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Contributed photography / Robert Backer is the president of the Chattanooga Association of Realtors for 2021.

Robert Backer has sold real estate for Coldwell Banker for 24 years, and he grew up in the business, helping his mother plant 'for sale' signs and maintain rentals. But Backer has never seen a market like this one, he says.

"This is the craziest market I've experienced in my whole 24 years," says Backer, who is the president of the Chattanooga Association of Realtors for 2021. "I've been through downturns and all that, but right now this is just crazy because there is no inventory."

Boosted by pandemic-related relocations and bargain-basement interest rates, Chattanooga's white-hot housing market is driving bidding wars and sales at unheard-of speeds. In February, the typical home sold in Chattanooga in 39 days, or 36% quicker than a year ago and three times faster than houses sold a decade ago. The median home price in Chattanooga stands at $237,443, up more than 10% from a year ago.

"The biggest challenge right now is low inventory and affordable housing," Backer says. "Everything is getting so expensive that it's hard to find affordable housing."

A decade ago, more than 7,000 houses were listed for sale locally. A more typical number in recent years has been 2,500. But in March, inventory stood at about 656 homes for sale, Backer adds. It's an interesting time to take the reins at the organization that acts as the voice of real estate for Chattanooga.

"My crystal ball has a crack in it right now," he says. "But usually we have that springtime burst of inventory — I'm kind of hoping that will happen and alleviate some of this."

Backer learned the real estate business early from his mother, Peggy Pryor, who worked for 28 years as an agent for Coldwell Banker. Backer built his first career in the restaurant business, going from washing dishes at 15 to managing the Loft on the North Shore to owning his own restaurant — a downtown spot called the Carter Street Cafe. When the time came to shift gears, real estate just made sense, Backer says.

"I just like the process," he says. "I rehab houses, I love new construction, I have rental property."

His favorite clients are those who are new to the world of home-buying, Backer says.

"I love working with first-time home buyers and walking them through the experience of it and making sure they're taken care of properly," he says.

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