When he was younger, Daniel Staub, 29, says he sometimes felt professionally adrift. He worked at a ski resort in Ogden, Utah, and took a stab at penning novel before eventually setting it aside. For a time, he even worked as an overnight clerk at a Super 8 motel before settling in Chattanooga in 2015 to start a career in real estate.
A mentor had suggested that the personable Staub, who also sings and plays guitar, might be good at selling houses. After all, he had good people skills and even something of a pedigree: one of his grandfathers had been a real estate developer in Atlanta. (Although Staub says the ups and downs of his grandfather's career were a reality check for him.)
Five years later, it looks like Staub made a smart move, having helped 150 customers buy or sell houses here since moving to Chattanooga. All together, he has been the lead agent on over $30 million in real estate sales, and recently started a real estate team called Ferro & Staub, with his partner Guy Ferro.
Since he was not a native of Chattanooga, or even familiar with the city, his early years in real estate were tough, he says.
"I remember the first time I went out, somebody wanted to see a house in Hixson," Staub recalls. "I didn't even know where Hixson was."
This newcomer's awkwardness forced Staub to make a strategic decision that would change the course of his early work. He decided to pick a part of town — in his case Highland Park — and to become immersed in the minutia of neighborhood. He even went door-to-door introducing himself to residents.
Becoming an expert on a transitional neighborhood such as Highland Park also meant he could concentrate on cultivating a customer base of millennials — people in his age group — who were shopping for first or second homes inside the city limits of Chattanooga. Being a specialist also fit with his sense of prioritizing service over pure sales volume.
"I never wanted to sell people something they didn't need," he says. "I didn't want to convince them to buy on credit something they couldn't afford."
In the beginning, Staub says he benefited from having a close mentor, one of the city's leading Realtors, Todd Henon, of Todd Henon Properties. Then, about 18 month ago, Staub decided he was ready to form his own team.
Today, Staub says he and Ferro are well-positioned to thrive in Chattanooga's white-hot, mid-priced home market. A convergence of demographic and economic trends have made this a seller's market for existing homes, he says, with some sub-$300,000 properties selling almost overnight.
Staub says that the Great Recession curbed new construction here 7-10 years ago, which has led to a shortage of existing single-family homes for today's millennials, who are just starting families. Meanwhile, new construction costs are rocketing up due to supply chain problems linked to COVID-19. On top of all that, low interest rates are lowering mortgage costs and also fueling demand. All this is funneling customers to Staub's sweet spots: the Hixson, St. Elmo and Highland Park neighborhoods.
The market is so busy that Staub says he needed a partner so they could show a property at a moment's notice.
"So many houses are selling on the same day they are listed," he says. "If you can't show a house because of a prior appointment, you are in trouble. Under the $300,000 price point, it's been really crazy for about a year."
Staub believes that his expertise about the core Chattanooga housing market has grown exponentially in five years, which probably means he's not going anywhere.
"I love Chattanooga, it's the perfect size," he says. "I get a ton of people from Chicago, Nashville and Atlanta wanting to live here. People are becoming empowered to work from home.
"I don't think I'm going to ever leave," he says.