Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 25, 2022

Two jobs at once? Mom still has him beat

Crye-Leike top roookie embraces busy schedule

Chris Payne is Crye-Leike’s Rookie of the Year for the Greater Chattanooga area. - Photograph provided

Being named rookie of the year is no small triumph. The National Football League, for example, based its selection of Ja’Marr Chase as its 2021 rookie of the year due to his huge numbers as a Bengals receiver. As the Cincinnati team fought to reach the playoffs during the regular season, Chase collected 1,455 yards on 81 receptions and 13 touchdowns.

Crye-Leike’s rookie of the year for the greater Chattanooga area, Chris Payne, can do Chase one better.

During his first year in the real estate business, Payne racked up $1.8 million in sales and landed in the top five at his office in Fort Oglethorpe. Not only are these solid numbers for a rookie agent, Payne tallied them while working another full-time job.

One can imagine Chase devoted all his time on the clock last year to enhancing his performance on the gridiron. So how was Payne able to lock in the rookie of the year honor while spending what he says was up to 60 hours a week at a second job?

Inspiration, he says.

“My mother worked very hard when my sister and I were young,” says Payne, 35. “We grew up watching her work three jobs at a time to make sure we had what we needed.”

Payne’s mother, Annette Vickrey, raised him and his sister, Crye-Leike Realtor Jennifer Catlett, alone. Yet Payne says he and his sister never lacked for anything, or were even aware of the struggle their mother endured.

“We had a powerhouse mom who worked wherever she could as hard as she could to give us a happy home,” Payne remembers.

Payne proved the adage about the apple not falling far from the tree last year after he fell victim to a mass layoff at the company at which he was working. Following a period of self-reflection and video game marathons (the latter of which he says his mother did not model for him growing up), Payne had several long conversations with his sister about him becoming a Realtor.

While Payne thought his sales and customer service backgrounds would serve him well in the real estate business, he says he was more intrigued by idea of helping others.

“I wanted to help friends or family or community members buy or sell a home. People reply on Realtors for guidance and finding their dream home. I wanted to be that person.”

After committing to real estate, Payne began kneading his sphere of influence. By the time he was licensed last March, he was ready to hit the ground running.

“I was worried about not selling a house right away because I wasn’t sure how long I could financially sustain myself, but I had my first property under contract a week later.”

Payne isn’t bragging. Rather, he says he simply tapped into his SOI.

“It was Real Estate 101,” he says. “A guy who hired me years ago wanted to buy some land to serve as collateral for starting a business. I was on the MLS the first day I had my license and found three lots for sale in a group.”

Payne still isn’t bragging, although he could crow about what he did next. The property was listed for close to $30,000, but Payne noticed it had been on the market for a while, so he talked the other agent down to $18,000.

He then returned to the negotiating table after speaking with his client and told the agent his client would go no higher than $12,000.

“At the end of the day, that’s what we paid,” Payne says.

Before the proverbial ink was dry on the deal, Payne had a house under contract for a first-time buyer.

Just as Payne was gathering a full head of steam, he received a call from the husband of a friend. This person had met Payne at a number of dinners and said he was impressed with how he had presented himself. He then asked Payne if he would be open to serving as the customer service supervisor for a Dunlap power solutions company named UNIPOWER.

Payne was reluctant. He had just invested thousands of dollars in a new career that was going well and he knew nothing about the industry in which he would be working.

Then Payne thought about what his mother was able to do when he was young. He also thought about how much he enjoys learning new things. And five interviews later, he said yes.

“I learned two completely different career paths at the same time,” he says. “I became crazy busy all at once.”

Although Payne devoted less time to real estate after taking the second job, he still managed to cross the finish line at the end of 2021 with numbers good enough to net him the newbie of the year honor.

Payne credits this accomplishment to a jaw-dropping sale that would turn most rookie Realtors green with envy.

“A friend who had an idea for a business had been talking with a Realtor who wasn’t good about calling her back. Although I was unable to work with her at that time due to her agreement with her agent, they eventually parted ways and I was able to step in.

“We spent our first day together looking at three different properties – and I saved the best for last.”

The last listing Payne showed his friend was the historic Fleetwood Building on 11th Street in downtown Chattanooga. It was love at first sight.

“Two months later, I had my first $1 million commercial closing,” Payne says, sounding a little like the cat that ate the canary.

Asked when his second big dollar commercial closing will take place, Payne offers a noncommittal answer. “My broker would like me to do real estate full-time but I’m enjoying both careers.”

Payne says he’s committed to real estate but is always open with potential clients about his limited availability. “I tell them I can’t be available at the drop of a hat and suggest my sister can be if that’s what they need,” he adds.

Although Payne has two demanding careers, he somehow manages to maintain what he says is an active personal life. In addition to sharing his life with a partner and their three “furry children” (a dog, a cat and a rabbit), he enjoys crafting and indulging his inner nerd.

“We have two spare bedrooms that are devoted to Harry Potter, Star Wars and Marvel,” he confesses. “There’s a whole lot of nerd in those rooms.”

There’s also a whole lot of Payne’s mother in him – which is why he says he’s not giving up real estate any time soon.

“I was $200,000 short of reaching the platinum sales level last year,” he says. “But that’s OK. There’s always this year.”

Or, if you’re Chase, there’s always next year.