sell more than 500 homes this year and do about $90 million in total sales in 2017, up nearly 20 percent from last year. Hite has grown his real estate team using the philosophy promoted by Keller Williams founder Gary Keller in his 2004 book, "The Millionaire Real Estate Agent." Hite is currently president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors, the second time Hite has headed the local Realtors' group.
How he got started: "After 15 years in retail management, it was time for a change, I placed my home up "for sale by owner" I had under priced it, like most FSBO and encountered a very professional buyers agent, Melba Pack, and she encouraged me to get my license and join her firm."
Keys to success: "I am very learning based and travel all over the country to attend education and networking events. This has allowed me to stay on the top national trends before they hit the local market."
Advice to those who might want to get into real estate: "Join the brokerage that offers the strongest training program! I moved to my current firm 10 years ago for this very reason and have not regretted a moment."