Realtor Saneca Gaines says favor and hard work have opened doors for her since she was young.
At the age of 23, Gaines rocketed up the ranks at TitleMax, where she advanced from assistant manager to manager of her own location in 90 days.
“When my name is attached to something, I give it 100%,” says Gaines, now 41.
When Gaines saw how her hard work was improving the company’s bottom line instead of hers, she decided to become an entrepreneur.
A love of architecture, which her master-carpenter father inspired, led her to real estate – a career which has boosted her bottom line.
“I’d always wanted to be involved in either selling or investing in real estate,” she says.
Gaines now has 15 years of experience in representing homebuyers and sellers, so it’s time for her to give back, she says.
“I started a team to help pull someone else up. Community has always been important to me.”
Gaines began laying the foundation for her team last year and then officially launched it this year. She credits the training at Keller Williams Greater Downtown Realty, where her license hangs, with making it possible.
“I have access to brokers, trainers and team leaders,” she says. “The support is phenomenal.”
Instead of trying to conquer the Chattanooga real estate market with a team that rivals the city’s biggest agent collectives, Gaines is starting small with two young agents who are new to the business and two seasoned agents.
Myah Russell and Jamila Sorrell are the younger agents into whom Gaines is pouring her experience.
As Gaines teaches Russell and Sorrell the nuts and bolts of being a Realtor, she says her stories from her years in the business serve as her most effective training tool.
They also make for good listening.
“I had a client last year who’d just beaten cancer and had been working diligently to be able to buy a home,” she begins. “I enjoyed going through that process with her.
“She said she didn’t know if she was going to ‘make it’ and she wanted to leave her kids something. That closing was very special.”
The lesson in that story, Gaines says, is that real estate is more than a financial transaction; it’s also a matter of the heart and a tool for building generational wealth.
Gaines tells her young agents both stories with happy endings and those that contain lessons she learned the hard way.
This includes a verbal clash between a potential buyer and a resident in the neighborhood where Gaines was showing a house.
“I was representing a seller and had a buyer from out of state express interest in the property,” she recalls. “He and his wife were from New York, and they were moving to a red state, so you can put the coins together to make a dollar.”
The house was nice – Gaines listed it for around $500,000 – on 3 acres with a view of a lake. As she was walking the out-of-towners through the surrounding neighborhood, her potential buyers saw a resident with a Trump flag hanging from their garage door.
The next thing Gaines knew, her guests and the homeowner were caught up in a heated discussion about politics.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she remembers. “Needless to say, they didn’t become neighbors, even though was a three-acre lot. They weren’t going to be on each other’s land!”
While distressing, the incident yielded a substantive story for Gaines to share with her trainees.
“We’re all different, and we have unique perspectives, but at the end of the day we should respect each other,” she says.
Gaines says her ability to step away from a situation and view it from a different angle is one of her strengths as a Realtor. Now she’s tasked herself with recognizing the assets her rookies bring to her team and then cultivating them.
“I have an awesome team, but each individual has different strengths I’ll need to enhance, as well as wrinkles I’ll need to iron out.”
Here, too, experience will be on Gaines’ side. Although she just unleashed The Gaines Group, she’s been leading teams of a different kind for nearly 20 years.
“I coach basketball. I love it. My house is crazy during March Madness.”
Gaines’ hoopsters are much younger than even her fledgling agents, as she’s the coach of the eighth grade Lady Eagles at Chattanooga Valley Middle School.
While Gaines is passionate about basketball – she played when she was growing up – she says her work as coach of the Lady Eagles is part of her efforts to contribute positive things to her community.
Gaines is living and working close to the community in which she grew up. Chickamauga, Georgia, served as her childhood hometown and remained a place of refuge as she earned an undergraduate degree at Tennessee Temple University.
As life progressed, Gaines married and raised three children, two of whom are “grown and gone” while another is attending Notre Dame High School.
This gives Gaines, who’s now a single mother, a little down time. She says she enjoys spending these moments of leisure “hiking in expectation of a spectacle,” which usually means locating the waterfall at the end of a trail.
Gaines also loves to collect music “on vinyl,” she says, claiming there’s no substitute for the warmth and vibrancy of a record.
She’s always eager to return to work, though, where the challenge of building a team of skilled, knowledgeable agents awaits.
Gaines’ two veteran agents, Chelsea Smith and Shayla Hood, have the experience she wanted her team to possess from day one. Now she’s looking for a bilingual agent who can speak fluid Spanish.
As much as she likes the process of assembling a team, her role as mentor brings the biggest smile to her face.
“Favor and hard work have opened doors for me,” she says. “Now I’m ready to open doors for others.”