Agency leaders for 2015 residential sales
1 Keller Williams downtown office, $515.2 million in sales
2 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Realty Center, $410 million in sales
3 Crye-Leike Realtors, $324.6 million in sales
4 Keller Williams Realty in East Brainerd, $290.1 million in sales
5 Re/Max Renaissance Realtors, $172.5 million
6 Re/Max Properties, $140.8 million in sales
7 Real Estate Partners Chattanooga LLC, $129.6 million in sales
8 Keller Williams in Cleveland, Tenn., $97.2 million in sales
9 Keller Williams in Hixson, $86.1 million in sales
10 Coldwell Pryor Realty, $68.8 million in sales
Source: Multiple Listing Service, Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors
Propelled by a record year for home sales in Chattanooga, Keller Williams Realty became the first real estate brand in the Scenic City to top $1 billion of residential and commercial property sales in 2015.
One of the five Keller Williams offices in Chattanooga — the downtown North Shore office opened less than a decade ago — also set a record last year by becoming the first real estate office in Chattanooga to handle more than $500 million in sales of single-family homes.
Team leader Nathan Brown, hired last year to head Keller Williams downtown office, is hoping to do even better this year with more agents and more sales. The 33-year-old Realtor, who began his real estate career in Cleveland, Tenn., at age 19, credits the growth in the franchise in Chattanooga to the expanding number of teams and groups under the Keller Williams banner and the philosophy of sharing more information, contacts and training among agents.
"The philosophy of Keller Williams is together we achieve more so our agents, even our most senior and top performers, are continuously helping other agents grow their business," Brown said.
Chattanooga Realtors of all types benefited last year from historically low mortgage interest rates and an improving economy, which helped reverse the housing downturn during the Great Recession. In 2015, Realtors boosted the number of single-family homes sold in Chattanooga to an all-time high of 8,717.
Last year's home sales were up 11.4 percent from the previous year in the Chattanooga region, even as the median sales price of homes sold locally was up by 7 percent to $152,000 for the typical house.
A growing share of those sales are coming from real estate teams or groups that use multiple real estate agents and support staff to promote and support a real estate team.
Most of the major real estate agency brands now have such teams, which have grown much faster than solo Realtors in most markets.
Seven of the top 10 Realtors who sold the most houses in 2015 in Chattanooga were a part of groups at Keller Williams offices, including teams headed by Charlotte Mabry, Mark Hite, Jay Robinson, Wendy Dixon, Barry Evans, Cindi Richardson and Jim Lea, according to multiple listing sales data for 2015. Two others of the top 10 selling teams were affiliated with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Realty Center — Grace Edington and Linda Brock — while Aaron Shipley of ERA Blue Key Properties was the other Realtor team among the top selling groups last year.
The large number of Keller Williams group selling teams, which comprise 48 percent of all agents at Keller Williams' downtown office, reflects the sales vision outlined by Keller Williams Founder Gary Keller in his book "The Millionaire Real Estate Agent," which outlines a path to grow from a solo agent to a team of agents.
"Success demands singleness of purpose," Keller said. "You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects."
Real estate sales teams allow individuals to specialize in what they do best within a group, whether that is developing leads, pursuing sales, analyzing and preparing properties for sale or handling the paperwork on transactions.
"Part of the cornerstone of our growth is leveraging the skills and scale of what an agent can do individually by creating teams," Brown said.
Brown previously headed the Keller Williams office in Portland, Ore., where he helped expand the number of agents in that office from 160 to 205 in three years. In his new job, Brown has even more ambitious goals.
The Keller Williams' downtown office had 209 agents at the end of 2015, up from 92 agents in 2012. Brown wants to grow the office to more than 287 agents by the end of 2016.
Brown said he sees himself as an example of the success possible for young and ambitious workers able to capitalize on the improving real estate market.
Brown, who grew up in Cleveland and quit college to focus on real estate sales, worked at Coldwell Banker in Cleveland when he decided to join Keller Williams at age 25. Brown became a team leader in 2008 and now works with productivity and training leaders in Chattanooga to help develop skills of both new and experienced agents.
In a way, Keller Williams runs like a small business start-up for real estate agents, Brown said. The firm was recently ranked by Entrepreneur magazine as the No. 1 real estate franchise. Keller Williams' use of technology and training to coach agents also helped the agency be recognized by Training magazine last year as the No. 1 training organization.
Mark Hite, one of Chattanooga's top selling real estate agents who helped establish the downtown Keller Williams office in June 2007, said he was attracted to Keller Williams by the training and development the firm offers its agents.
"When I came to Keller Williams, I just had one assistant. Today our team has 15 employees and three contract workers," said Hite, who has established his own call center for his team to help generate more real estate leads.
Hite said he sees other agents at Keller Williams not as competitors but as leads and contacts for even more business.
"Our company's culture is very different because we have a culture of sharing," said Hite, whose office is only 20 feet from Chattanooga's No. 1 real estate agent last year, Charlotte Mabry. "If I share what I am doing with other people in the firm and they learn and get better, we all do better, and the office as a whole does better."
Mabry said the downtown office has a mix of single agents who work alone as well as teams of people who work together for their clients.
"Our per person productivity is nearly twice that of the normal agent stats," she said. "All our agents share best business practices, and we have many long-time agents who teach classes and help train our newer agents."
The office handles both residential and commercial real estate sales and is home to one of Keller Williams top luxury agents in the South, Jay Robinson. Robinson, founder and owner of the Robinson Team of Keller Williams Realty Downtown Chattanooga, was recognized this year in New Orleans for being the top agent in the Southeast for selling residential properties priced above $500,000.
"The bottom line for us is that we just really love to sell Chattanooga — at any price range," Robinson said. "This town is special, and being a part of its success is the absolute highest honor for me and my team."
Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree press.com or at 423-757-6340.