Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 17, 2020

Oh snap! Injury doesn’t deter Turner

North Georgia specialist forced to slow a bit after 40 years on the job

David Turned plays bass and sings with The Beaters, a group he formed with friends 35 years ago. - Photograph provided

In a bit about a trip to the ER, comedian Brian Regan muses that breaking one’s femur is the most intense pain a person can experience, save giving birth. Regan then suggests giving birth with a broken femur must be hell.

Realtor David Turner can at least confirm that fracturing one’s femur is no cakewalk. While taking photos of a new construction listing in June, he stepped back into an uncovered vent, snagged his right foot, fell, twisted and broke the largest bone in his body.

“It snapped like a Louisville Slugger,” he quips.

As Turner reclines on a couch in his Ringgold, Georgia, home, he opens a window to his personality by saying luck was on his side. “I was taking pictures with my phone, so I was able to call 911,” he says with a laugh. “And I go to church with a surgeon, so I called him while I was waiting for the ambulance.”

The injury forced Turner, 62, to take a breather of sorts from the rigors of real estate, which he says has been a blessing. “Realtors are always running around, going here and there, doing this and that, and this made me slow down.”

If Turner’s legs are on vacation, his right forefinger is making up the difference. As he discusses his bone-cracking ordeal, his phone buzzes like a beehive on a sunny day, and he swipes furiously to close the constant barrage of messages.

This is one of the costs of doing business for Turner, a 40-year real estate veteran who claims he sells more houses in North Georgia than any other individual agent or team.

“If you’re having a hard time finding something on Signal Mountain, you call Louis Killebrew, and if you want a waterfront property, you call James Perry,” he says, dropping two big names in Chattanooga real estate. “I pride myself on being the go-to guy in North Georgia.”

Turner does not produce the numbers that support his claim, but he does have the backing of REAL Trends, which identifies him as one of the most productive individual agents in Tennessee. The real estate analysis firm places him fifth in volume sold in the state last year by individual agents.

Turner attributes his current success not to the use of Zillow, social media or any other modern marketing technique, but to old-fashioned principles he says are still relevant today.

“When I started in this business, I worked for a Realtor named Joe Watkins, who was 75 or 80 years old. On my first day with him, he asked me if I knew the Realtors’ Code of Ethics. I said, ‘Yes, sir. I memorized it,’” Turner recalls.

“Then he asked, ‘Do you know the Golden Rule?’ And I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ And he said, ‘If you follow that, you can forget about the rest of the crap. It covers everything.’”

Since then, the way Realtors sell real estate has changed dramatically, Turner says, but the profession’s core values have not. “Putting your clients first and dealing fairly with other agents has always been an important benchmark,” he shares.

Watkins taught Turner a second lesson that has proven to be just as valuable. Instead of encouraging Turner to be a clever salesman who would say and do anything to get a deal to the closing table, he told him to learn the art of listening.

“He said, ‘God knew what He was doing when He gave you one mouth and two ears.’ If you ask someone a question and then listen to their answer, you’ll find out what they want. Then it’s your job to find it.”

Turner says he therefore considers himself to be a counselor rather than a salesperson. “If someone is trusting you with the biggest financial investment of their life up to that point, you should take that seriously.”

He also says Watkins’ lessons continue to be the foundation of his accomplishments.

“I have taken many young couples to look at houses, and even though they would be chomping at the bit to buy a home I knew would be a bad investment, and even though I was needing the money, I’d say, ‘Let’s look at a few more, and if you still want to buy this one, then we’ll do it.’ That way, I could match them with a home that would be a better investment for them.”

Turner has been building his stake in North Georgia his entire life. He was born in Ft. Oglethorpe and grew up “behind the Krystals” with seven siblings, the latter of which gave him the people skills he would need in real estate, he asserts.

“If you can learn to get along with seven brothers and sisters, then you can learn to get along with anyone,” he says with a smile.

The Turner children attended Lakeview Ft. Oglethorpe High School, which Turner says gave him another leg up in the business. “At least one of my siblings was there from 1962 to 1980, so if someone went to that school, they knew someone from my family. People knowing my name has helped.”

