Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 9, 2021

Another ladder left to climb

Nascent Realtor confident diverse experience will give him an edge

Paul Carter is a first-year residential Realtor with Real Estate Partners in Chattanooga. He says his goal is to double the number of transactions agents typically do during their first 12 months. - Photograph provided

Paul Carter has been climbing career ladders all his life. But he has never made it to the top of one.

After scaling a ladder for a season, he would slide down and then start up a different one, reversing the progress he had made.

At 36 years old, Carter is now standing on the first rung of the tallest ladder he has ever attempted to climb – and he has no intention of getting off. Instead, he wants to ascend high enough to reach the untouchable.

His aspirations were anything but lofty when he started working as a dishwasher and busser at a barbecue joint in Columbus, Georgia. Like many teens, he wanted spending money, and his vision of his future was nebulous at best.

“I graduated from high school in 2002 and then enrolled at Columbus State University, more so because my friends were going than because I knew what I wanted to do,” Carter says by phone from Columbus, where he and his family are spending Easter weekend. “It didn’t take me long to realize it wasn’t the right time in my life to be in college.”

With his education on pause, Carter started climbing the ladder at the barbecue joint. After working his way up to line cook, he landed in the pit where the restaurant prepared its meats. Eventually, he was managing the place.

Carter’s next stop was an AT&T store, where he once again found himself on the first rung of the company ladder. But a career pattern began to emerge as he climbed from sales consultant to assistant manager and then to manager.

Carter was 33 when he decided the time for college had arrived.

Two things sparked this epiphany:

• He wanted to have a degree in his back pocket as job insurance.

• He hoped to catch up to his wife, Katie, who was making good progress on her own climb up a career ladder.

“She had just finished earning her neonatal nurse practitioner degree, which made me think I should go back to school.”

Carter had completed half of the required course work at Columbus State before hitting pause and was able to pick up where he left off. Even better, he knew what he wanted to study.

“I had come to really like finance. I had learned about the stock market and the future value of money, and I was looking at money in a different way,” he says. “So, I thought I would enjoy learning more about it.”

Carter has a son, 8, and a daughter, 5, which means they were even younger when he returned to school in 2018. This, combined with working full time, turned college into an endurance test.

“I worked 50 hours a week and went to school on campus. There were days when I would arrive at AT&T at 8 a.m., work all day, go to school at night, get home around 9 p.m., and then do it all again the next day. It was tough.”

By the time Carter completed his degree, he was working for a different telecom company. But instead of looking for a job in finance, he tucked his degree into his back pocket, knowing it would be there if he needed it.

Then his wife hit paydirt and sent their lives in a new direction – north to Chattanooga.

“Katie was on a bachelorette trip to Nashville and decided to drive through Chattanooga on the way home,” Carter recalls. “She thought it was beautiful, so – just out of curiosity, with no intention of actually moving – she interviewed for a neonatal nurse position at Erlanger.”

To Katie’s surprise, Erlanger offered her the job.

“We felt like God was pointing us in that direction, so we took a leap of faith,” Carter says.

The Carters moved to Lookout Mountain in the summer of 2019. After settling in, Carter took his finance degree out of his back pocket and began to apply for jobs.

But before he was able to make any headway, the coronavirus pandemic brought his search for employment to a screeching halt.

Then Carter remembered another ladder he had once started to climb but had quickly descended.

“I had always thought about obtaining a real estate license. I started the course when I was in my early 20s but then quit. So, like with college, I decided to finish what I had started.”

Carter says his knowledge of finance would enable him to bring a unique dynamic to real estate. He also wanted to help people understand how buying a home works.

“It can be complex,” he says. “When we bought our house on Lookout Mountain, the transaction didn’t go well, and I saw an opportunity to make sure my clients would never experience the things my wife and I did.”

Out of familiarity, Carter went with a large franchise located in East Brainerd. However, as he became less than thrilled with the long drive to the office, he noticed the branding of a locally-owned company – Real Estate Partners.

It sparked his interest.

“I liked the idea of working for a local company and having access to the owner,” Carter explains. “It seemed like it would be a good fit.”

Carter joined the downtown office of Real Estate Partners (it also has branches in East Chattanooga and Signal Mountain) in August and set his sights high.

“I’m a bit of an overachiever. I take the average of what people do and at least double it,” he notes. “My goal this year is to complete 25 transactions, and I believe being at Real Estate Partners will allow me to do it.”

With three decades of sales and customer service in his other back pocket, Carter adds his ability to develop relationships will also help him to reach his goals.

“Real estate is about building relationships based on trust. If I do that, everything else will take care of itself.”

Carter says the pandemic has kept him from making personal and professional connections, but he notes the COVID-19 vaccine is removing this obstacle from his path.

“Being quarantined has made starting a business with no local network even harder than it would have been. But as more people receive their vaccinations and we’re able to lift some of the mandates, I see a tremendous opportunity to be able to connect with others.”

Carter says Tennessee’s status as a leading destination for people relocating to another state is also making him optimistic.

“A lot of people are going to continue to work from home, which makes Gig City an appealing place to be.”

Carter says he is looking forward to riding the incoming wave to higher rungs on the real estate ladder. In time, he intends to have a team of agents working under him.

Although Carter says no one can predict the future, he is certain of one thing: He will not be backing off this ladder.

‘I’m working with a few buyers now, but it’s just the start. I’m going to do everything in my power to reach my goals.”