Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 31, 2020

Follow the trailblazer

Britton’s flip to real estate eased by Realtor who walked same path

When Tony Britton saw the real estate market in Chattanooga heat up, it sparked a corresponding fire in him. Although he was secure in his profession as a teacher, he says he saw an opportunity to achieve greater financial success and wanted to follow his instincts.

However, Britton says he was hesitant because he didn’t see enough Realtors in Chattanooga who looked like him.

“I didn’t see many African Americans succeeding in real estate in Chattanooga, and that was a big concern,” he explains. “I knew I could become a successful Realtor, but I didn’t know if I could succeed here.”

A Nashville native and Vanderbilt-educated teacher who moved to the Scenic City in 2012, Britton says he needed to believe he could excel in real estate before switching from the security of a regular paycheck to a commission-based income or, as he puts it, “from the W-2 mentality to the 1099 mentality.”

“I wanted to connect with a successful African American agent in the city because I knew that would give me the confidence I needed to move forward,” Britton adds.

When Marcus Holt of The Edrington Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices J Douglas Properties reached out to the aspiring agent after learning about Britton’s ambition through a mutual friend.

Also, African American, Holt was able to serve as an exemplar to Britton in more ways than one. In addition to being a Realtor who achieved quick success when he entered the profession in 2016, Holt also left a stable job to do so.

Holt joined the Edrington Team after resigning from his position as a vice president at First Tennessee Bank and sold more than 50 homes during the first half of his rookie year, exceeding the income he would have earned at the bank for the entire year.

Holt had also risen through the ranks of the Edrington Team to become its director of recruiting and a mentor to new agents.

Britton, presented with the picture of success he needed to see, interviewed several smaller, boutique real estate companies in the hopes of finding a good fit.

“I wanted to become part of something that wasn’t already formed but was evolving,” he recalls. “I wanted to make sure the culture was organic and on the cutting edge.”

When J Douglas Properties CEO Doug Edrington shared his vision of opportunity and growth with Britton, the former teacher said he wanted to make the brokerage his professional home.

However, he had to prove he would be a good addition before being invited to join.

“Everybody wants you coming out of real estate school,” Britton points out. “But the Edrington Team was selective, and I liked that.”

Holt says the Edrington Team is not looking to simply swell its numbers and build a large sales entity but to create a culture populated with “the right people.”

“It seems like it’s easy to get into the real estate business. You take two courses, pass a test, apply for your license and you’re an agent – technically,” he notes.

“But we don’t want to hire just anyone or as many people as possible; we want to hire people who can foster the relationships we’re trying to build with our clients and the community, and who can do it in a way that meets the standards we’ve set for ourselves.”

The vetting process at the Edrington Team is not quick or easy, Holt says, but it is effective.

“We’re looking for people who are hardworking, humble and professionally mature – and who carry a bit of swagger,” he clarifies. “Those people tend to thrive.”

After putting Britton through the grinder – which included Thursday evening socials with the entire J Douglas Properties firm – the team offered him a spot listing and selling homes. But real estate boot camp, as it were, was only beginning.

“We have a mentorship program for everyone who comes on because learning real estate is like going to college,” Holt says. “When you first go to college, you’re excited and ready to go, but there’s a lot to learn. And it helps to have someone guide you through it.

“That’s the difference between someone saying, ‘I’m going to be a Realtor,’ and then six months later, they’re either out of the business or they have their footing.”

As a new agent, Britton learned the business in steps, starting with contracts. He then moved on to role-playing, after which he tackled his buyer’s presentation.

Meanwhile, he was joining the rest of the Edrington Team for its regular training sessions, including sales training on Mondays.

“It can be overwhelming in the beginning, but that period of time weeds out the people who aren’t going to make it,” Britton acknowledges.

“We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re coming into this industry and trying to figure things out on their own,” Holt adds. “You’re never going to be alone. There’s always going to be someone with you to help you move your career forward.”

This includes an agent’s first 10 transactions, during which a fellow agent is glued to the trainee’s side to “help with the big questions and the fires,” Holt says, “and with the small questions that could become fires. Having someone with you during that time is crucial. This business is much easier when you have someone you can depend on.”

“I don’t see how anyone starts off on their own,” Britton says. “I preach teams to anyone who’s coming into the field.”

Like Holt, Britton found quick success. “I made way more money than I did teaching,” he says with a smile.

Holt adds that the Edrington Team, which in 2019 did more transactions than any other real estate team in Chattanooga, according to the Multiple Listing Service, did not carry Britton, but that Britton added his “hard work, humility, professional maturity and swagger,” to the team and made a significant contribution.

“Tony worked very hard, and the numbers were the byproduct,” Holt maintains. “There was a direct path from his hard work to the success that came from it.

“When he started, he was hungry. You could see it every day in his work ethic. The drive Tony had then is what continues to fuel his success.”

Britton has since risen through the ranks of the Edrington Team to become a mentor, like Holt. This places him in a position to serve as inspiration for another aspiring Realtor – regardless of their color.

“It’s not our intention to just hire African Americans,” Britton says. “We’re focused on bringing on exceptional agents.”

Still, Britton hopes he’s at the vanguard of a new lineage of African American Realtors in Chattanooga – of people who hunger for more than their station in life and need someone who looks like them to not just serve as an example of success but to also guide them until they find their footing.

“I would like to see more diversity, not just in terms of color but also thought and culture,” Britton says. “Diversity gives an organization strength and a broader perspective. You can’t be one-sided and expect to grow.

“Minorities are doing great, it’s just a matter of identifying the talent and giving them an opportunity to shine,” Britton continues. “There are a lot of people like me, and we want to do our part to encourage them and bring them along with us.”

Holt says greater diversity in real estate begins with a conversation. “I would like to see more African Americans in the business, too, so we need to have a conversation about overcoming people’s fears or lack of knowledge.

“There are a lot of people who won’t think they can succeed in this business until they see someone who looks like them do it first. But we want you to know whether you’re Black, brown or any other color, there’s a place for, and there are people who will guide you and make sure you’re successful.”