Turner initially set his sights on a career in music, and says he gave the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga seven of the best years of his life as he pursued a four-year degree.

But after a supervisor at a part-time job turned him on to the investment side of real estate, Turner earned his license and has never looked back. “I thought having my license would give me the inside track on investments,” he explains.

Turner became a Realtor during the Carter administration, when mortgage rates reached 18% and sales were hard to come by. “Anybody with any sense was getting out of the business, but I didn’t know any better, so I got in.”

To survive the early lean period, Turner slung freight at Roadway Express, played music on weekends and kissed his wife goodbye every day as she left to work a full-time job.

He also learned to think outside the box to assemble a deal. “I did whatever I had to do to put a deal together, whether it was owner financing, arranging for a lease purchase, or doing an assumable loan,” he says. “I put a lot of tools in my Realtor toolbelt that allow me to solve problems no one else wants to.

“When it comes to making a deal, I’m like a dog with a piece of meat.”

By the mid-1980s, Turner had done well enough to open his own RE/MAX office. But, he says, he hated managing it.

“I love listing and selling properties, but listening to a bunch of agents whine and complain all day was not my cup of tea,” he remembers.

So, Turner combined his franchise with a RE/MAX on Lee Highway. A few years later, he moved his business to RE/MAX Properties on Shallowford Road, where he remains today.

Although various agent models have come and gone during that time, Turner says he has always preferred the RE/MAX approach, which asks for a desk fee rather than a percentage of his sales.

“It’s like renting a chair at a barbershop. If you want to give two haircuts and go home at three every afternoon, that’s fine, and if you want to do 20 haircuts and work until midnight, that’s fine, too – as long as you pay your rent.”

Turner says the RE/MAX model is not a good fit for new and part-time agents because the overhead is high, but for established agents, it has its benefits.

“I get an international brand behind my name, and I can run my business the way I want to,” he says. “Besides, I’d rather pay a desk fee than give someone 40% of what I make.”

While being a successful Realtor also has its benefits, being a “go-to guy” comes with a cost. For Turner, that cost manifests itself as guilt.

“To me, life has always been about balancing guilt,” he says. “When you’re spending time with your family, you feel guilty because you’re not working, and when you’re working at night, you feel guilty because you’re not spending time with your family. Balancing guilt has always been a challenge for me.”

Fortunately, Turner says, his wife, Ronda, has worked with him for the last 30 years in a full-time administrative role. This has allowed them to spend as much time together as they want – and sometimes more than she wants, he jokes. Regardless, he calls her “wonderful” and her support “invaluable.”

Together, Turner and his wife have one daughter, Whitney, whom he calls “precious.”

During the scant amount of spare time Turner usually has, he enjoys serving as a deacon at Red Bank Church of Christ and playing music with a band he and several friends formed 35 years ago.

Called The Beaters, the group initially played British Invasion music at such dearly departed Chattanooga venues as The Brass Register and Yesterdays. Over the years, the band expanded its repertoire to include classic rock from the 1970s and 1980s, and it now plays weddings and any other paying gig.

Playing with The Beaters has been a source of enjoyment and relaxation for Turner, who plays electric bass and sings. “It’s like going fishing, and at the end of the day, someone gives you a little money,” he says.

While Turner’s injury has temporarily sidelined him, he hopes to be back onstage soon. He’s also eager to return to “running around, going here and there” and “doing this and that” for his buyers and sellers, although it could be two months before he’s able to leave the house to conduct business.

Turner is also looking forward to adding more tools to his Realtor toolbelt.

“Too many agents today have a coin changer mentality. If a buyer or property doesn’t fall into the nickel, dime or quarter slot, then they can’t help them. But the knowledge and tools you pick up over the years can allow you to solve any problem that arises.

“I’ll do whatever I can to bring a buyer and seller to the closing table and combine their unique attributes to create a win for both sides, and that takes continually evolving and learning new things.”