Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 23, 2015

KW Commercial looks to 2015 with eye on growth

Jennie Brockman is the managing broker of KW Commercial on Manufacturers Boulevard. Due to local opportunities as well as the attention Chattanooga is attracting nationally, she and her agents are expecting to do more business this year than last. - (Photo by David Laprad)

For six years, the commercial division of Keller Williams Realty on Manufacturers Boulevard coexisted with the residential group. They shared office space, used the same fax machine, and drank the same coffee. The residential side of the business was always growing, though, and in time, needed more elbow room. That meant two things: the commercial agents needed to buy their own coffeemaker and find a new place to do business.

Fortunately, a solution was close at hand: a street side office at the other end of the building. Managing broker Jennie Brockman and her group of about a dozen agents moved in late last year. “We have more visibility,” she says. “Our sign used to face the parking lot, but now it’s facing the street. When people sit at the traffic light, they can see us here.”

KW Commercial was ready for its own space, too. As of Jan. 6 of this year, the group had 109 out of 954 commercial sales listings in the area, giving it an 11 percent share of the market. Brockman says this is more than any other commercial group in Chattanooga. “We don’t have our year-end numbers yet, but it looks like we did over $20 million in closed volume,” she says.

KW Commercial also had 37 of the 356 local lease listings.

Brockman attributes the group’s success in part to a combination of seasoned commercial agents and eager new blood. “Our seasoned agents have more leads than they can chase down, so we’ve been blessed to acquire several hungry and driven new agents,” Brockman says. “They’ve been a great addition to our team.”

Also contributing to the group’s success is the diverse backgrounds of its agents. Some of Brockman’s agents specialize in retail, others have experience in big developments, while still others concentrate on office space. This not only enables the team to assist a variety of clients, it gives the group’s individual agents access to people who can answer nearly any question they might have.

“We’re independent contractors working on our own; however, we achieve more when we work together,” Brockman says. “We help each other plan

for the year and then support each other as we work toward those goals.”

Commercial agent Heather Edmondson, who joined Keller Williams in December, says the support the group provides was a deciding factor when she was choosing a home for her business. “Our commercial division has a lot of high producing agents,” she says, “so I knew I’d have the training and support I needed.”

Brockman also keeps an eye on what’s selling, and steers her group’s efforts in that direction. Currently, she says investment property is more in demand than ever.

“Whether it’s multifamily or strip centers, there’s a strong desire for any type of income producing property,” she says. “We’ve seen a big increase in retail, especially in Ooltewah and the Southside.”

While many of KW’s clients are engaged in large-scale projects, Brockman’s group is also talking with a lot of “mom-and-pops” who want to take their businesses to the next level. “I got a call from a dog groomer who’s been operating out of her home for five years, and is ready to move into a retail space,” she says.

Brockman says industrial real estate also holds a lot of promise locally, but more land needs to be allocated appropriately to allow growth. “We’re seeing industrial growth surrounding everything that’s been happening at Enterprise South,” she says, “but we need more land for it. That land is hard to come by because we’re not rezoning for industrial purposes anymore.”

Regardless, Brockman says local land owners are marketing big tracks of land to encourage large outside companies to share in the growth and prosperity taking place in Chattanooga. “We’re in a growth phase. You can see that in the number of homes being developed and apartment buildings going up,” she says. “The nation is talking about Chattanooga, and it’s driving people to look at our city.”

Brockman was born and raised in Chattanooga, so she knows the area well. She earned a business administration degree at the College of Charleston and then returned to her hometown in 1998 to work for Herman Walldorf and Company. She credits her parents with encouraging her to go into real estate, which they said would allow her to control her income. Rudy Walldorf steered her into the commercial side of the profession.

“I have a business mindset, so I wanted to do commercial real estate, but I asked Rudy if I should start on the residential side of things,” Brockman says. “He said no because they’re two different beasts.”

Brockman quickly found commercial real estate to be a good fit for her business-oriented sensibilities. “Residential transactions are highly emotional because you’re dealing with someone’s home,” she says. “On the other hand, commercial transactions are cut and dry: Is the business viable? Is the location suitable? You do the numbers. That’s what I like.”

Brockman especially enjoys helping businesses grow. “We have clients who are looking to expand to several more locations, so we get to go out, see what will work, and then assemble the land. It’s deal-making on a different level,” she says.

Brockman also likes the slow-cook process of commercial real estate versus the sometimes hectic nature of residential real estate. “You have a short open window for completing a residential transaction,” she says. “Commercial deals take longer. A single deal might have 180 days of due diligence.”

To Brockman, the ultimate reward in commercial real estate is seeing a client do well. “I like bringing businesses to Chattanooga, and I like helping the guys who have been working in a garage get their first place,” she says. “Then I like watching them succeed.”

Brockman also enjoys watching her agents thrive. Their goals for 2015 are ambitious, even for a growing market, but she believes they can turn their objectives into record annual sales. “Everyone is looking at 2015 with a really strong eye toward growth over last year,” she says.

Looks like it’s time to purchase another coffeemaker.