At 24, Realtor Emily Butler is young enough that her mother’s tendency to chat about personal matters with strangers on the street still makes her roll her eyes. But she also is old enough to see the wisdom of her mom’s friendly, outgoing nature.
“She very open with people,” Butler laughs. “It embarrassed me when I was young; I’d say, ‘Mom! Why did you say that to that person?’ But now the memory of watching her talk with people she didn’t know has helped me to connect with clients. I have an easier time finding a perfect home for them because I know them better.”
Butler took cues from her mother when she moved to Chattanooga in 2016 to take classes at UTC and began working in the service industry. As she waited on patrons at Community Pie, she had an easy time interacting with the strangers she met and enjoyed seeing them leave her table smiling.
Butler lacked the same sense of connection in the classroom, where she struggled to latch on to a particular field of study.
“I swapped major three times,” she recalls. “Eventually, I admitted I was wasting time and money and stepped back to figure out what I really wanted to pursue.”
Butler says her love of homes and knack for engaging people prompted her to consider real estate, although she was initially reluctant to switch.
“I thought it would be perfect for me but I also knew it would be a big change,” she explains. “I was comfortable where I was and I knew getting into the business would take time and cost money.”
A friend who was an agent with The Edrington Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices J Douglas Properties convinced Butler to pull the trigger on real estate.
“He said a person can’t be successful without first feeling uncomfortable. I knew he was right.”
Butler’s friend introduced her to the Edrington Team, telling her the training would give her a leg up in the industry. She says he was right again.
“I’d never bought a home so it was a whole new process; I needed to start from the beginning and learn everything,” she says.
“Everything” included contracts, scripts, the rules of behavior and more. Once Butler began taking on clients, the team placed a mentor at her side to make sure she was stepping in the right direction.
Butler says the one-on-one guidance helped her to navigate the rough waters of the residential real estate market as she first set sail and gave her support when her first contract collapsed.
“Everything was going well when things went south a couple days before closing,” she remembers. “The second inspection didn’t turn out like my buyer had hoped it would, and although I tried to provide options that would allow my client to negotiate a solution, things didn’t work out.”
Butler says the experience showed her the benefits of being part of a team.
“Even though I felt like I was alone at certain points, I always had the ability to reach out to my mentor and ask for help. Teamwork helps in real estate, especially at the start. You want to have someone looking out for you.”
In the months that followed, Butler learned to tackle problems on her own and began to feel bonded to her work. She smiles as she tells the story of how she helped a buyer do what initially seemed would be impossible.
“During the peak of the craziness of the market, I had a set of buyers who were having a hard time competing with investors at the lower price point. We went through a lot of homes before we finally found something that clicked. They were a big family, so it was a relief to get them into the home they’d been desperately wanting.”
The experience birthed a love of working with rookies in Butler.
“There’s nothing like watching a first-time homebuyer sign on the dotted line and then passing the closing gift over to them.”
Although Butler no longer works in the service industry, she still enjoys watching her customers leave the table smiling. But her relationship with them doesn’t end there. She says the buyer whose contract collapsed is still with her and that she’s still in touch with the cash-strapped family she helped to secure a house.
Butler became an agent in June 2021, closed on her first home in November of the same year and has since tallied 20 more sales. As she looks back, she says she’s grateful to the friend who encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone and is thrilled she’s found a career that gives her a sense of belonging and direction.
“This is a tough industry, especially during the first couple of years. It’s competitive, there will always be ups and downs, and you have to work hard. But that’s part of life.”
With over a year in real estate under her belt, Butler sounds less like a rookie and more like the voice of experience. But she says she knows more challenges lie ahead. Among these will be doubling her sales in 2023.
Being a part of a team that’s actively helping her to grow her business will ensure her success, she adds.
“One of the reasons I love this team is we hold each other accountable. I know I’ll have everyone’s support as I look for more ways to get my name out there.”
Butler grew up in what she calls the “very small town” of Leiper’s Fork before attending high school in Spring Hill and then making her way to the Scenic City. As such, she says she’s happy with simple pleasures like reading a good book on a rainy day and trying new restaurants with friends.
But even in those moments, Butler is only a phone call away from work. She says the lessons she’s learned has given her the confidence to encourage her clients to step out of their comfort zone and become homeowners.
“Chattanooga is a growing city and is constantly changing,” she says. “But this is the time to get into the market if you want to build equity and take advantage of things when they go crazy down the road.”