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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, October 16, 2020

Hite, Keller Williams part company


Disagreement earlier this year leads Hite to leave 13-year home



After 13 years with Keller Williams, Realtor Mark Hite has transitioned his business to Real Estate Partners. All but one of his team of 19 moved with him. - Photograph provided

When Realtor Mark Hite left Keller Williams Downtown last week after 13 years with the company and moved his business to Real Estate Partners, people asked why.

The transition came as both Hite and Keller Williams were enjoying banner years – despite the pandemic, despite social unrest and despite the uncertainty that surrounds the upcoming election.

According to a news release from Nathan Brown, co-leader and CEO of Keller Williams’ downtown office, the company expects to set a new annual record for sales volume – even in the wake of losing Hite. As the company heads into the fourth quarter of 2020, it estimates its sales for the year will reach $2.2 billion, surpassing 2019 by some $375 million.

That number would represent 17% growth for the company year-over-year, according to the release, and mark the first time the six local Keller Williams’ offices have collectively exceeded $2 billion.

Meanwhile, Hite says he’s still on course to sell 450 sides and reach $100 million in sales volume in 2020 – an achievement he calls “the best year of our life.”

So, people are asking: If things are going that well, why part ways?

Brown acknowledges the question in a recent memo he sent to the company’s agents and staff. He then offers a glowing assessment of the late partnership between Keller Williams and Hite.

“Mark and KWDT have worked together for more than a decade. This has resulted in mutual success, including phenomenal growth for the Hite team and our 650 agents and staff building Keller Williams Chattanooga into the largest real estate firm in our city’s history in terms of sales volume.”

Hite says he agrees with Brown’s appraisal of his years with Keller Williams and calls his time with the company “a wonderful ride.”

“I grew my business exponentially by following Gary Keller’s direction. I worked to adopt everything he said, within reason, particularly over the last 10 years.”

By following Keller’s Millionaire Real Estate Agent Model, Hite built his team from himself and one administrator to 19 agents and staff members. In addition, he now operates a Chattanooga-based call center with six licensed agents, and this year, he launched a guaranteed offer program.

Through the program, Hite presents a market analysis of a home to the seller and then makes a cash offer, allowing the homeowner to sidestep issues ranging from making costly repairs to opening a home to a parade of potential buyers.

But in the end, Hite decided to leave Keller Williams Downtown when conversations between him and the company’s leadership regarding a series of events that occurred this past spring reached an impasse.

“Ultimately, there was a disagreement around some difficult leadership decisions made by our KWDT ownership group that resulted in Mark choosing to take his team and business in a different direction,” Brown writes in his memo.

Hite offers a similar account, also without revealing any details: “A series of incidents took place in early March that precipitated ongoing negotiations in good faith which ultimately resulted in me deciding to leave KW.”

At the conclusion of his memo, Brown recaps the positive impact Hite had at Keller Williams Downtown and says everyone at the office will miss him.

“Mark has been an investor, champion, leader, collaborator, agent and partner of KWDT. His legacy and fingerprints at our office are undeniable. Both [Keller Williams Downtown Broker] Steve Champion and I – along with our staff and agents – will miss Mark and his team’s presence inside our four walls.”

Brown does not, however, predict a dire turn of events for the office in the wake of Hite’s departure. Rather, in the news release that followed the memo, he promises continuing success at the company – which is still home to seven of the top 10 residential Realtors in Chattanooga, Brown says.

“The success of Keller Williams isn’t found in any one team or person; it’s a collective win that’s shared across the more than 650 local agents who choose to partner with us in business in the Chattanooga metro area.’’

Hope Brazzell, Brown’s co-leader, also forecasts clear skies for the company in the news release.

“Keller Williams Chattanooga Realtors offer their clients ... local expertise and commitment coupled with the tools and firepower of a leading and innovative international brand.

“We believe this is a key component ... [of] our growth through the years, including our anticipated record-breaking 2020.”

“As we head into our 14th year of serving Chattanooga, we’re committed to not resting on our laurels but to asking the same question we’ve asked for the past 13 years: How can we support and serve our clients and equip our agent partners at the highest level?” Brown adds. “It’s a business approach that’s served us well, and we plan to keep improving and growing from that foundation.”

Hite is also looking ahead. For him, the switch from Keller Williams to Real Estate Partners represents more than a new address; it also heralds a deepening of his focus on his local community.

At the professional level, this includes working under a local broker.

“In Tennessee, it’s legal for a broker who doesn’t live in your city, much less your time zone, to supervise you. As a result, we’re seeing a deterioration in professionalism, service and integrity,” Hite explains. “Agents need a broker who’s modeling those behaviors.”

Hite says he picked Darlene Brown, president of Real Estate Partners and managing broker of the company’s downtown office, for that reason.

“Darlene has been in the industry for 40 years, she’s self made and she does what we do every day.”

Hite says Brown’s focus on philanthropy was another a big draw. For example, in 2019, Real Estate Partners raised over $35,000 to feed the students at Clifton Hills Elementary. In addition, the company supports the Humane Educational Society of Chattanooga and sponsors the placement of Christmas wreaths at the National Cemetery every December, among other efforts.

“She mirrors my belief that giving begins at home,” says Hite, whose list of charitable endeavors is extensive. (A short list includes service to Habitat for Humanity, Chambliss Children’s Center, CEMPA Community Care, Launch Pad and the executive leadership teams for Go Red for Women and CHI Memorial Foundation’s PINK! Gala.) “You don’t need to look across the ocean to find people in need; you can look out your window.”

Darlene Brown says she was surprised when Hite called her to set up a meeting. But once they sat down over a Coke and talked, she says she came to believe Real Estate Partners would be the perfect home for Hite’s team.

“We knew we wouldn’t be forcing a square peg into a round hole,” she says.

The veteran broker does admit there are key differences between her business model and Hite’s. For example, Hite leads a sizable team, while Real Estate Partners has only a few small teams on its roster. But she still says bringing Hite under her roof will work.

“We’ll both need to change some things, but we’ll also learn from each other.”

As Hite settles in at Real Estate Partners with nearly his entire team intact (only Kim Wolf, a Keller Williams investor, remained behind), he’s already looking forward to 2021, when he hopes to do 550 sides.

This might raise another question: How will that be possible?

Once again, Hite provides an answer without revealing the details. “When you do 400 to 500 transactions a year, you have a very good pulse on the market.”