Membership: More than 1,700
Area served: Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in northwest Georgia.
Affiliation: GCAR is one of more than 1,400 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors
Office: 2963 Amnicola Highway
Job: Realtor and owner of Mark Hite team for Keller Williams Realty
New position: 2017 president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors
Education: Graduate of the University of Kentucky
Career: He came to Chattanooga in 1983 as store manager for Proffitts, served as regional vice president of stores for Saks Inc., and became a Realtor in 2002, first with Prudential Realty Center and then with Keller Williams.
For the second time in the past five years, Mark Hite will serve this year as president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors.
Hite, a 15-year Realtor who has built one of the biggest residential real estate teams in Chattanooga, succeeded Nathan Waldorf as the top volunteer leader of the local Realtors group, which includes more than 1,700 Realtor members. Hite said he expects Chattanooga's real estate market to continue to improve in 2017, and he is eager to help work to upgrade the professionalism of the real estate profession.
Hite's own team, which sells under the Keller Williams franchise, expects to sell about 500 homes and do about $90 million in total sales this year, up nearly 20 percent from last year. Hite has grown his real estate team to 20 members, using the philosophy promoted by Keller Williams founder Gary Keller in his 2004 book, "The Millionaire Real Estate Agent." Hite has not only used Keller's bock as a blueprint for his own business but was interviewed by Keller last spring as one of those who has successfully used the team-building concept to build real estate services.
The Mark Hite team has its own call center, which operates seven days a week with four full-time workers and employs specialists in lead generation, sales, closings and support functions for the business.
"I have a great staff, and this approach allows me to provide the personal service that I did when I started and it was just me in this business," Hite says.
Since he was last president of GCAR in 2012, Hite said he has more than tripled his business. With his success, Hite said he has more time to give back to the community, which includes leadership roles at his church, the Chamblisss Shelter for Children and Habitat for Humanity, in addition to the top volunteer job at the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors.
Edge editor Dave Flessner talked with Hite in his North Shore office about Chattanooga's real estate industry.
Edge: What is your outlook for real estate sales in Chattanooga for 2017?
Hite: All of the national predictors are that we have another year or two of continued growth. More millennials are buying first-time homes, and employment continues to grow. Interest rates have edged higher and may move up slightly in 2017, but they remain at historically low levels. The only problems are going to be in affordability and inventory. The number of homes for sale has declined while demand continues to grow. The shortage of inventory has, in many markets, caused home prices to go up.
We've recovered all of the losses in (median) home prices we suffered during the Great Recession in 2009 and 2010, and the average price today is well above what it was pre-2008.
Edge: Rising home prices can make it harder for some buyers to purchase a home. Is affordability a problem yet?
Hite: We're starting to see it as a problem on the coasts and in some markets where home prices have risen faster than incomes. It's becoming a problem in certain segments in our community in Chattanooga as well. But our prices still remain much more affordable than in most markets. (The median home price in Chattanooga remains about 30 percent below the U.S. average). Although Chattanooga generally remains an affordable market, some places like the downtown market from the riverfront to the Southside are no longer offering homes in the average $200,000 range.
Edge: With so many ways to market your home today online and in other ways, why should home sellers use a Realtor?
Hite: A Realtor understands the market better, has more contacts and ways of reaching more potential buyers and gets a higher price than do for-sale-by-owner home sellers. A home, for most people, is the largest single purchase they make so they want a professional to help them.
Edge: The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors has more than 1,700 members and is expected to add more Realtors this year. What advice would you give to someone considering going into real estate?
Hite: It's one of the few careers where you can actually be an entrepreneur and where you are in charge of your destiny. You can make as much money as you choose to by doing very specific things. You can have the quality of life you choose, and you can define the kind of work-life balance you choose.
The misnomer with real estate is that it is easy or that most people can do it. You must be systematic, do your homework and work smart and hard, no matter what segment of the market you are in. The No. 1 thing you must do is to generate leads — that's no different than insurance or any other sales job.
Edge: What expectations do you have for Realtor membership in 2017?
Hite: We have planned to increase somewhere around 24 new agents a month, which will net us about 150 or so for the entire year after we lose other members getting out of the profession. We'll be back to an all-time peak in membership (in 2017).
Edge: What are your goals for GCAR this year?
Hite: The first and most important thing is the need for leadership development within our organization. We, as an industry, are getting older, but there are many great young people in our profession. So we established a leadership training program last year, and we're going to be very focused on getting new agents into more training and leadership development. Millennials are now the largest purchasing segment of our population, and we need more millennial agents in leadership positions.
My second goal relates to competency and professionalism. We have a lot of new agents coming into the field and many in our industry who sell only a few homes a year. We want to continue to work on how we can increase the training and professionalism up front to give new agents better skills out of the gate. We want to look for ways for all agents to be more savvy in real estate sales, marketing and lead generation.
Edge: What new technologies are you employing to help boost sales?
Hite: In our agency, we have a 7-day-a-week call center that makes outbound calls to help generate leads. To help sell our properties, I also bought a drone to get aerial images of our properties and I recently added 3-D virtual tours online of our properties. I finally decided to make the investment in equipment and personnel because this is much better than simply photos or video. This allows a prospective buyer to use his or her computer to look at the entire house and zoom into what parts of the house the individual might want to examine. These technologies help the consumer and help us to differentiate ourselves from other Realtors or those who might try to sell their house themselves.