Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, August 19, 2022

Lessons learned from both unlikely, likely sources propel Mullins’ success

Amy Mullins is the managing broker of United Real Estate Experts in Chattanooga. She credits her grandmother with steering her into real estate. - Photograph provided

United Real Estate Experts managing broker Amy Mullins has three pieces of advice for professional success:

One: Listen to your memaw.

Two: Act against your fears.

Three: Never, ever order pizza in bulk.

When Mullins, 40, recommends people listen to their memaw (or nanny, bubbe or noona), she’s actually encouraging them to be open to good advice, whatever the source.

Mullins says she’s a real estate professional today because she took a one-week job answering phones at a brokerage in 2006 after her memaw encouraged her to not pass up the opportunity.

“I was between jobs when a temp agency called and said, ‘We have a one-week assignment answering phones for a real estate firm. Do you want it?’

“I didn’t. But my memaw said, ‘It’s a job. Take it.’ So I did.”

Before signing up with the temp agency, Mullins’ resume consisted of a stint with a collections agency, where she made calls instead of answering them.

“I tried to get people to pay their bill over the phone. When I did, I got to ring a bell,” Mullins recalls. “I rang the bell so many times, they moved me to client services.”

Instead of ringing a bell, Mullins went “ka-ching!” when Realtor Susan Shaw offered her an admin job after noticing her work ethic and effusive personality during her temp assignment.

When Shaw became the broker of Prudential’s downtown Chattanooga office, she took Mullins with her. After Mullins hit a pay ceiling, Shaw directed her to Realtor Charlotte Mabry, who needed a listing coordinator. In 2013, Mullins made the jump to licensed agent when she became a buyer’s rep for Mabry. She went solo in 2017.

Mullins says she “gives props” to her memaw and Shaw for guiding her to what became a rewarding career.

“If it hadn’t been for my memaw, I don’t know where I’d be. I’m from McDonald, Tennessee, so I didn’t know anything about real estate. That was my defining moment.”

Mullins says time spent under the wings of leading agents like Mabry and Darlene Brown guided her forward.

“Old school Realtors tend to underestimate me because I’m younger and a new broker, but I learned the ropes from a lot of the big dogs, which helps.”

Mullins notes she also wouldn’t be a Realtor if she’d listened to the internal voice that told her to stay put in a salaried position.

“I was doing 50 transactions a month as Charlotte’s contract to close coordinator. It was a lot of work but it allowed me to see how much business the agents were doing.

“I considered stepping out on my own but I was afraid to give up my paycheck. I eventually thought, ‘If I’m going do all this work, I need to make more money.’”

Love, not fear, held Mullins in place when Lisa Peel, a managing partner with United Real Estate Experts, asked her to become the broker of the company’s newly opened Chattanooga office in 2019.

“I was with Keller Williams for 13 years. I did a lot of training, volunteered during Red Day and was there on Feed Your Face Friday. I ate, breathed and slept KW.

“So, when Lisa tried to recruit me, I said, ‘No, I love my owner and my broker; I’m not going anywhere.’”

Peel persisted, though, and eventually wore Mullins down.

“I knew she’d be a servant leader who was invested in the success of her agents,” Peel writes in an email from Knoxville, where United also has a branch. “Her enthusiasm is contagious and she’s a true out-of-the-box thinker, so I also knew she’d bring unique ideas to the table.”

United had a roster of one agent when Mullins became broker, allowing her to double the agent count, as she continued to list and sell homes to people in her sphere.

The team at United now stands at 50, thanks to Mullins’ recruiting skills, technical expertise and enthusiasm for the brand, says Peel.

“Amy is very knowledgeable about Tennessee and Georgia contracts and is able to help agents navigate difficult transactions. She also loves United Real Estate – and it shows.”

Mullins isn’t shy when it comes to trumpeting her leadership skills. She describes herself as being the kind of broker who will hop into the trenches with her agents and show them how to secure a contract and stay a step ahead in a deal.

Mullins also treats her agents like individuals rather than a number, Peel says. This was evident when she planned an office-wide celebration of India’s Independence Day Aug. 15 in honor of Realtors Sonny and Laila Punjani, Indian immigrants who operate out of United. (See the cover story for the Aug. 12, issue of the Hamilton County Herald.)

“I don’t make a percentage off my agents,” Mullins says. “I care about them and want them to succeed.”

Mullins is referring to United’s agent compensation structure, which is not based on a percentage of each closing but a flat fee of $595 per transaction. She says this was the true magic behind her ability to build United’s team, as it allows agents to keep more of their commission.

Mullins is currently focused on preparing United’s Chattanooga agents for what she says is a looming shift from a seller’s to a buyer’s market. As part of her training at her office, she’s encouraging her crew to return to the basics.

“Agents are going to have to go old school. That means doing open houses and prospecting. It’s been too easy, and we’re going to have to work again.

“I had a buyer get $10,000 off the list price because he was paying cash. That’s where the industry wants to go, so we need to get back to selling ourselves as agents and giving our clients value.”

Mullins says going old school will be important in real estate but isn’t always the best tactic in life.

Case in point: Her experience ordering pizzas in bulk.

“I had a craving for one of the pizzas I loved back when I was in high school. So, I searched for them and found out someone was making them locally.”

Mullins also learned she could order only a bulk of 96 pizzas. But that didn’t stop her.

“I thought, ‘This is the pizza of my youth; it’s going to be amazing.’”

What Mullins didn’t know is that the pizza was the same only in name.

“Back in the day, they used white flour and fatty cheese. But the new pizzas were made with low-fat cheese. And they tasted like cardboard.”

Mullins was disappointed. Worse, she was left with 90 pizzas in her freezer.

But, as Peel says, Mullins is an out-of-the-box thinker – and she devised a truly unique solution for unloading her inventory: throwing a pizza party for her agents.

“When I took off the cheese and added my own toppings, they weren’t bad,” Mullins shrugs.

Although the excess pizzas provided an excuse for a party, Mullins doesn’t need a reason to enjoy herself. As the married mother of a teenage daughter, she has plenty of opportunities for fun after work.

“I love everything downtown. I love listening to music on the Riverfront, I love renting electric bikes and I love kayaking.”

Mullins also enjoys visiting Chattanooga’s secret speakeasies, although as a dance mom (her daughter is a competitive dancer) and a loving spouse (her husband is home inspector Matt Mullins), she generally sticks with activities the entire family can enjoy.

That can include making TikTok videos, which Mullins and her daughter enjoy but her husband could skip.

To show why he wouldn’t mind opting out, Mullins loads a video of her taking the Tortilla Challenge with her husband.

Tortilla Challenge participants fill their mouths with water and then play rock, paper, scissors to determine who slaps whom with a tortilla. The person who spits their water loses.

Mullins’ husband won the challenge but paid a price.

“My tortilla broke off and I accidentally hit him,” she says as the video verifies her story. “He barely touched me and then I took my tortilla and – bam! Then I spewed.”

The video was a win for Mullins, too, however, as it garnered more than 10,000 views.

Although Mullins can easily fill the hours away from her office with family time, as a broker, she’s always either working, thinking about work or on call. And she’s OK with that.

“I became a broker was because I wanted to be available – and not just during typical work hours. When I was an agent and called my broker, I needed them to answer the phone; now it’s important for me to answer my agent’s questions as soon as possible.”

Mullins just hopes they take her advice for professional success. That goes double for not buying pizza in bulk because two old school pizza parties at work might be one old school pizza party too many.