KW managing broker in Chattanooga says serving clients remains key in all real estate markets

Photography by Olivia Ross / Steven Sharpe, 2023 president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors.

Steven Sharpe was looking for a more flexible career when he left his job in claims administration at Cigna Healthcare in 2007 to become a real estate agent as he and his wife, Lindsey, started having a family.

"At the time, it was a great real estate market and it appealed to me to be my own independent business person," Sharpe recalls. "My wife and I had just bought a house in 2004 and I just thought there were a lot of ways to make that buying process better."

Sharpe joined Keller Williams Realty (KW), where he still works more than 16 years later. Sharpe, who is the 2023 president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors, had to quickly use his flexibility and self-confidence when the real estate market began to falter soon after he got his license. The housing downturn in the 2008-09 recession cut home sales and boosted foreclosures, producing the worst nationwide housing downturn in decades.

Sharpe persevered through the housing slump and has advanced his career at KW, helping to grow one of Chattanooga's biggest real estate franchises as both a real estate agent selling homes himself and now as managing broker. In a commission-driven profession highly influenced by local economic changes, Sharpe has learned to adapt to changing markets to buy and sell homes and, in recent years, to recruit and mentor other real estate professionals.

"The reason I got into real estate is to help give people the best buying and selling experience possible, not to just do as many transactions as possible," Sharpe says. "More than the volume, I have tried to make sure people are happy with the process and what I have been able to do."

Sharpe says that approach is key for most agents who rely upon repeat clients, referrals and word-of-mouth promotions to gain business.

The KW offices in Chattanooga have nearly 800 agents, including 350 at the office that Sharpe oversees. Since he became the managing broker of KW's East Brainerd office, the number of agents has nearly doubled.

Even though agents are independent business owners and, to some extent, compete against one another for business, Sharpe says he works at KW to sustain a sharing and teaching culture among agents.

"We have masterminds classes here every month where top agents will share what materials they use and sit down and tell what works, and how they succeed in their jobs," Sharpe says.

Sharpe said the real estate market has shifted in the past year as mortgage rates have increased and the environment has toughened for most agents. The number of homes sold in Chattanooga declined by 10.8% last year from the record high reached in 2021, but the median price of homes that sold last year in Chattanooga was still up to a record annual average high of $305,000, according to the Greater Chattanooga Realtors Association.

Although sales and home prices are moderating this year, Sharpe says the downturn shouldn't be anywhere as severe as the housing collapse in the early 2000s.

"Almost everybody could get a home loan in those days, often for more than what the house was worth," Sharpe recalls. "Those types of loans have gone away and the market will fare much better this year than during those the 2008-2009 recession."

He urges those wanting to get into the profession to have a plan for buying and selling homes and to have a means of income support through good times and bad.

As part of his own plan, Sharpe joined GCAR's board in 2018 and has worked on a number of committees before becoming the volunteer head of the 2,700-member Realtor association in Chattanooga this January. Such work helps not only the profession but the community, Sharpe says.

"I think that is one of the biggest draws for the association," he says. "We take off our company hats and we work together, not competitively, to accomplish a common goal."

The Tennessee Realtors association recently presented its annual Good Neighbor Award, along with a $5,000 donation, to Sharpe for his work with physically handicapped children at Camp Horizon.

Sharpe met his wife while working at Camp Lookout. She later became a pediatric physical therapist at Erlanger hospital, and soon after, the couple started Camp Horizon, following their shared passion for giving young people a camping experience.

"When she began teaching and working at the hospital, she quickly realized that a lot of her patients could not attend a typical summer camp experience," he says. "To help provide that camping experience, we put Camp Horizon together in 2005 and we've been doing it ever since."

The weekend camping experience for those age 5 to 18 years old began with 11 campers in its first year and has grown to 45 campers recent years. Students from UTC's occupational therapy and doctorate in physical therapy programs work as counselors for the camp, which has been supported in recent years by Peyton Manning's Peyback Foundation.

"It's a great program and we have a lot of fun doing it," Sharpe says.

About Sharpe

* Occupation: Managing broker of Keller Williams in Chattanooga

* 2023 job: President of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors

* Career: Sharpe, a business school graduate from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, worked in claims administration for Cigna Healthcare in Chattanooga for nearly five years before becoming a real estate agent in 2007 at the Keller Williams office in downtown Chattanooga. Eight years later, he transferred to KW's Hixson office where he was managing broker.

* Civic service: He and his wife, Dr. Lindsey Sharpe, are co-founders of Camp Horizon which provides a weekend camping experience for children with physical disabilities.

  photo  Photography by Olivia Ross / Steven Sharpe, 2023 president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors.
  photo  Photography by Olivia Ross / Steven Sharpe, 2023 president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors.
  photo  Photography by Olivia Ross / Steven Sharpe, 2023 president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors.