Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 26, 2021

Celebrating surprising year

Keller Downtown racks up $1.3B in sales during pandemic

Keller Williams Greater Downtown Realty celebrated another record year during its annual agent awards with $1.3 billion worth of real estate sold.

The hefty number made KW Downtown the most productive brokerage in Keller Williams’ Southeast region, which includes Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama (excluding Memphis and the Gulf Coast).

As co-team leaders Nathan Brown and Hope Brazzell celebrated their market center’s victories, they focused less on their success and more on the achievements of their agents during a year that was unlike any the real estate industry had faced.

From the first shaky months of the pandemic, which stalled the housing market and clouded Realtors’ vision of the future, to the NASCAR-like roar of home sales taking off in May, KW Downtown’s agents adjusted to the sudden new reality and by December had delivered record numbers.

Here, Brazzell talks about how KW Downtown responded to the challenges of 2020, its focus as a market center moving forward and a few of its award winners.

You and Nathan Brown look excited in the photo of the two of you at your annual awards celebration.

“Our success is based on our agents’ success. So, we were excited as we celebrated closing the most units in the entire Southeast region of Keller Williams, as well as the most volume our market center has ever closed in one year – over $1.3 billion.’’

During the ceremony, you highlighted the high productivity of your agents. How do you define productivity at your market center?

“Productivity is marked by how many individual agents wrote a contract during a particular month. We have 354 agents, so for us to say our monthly productivity hovers between 60 and 65% is a huge banner for us to wave. That means we have not quite 200 agents who are producing real estate. We were able to do that over the course of a year.’’

Talk about that year. It wasn’t easy, but Realtors as a whole did very well.

“We were surprised. In March and April, we had no sense of what 2020 was going to hold for us, but as the year progressed, we realized the world was going to continue turning and people were still pressing into the real estate market.

“So, we endeavored to lead our agents as they served their clients, and the year turned out to be a record-breaking one for our office, which was fantastic. It was exciting to see that happen for our agents.’’

There were a few slow months and then the market took off.

“Nationally, the industry contracted in March, April and May and then it took off in the third and fourth quarters. We typically ramp up in the spring, but March and April were slower than normal and then the market became really robust in May. We didn’t know if it was going to slow down, and ultimately, it didn’t. We had record-breaking months several times last year.’’

Did the pandemic give rise to greater emphasis on owning a home?

“I think the concept of home, or maybe even a second home, became more important last year. People couldn’t travel widely but still wanted to be able to go somewhere different, so a lot of them were choosing to make second home or vacation home purchases.

“People also rethought their current home. “Is it big enough? Does it meet my needs for working from home?” Adding an extra bedroom for a home office and more outdoor space became more important to people.

“So, [the pandemic] was an outside force that changed people’s thoughts about where they were living and working.’’

Who were your typical clients last year?

“We had a lot of conversations with agents who were helping clients who were working in industries and segments of the economy the shutdowns didn’t affect. So, these people had the means to take advantage of the low interest rates and make a second purchase.’’

How were your agents able to keep up? Realtors are accustomed to being busy, but they also had to deal with a shift in how to sell real estate.

“This is what our agents do; their livelihood is tied to production and engagement. They simply have to show up and work. So, a big part of our mission as a leadership team was making sure we were showing up – every single day – to support them, coach them, consult with them and keep their energy high.

“We focused their attention where it needed to be, which was in front of the conversations that were taking place, doing deep dives into their databases and continuing to serve their clients’ needs. We really focused on that in March and April, and our numbers reflect that.’’

There’s a strong community vibe at your market center. Were your agents able to maintain that glue as they worked apart?

“That was challenging for us, as it was for any organization with a relationship-driven community. We’re people people. So, in the spring and early summer, we doubled down on our virtual connections – Zoom meetings and small groups – and did everything we could to maintain them.

“As the year progressed, we broke the office down into small groups of about 10 or 12 people and invited them in – if they were comfortable – for a face-to-face sit down in our massive training room and reminded them, “Hey, this community is still here.”

“We did a lot of care calls to our agents, too, asking how they were and if they needed anything from us, whether it was business-related or personal.

“We paid close attention to what was going on in people’s lives. If we knew someone had lost a family member to COVID or if they had medical issues and were keeping to themselves, we made a note of that. It helped us stay connected to our community while being mindful of the situation we were in.’’

And in the end, you had a lot to celebrate. Tell us about your Shooting Star Award.

“Our Shooting Star is the top licensed agent who joined Keller Williams from another company. This year, it was Guy Ferro. He really connected to what we do here, formed a great partnership with another agent who helped him make that transition, pressed into the training and consulting and made it a great year.’’

You also awarded a Rising Star.

“We’re excited for our Rising Star this year. Royce Hernandez is a gentleman out of our extension office in Dalton, which is beginning to really grow. That speaks volumes of him, and we were excited to celebrate his accomplishments.’’

Finally, tell us about your rookie of the year, Debbie Sue Przybysz.

“Real estate was new territory for Debbie, and what she accomplished last year was a testament to her personality and authenticity. She comes from a place of compassion and contribution, and she has a strong desire to build a real estate business based on relationships. That approach really elevated her as she dug in and went to work.’’

Interestingly, her last name is a Polish nickname for “newcomer.”

“We were equally excited to celebrate her. We always know who’s doing well, but when the final numbers come out, it’s always exciting to see who came out on top.’’

As your market center looks ahead to 2021, where are you aiming?

“We’re believing this is going to be another strong year in real estate for our area and agents. Our top teams are continuing to grow their businesses and market share, and our role as a market center continues to be coaching and consulting with those individuals, as well as growing our market share.’’

Can you continue to do that in a market with significantly more demand than supply?

“It’s going to be another a year of challenges, and working through that is going to involve entering into relationships with people who want or need to buy or sell real estate right now. That’s a fundamental piece of what our agents do, and we’re here to help them learn how to do it at a high level.’’

Over 100 new agents joined your market center in 2020. Was anyone hesitant about becoming an agent since there are more Realtors than there are homes to sell right now?

“People are aware of that but are still drawn to the industry. It’s part of Chattanooga’s entrepreneurial landscape. People see opportunity and freedom, and those things call to them. We believe our market will see opportunity and growth over the next few years, and our agents see an opportunity for personal grow and to do something on their own with the help of others.’’

So, there’s hope that the housing inventory will improve at some point.

“We have to believe that. No one has a crystal ball, but supply and demand are always a part of the conversation in real estate, and right now, demand is hot, and who knows when it will wane?

“Our role as professionals is to work on supply, whether it’s new construction or encouraging sellers to come onto the market. It’s our job to move those conversations forward.’’