Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 10, 2021

Amateur homebuyer turns pro

Financial planner uses lessons from frequent moves to assist others

Nathan Brown was a financial planner and analyst before switching to real estate. - Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

Even before he became a Realtor, Nathan Brown was already an expert in buying and selling homes. Just shy of age 40, he’s already purchased three houses and is now happily at home in his fourth with wife Cara and sons Mack, 9, and Paul, 6.

His first house on Highway 58 was a bachelor pad he shared with a few roommates. When he got married, he replaced his roomies with Cara. Then the Browns moved to a house in Etowah in an area near the interstate.

But after about five years, when Nathan and Cara found out they were expecting a baby, they made the move to the Westview school district so they’d be well-positioned when Mack reached school age.

Mack’s education was also reason for the fourth move. He was accepted into the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, which is downtown. The school was a two-hour round trip for Cara so the Browns decided to get closer to shorten the commute and moved to the Camp Jordan neighborhood.

“My wife and I have never been afraid to move to enable some part of our life we thought we needed to improve,” Brown says.

They learned many home-renovation skills along the way.

“In each of the houses, we’ve put in a considerable amount of change like having the master bath redone,” he says. “My wife is an expert painter. She can take wallpaper down and paint and it looks great. I just finished a project in the house where our master bedroom had a bedroom on the other side and it had two closets. So I flipped the wall around. It takes forever because you have to rework the wiring, and dealing with Sheetrock is awful.”

Plan B

Real estate as a profession was not in Brown’s original plan.

“I was born in Knoxville,” he says. “My dad worked for TVA and that’s what brought us to the Chattanooga area. We were there in 1987. I’ve been in Chattanooga all my life except for going to UT-Knoxville for undergraduate. I got a degree in economics and business administration.” He then got his MBA at UT-Chattanooga and started working as a financial planner and analyst.

But after working for Mueller, which manufactures fire hydrants, and the garbage truck maker Heil, Brown decided he needed something more out of life. “Eventually, I decided to move out of the corporate world and do something more personal. It doesn’t get much more personal than helping people buying and selling their house.”

When he decided on real estate he looked carefully at his options. The company that stood out above all the others was Keller Williams.

The largest real estate franchise in the world, Keller Williams focusses on training and supporting their associates. They use coaching, technology and education to develop their agents for success. Keller Williams was named the No. 1 Training Organization in the world by Training Magazine in 2015. The firm also has local Associate Leadership Councils made up of management and top agents that direct decisions on how each office operates.

“As a real estate agent I have to put my license underneath a brokerage,” Brown explains. “So when doing research about different brokerage firms I came across Keller Williams. Keller Williams offered a good balance of training and independence.

“Some brokerage firms had more of a team concept and it felt more corporate,” he continues. “This was a lot more entrepreneurial. I feel like I’m in business as myself in this structure, but I have the great support of the office and lots of great agents are willing to answer questions.

“A book I read recently described it when you work in a corporate environment you’re given your clients. Your boss gives you this person or entity to go serve. In the real estate world, it’s not just about knowing what to do and how to do it, but you have to go to people and tell them you want their business. Fortunately, in living here so long I know a lot of people and that’s been incredibly helpful.”

Hot market

Brown works out of the East Brainerd office and has been at the real estate game for just a few months. But he’s glad he made the switch and has found his friends and acquaintances in Chattanooga a great network for business.

“Chattanooga is been very hot,” he points out. “A lot of publications are naming it a great city for work. The internet is super-fast and that Chattanooga is affordable is great, especially relative to a high cost living in other areas.

“If you’re a remote worker, you can do very well by ending up in Chattanooga. We’ve got the river and the mountains so lots of fun outdoor things to do. A lot of people have woken up to Chattanooga.”

Chattanooga is such a lucrative market that some homeowners are getting unsolicited letters from agents wanting to buy their houses.

“I have talked to several people who had investment properties who got letters wanting to pay all cash,” Brown adds. “Those people are looking for opportunities to have a margin of safety on their investments. They’re hoping to catch people before they go get a full market analysis. Owners might want to do more research before hopping in there.”

Brown’s other piece of advice is about making moving easier when you do sell. “Try not to hold on to things,” he says. “If it’s not something you’re using, why hang on to it? As you live in a property for a long time, especially if you have lots of closet space, you’ll just pile things up. It’s so much better to have just what you need.”

It’s advice he might give his parents, who are in their 70s.

“My parents moved to the Chattanooga area in 1987 and have lived in the same house I grew up in ever since. It was great for a growing family, but it’s no longer appropriate for them. The master’s not on the main level and the stairs are pretty treacherous.

“On the one hand, moving is stressful, and the longer you’ve been in the house the more stuff you accumulate. But at the same time, you’re missing out on the luxuries of a nice one-level house you really love.”

When the time comes, Brown will probably handle the transaction and he’ll be happy to do it.

“I would encourage people to try to turn their interests into their careers,” he says. “If you’re interested in real estate try to turn that into your career as opposed to having a job that takes away your energy.”