Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 17, 2021

Realtors refresh thriving careers

Ramsey the latest to realize complacency is the enemy

At 50, Geoff Ramsey has amassed more than a few crazy stories about being a Realtor.

He thinks back to his infamous start in Oak Ridge when he sold a single house to a high school buddy before retiring his license in ignominious defeat.

“I was a 23-year-old punk kid driving a Corvette,” he laughs. “Who was going to trust me with the biggest financial decision of their life?”

Then there was the time he loaned his Ramsey-branded moving truck to the client of another agent, only for the driver to try to squeeze the 14-foot-tall vehicle under an 8-foot bridge.

Instead of stopping, the guy drove to his destination as what remained of the storage cabin peeled back like the lid of a tuna can. Ramsey doesn’t laugh as he tells this sad tale.

One that likely makes people who remember Ramsey’s term as president of Greater Chattanooga Realtors in 2018 chuckle is the memory of his market update videos, which he delivered from his shower (and shot from the chest up).

Ramsey’s newest story is a doozy. After nearly two decades with RE/MAX Properties on Encompass Drive, where he was the top-selling agent, he moved across the street to Real Estate Partners East and joined a roster of heavy hitters that were out-swinging him, including Mark Hite, Paula McDaniel and Lynda Brock.

Ramsey is known for having a wild streak. A picture of him at Greater Chattanooga Realtors’ recent Habitat for Humanity fundraiser, Tee Up & Wine Down, shows him in character, chomping a fat cigar as he grins for the camera.

But as the summer edition of a local homes magazine sporting Ramsey’s mug and the headline “Welcome Home” appeared in boxes across Chattanooga – including those outside the offices of competing brokerages – some people wondered what could have possessed him to make such a move.

“I’d become complacent,” he explains. “I thought a new playground and new playmates would help me improve my game.”

Picturing Ramsey anywhere below the top of his game isn’t easy. A zealous workaholic who confesses to being married to his job, he attributes his success to grind-stoning “14 hours a day, seven days week.” But he insists this was the case, even as he was outselling his colleagues at RE/MAX.

In addition to feeling complacent, Ramsey says he was reassessing his life after his mother lost her 25-year battle with multiple sclerosis in March.

“She whipped it for 20 years, but for the last five it whipped her,” he says.

As his mother’s condition worsened, Ramsey eased back on work and spent more and more time in Knoxville, where his parents raised him and still lived.

“I did this because I wanted to, not because I had to,” he notes.

Eventually, Ramsey sent his father on a trip to recuperate and moved his mother into his home, which he says he designed with someday caring for his parents in mind.

Ramsey admits tending to his mother took a physical and mental toll.

“I realized within two weeks that I was a wimp and my dad was a superstar because I had to hire help,” he recalls. “Mom didn’t want to be a burden, so when she passed away, I convinced myself she got her wish and was in a better place.”

Given Ramsey’s cigar-chomping zest for life, it might be hard to picture him tearing up, but all 6 feet 4, inches and 215 pounds of him does as he speaks about his mother.

After gathering himself, Ramsey says turning 50 also impacted his thoughts about his business. As he contemplated his graying mane, he began to notice Realtors who had been selling homes as long as he had leaving companies where they’d worked for decades and moving to REP.

Ramsey got to know Darlene Brown, owner of the company, when he served with her at the Realtor association, and was impressed with her passion and intelligence. But when he saw agents like Janice Robertson, Dan Griess and Mark Hite leaving the brokerage where they’d worked for decades and moving to REP, he made a few calls.

“I called Janice and Dan and said, ‘What the heck are you doing?’ And they said they’d become complacent and wanted a change.”

Hite, who had held ownership in Keller Williams, said the same thing. Ramey pressed him further, though, asking him why he aligned his business under another owner when he was successful enough to launch his own company.

“He said he needs the synergy of people around him,” Ramsey remembers. “I was thinking about opening my own office, but that helped to change my mind.”

Ramsey says there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when he informed the owners and broker at RE/MAX about his decision to leave.

“I think the world of everyone there,” he says.

Ramsey’s leap to REP is not the first bold move of his career. After tanking in Oak Ridge and then in Knoxville after resurrecting his license, he moved to Chattanooga, where he hoped the third time would be the proverbial charm.

Once settled in, he hopped in his Jeep Wrangler and drove the streets of East Brainerd counting faces on real estate signs. He saw Billy Weathers’ more than anyone else’s.

“I’d failed miserably twice because I’d had no training,” he says. “And I knew if I jumped back in on my own, I’d fail a third time, so I went looking for a mentor.”

Ramsey called Weathers, who owned the RE/MAX on Encompass Drive, every day for two weeks without receiving a return call. In frustration, he hung his license at another company, went home, changed into a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and started painting his deck.

Then Weathers called.

Ramsey seized the moment, telling the veteran Realtor he’d take the leads he was unable to pursue and split the commission with him.

Weathers was warm to the idea and told Ramsey to call him if he ever grew tired of working where he’d hung his license only 30 minutes earlier.

“I’m already tired of them,” Ramsey said.

Weathers provided the education Ramsey needed, and Ramsey stepped out on his own five years later.

He remained with RE/MAX Properties, though. After cutting college short, quitting real estate twice and abandoning a career in restaurant and nightclub management, he was content to have found a home.

Now Ramsey has a new home. Brown says she’s thrilled to have Ramsey at REP, not simply because he’s another feather in her cap, but because she’s seen a side of him he prefers to keep under wraps.

“People know Geoff is a wild, crazy and funny guy, but he also has a heart for giving,” Brown clarifies. “His heart is a big as I want all of our agents’ hearts to be, but he doesn’t want you to know how much he does. And I gravitated toward that.”

Robertson had a part in spilling the beans about Ramsey’s generosity in 2015 when she and the rest of the awards committee at the Realtor association named him Chattanooga’s 2014 Realtor of the Year.

The association cited Ramsey’s civic and business contributions as the reason for the honor.

“Geoff’s financial and volunteer support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Realtors Political Action Committee and the Realtor association embody everything it means to be a Realtor,” committee chairman Randy Durham said at the time.

Not bad for a one-time punk kid who tried to sell houses out of his Corvette.

Although Ramsey remains dedicated to his work, he is in a long-term relationship with Realtor Elizabeth Key. He says it works partly because she understands the business.

“Girls I’ve dated in the past didn’t last because they thought I was going to be a lot of fun, and then they realized seeing me is actually a lot of work,” he says, shrugging.

As Ramsey has tallied years, he’s learned the value of taking time off, so on the rare weekend when he has no appointments, he and Key can be found at Barnsley Gardens Resort, or out with their horses or his dogs, enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Ramsey also sets aside time for an annual snow skiing trip with a group of male friends. One can imagine he’s amassed more than a few crazy stories about those trips, too, but what’s happened on the mountain will likely stay on the mountain.

Most days, though Ramsey can be found with his nose to the grindstone, serving his clients and making a difference in his community with renewed energy and purpose.

“I needed to stir things up,” he says. “And I’m glad I did. This place has given my business a new lease on life.”