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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, March 13, 2020

Realtor LaRue knocking on door of national honor




If you ask Chattanooga Realtor Aubrey LaRue if she works well under pressure, she might tell you about the time she became a finalist for Realtor Magazine’s annual “30 Under 30” feature.

Each May, the publication features 30 rising stars in real estate who are successful in the business and have demonstrated leadership in their profession and community.

Representing every region in the U.S., the candidates include agents who have revitalized communities, championed social causes and served on Realtor committees or young professional groups.

This year, the list of 50 finalists includes LaRue, who became aware of Realtor Magazine’s 30 Under 30 award 16 hours before the Jan. 15 application deadline.

Cheryl Trimble, executive administrator for Frank Trimble Homes, the Keller Williams Greater Downtown Realty team for which LaRue works, claims responsibility for the late notification.

“I saw Realtor Magazine’s 30 Under 30 feature last year and decided to remember it for this year because Aubrey was as good as any of the winners,” she says.

Trimble didn’t just make a mental note, she wrote a memo to herself so she would remember to encourage LaRue to apply when the time for applications rolled around.

Trimble found her memo the evening of Jan. 14.

Over the next 16 hours, LaRue, 29, drew on her youthful reserves of vigor and drive as she answered essay questions, pulled together sales figures, secured her broker’s approval and obtained letters of recommendation.

“It felt like I was applying for college all over again,” LaRue says, laughing.

LaRue uploaded her application with three minutes to spare. Now, having passed through additional stages of the selection process, she has joined agents from markets as large as Las Vegas, Chicago, Seattle, Houston and Washington, D.C. in breathlessly waiting for the judges to make their selections.

“I didn’t think I had a chance because of the size of the other markets and the quality of the competing agents,” LaRue acknowledges. “I was surprised when Realtor Magazine picked little ol’ me and little ol’ Chattanooga.”

Little ol’ LaRue is being humble, says Trimble, who cites LaRue’s immediate success in real estate as a factor in her selection as a “30 Under 30” finalist.

During her first year, LaRue tallied $5 million in sales as a residential buyer’s agent, a feat that made her KW Downtown’s Rookie of the Year.

“She hustled,” Trimble recalls. “She grew her base and learned how to convert leads, and before we knew it, she was getting referrals.”

Team leader Frank Trimble says one of the keys to LaRue’s quick success was her ability to connect with strangers. He saw this super power in action when she joined him for a day of showings soon after adding her to his team.

“A family wanted to buy a condo for their daughter who was going to be taking classes at UTC,” he says. “Aubrey jumped in the back seat, and the next thing I knew, they were best friends.”

LaRue wound up showing the condominiums herself, even though she’d never seen the units. “She was a natural. She handled the clients perfectly,” Frank recalls.

“I’m not afraid to talk with strangers,” LaRue says. “I door knocked my neighborhood for work and collected friends from it.”

After LaRue began listing residential properties, her sales increased to $9.5 million per year in 2018 and 2019. This placed her in the top 20% of the more than 300 agents at KW Downtown and earned her a coveted coaching slot with CEO Nathan Brown.

In response to LaRue’s meteoric rise, Frank promoted her to sales manager, making her responsible for training his team’s new agents and helping them to meet their goals.

While he was confident LaRue would effectively pass on the skills she’d acquired to his new sales associates, he saw greater benefit in the way he says she would inspire them to love what they do.

“We didn’t promote Aubrey because she’s a great salesperson; we put her in that position because she’s encouraging,” Cheryl Trimble says.

“My job is to build confidence because this is a hard job,” LaRue adds. “It’s not as easy as HGTV makes it sound.”

LaRue learned this the hard way when she trusted a developer who was selling his house to her out-of-town buyers and skipped some of the repairs he had agreed to do. The seller also failed to remove all of his things from the residence before the deal closed and the buyers tried to move in.

“I learned to not take anyone’s word on anything,” LaRue says. “If I have a house with a long repair list, I have the inspector come back and check everything again.

“That might sound demanding, but when you’re representing a client, you can’t give the sellers any leniency because a lot of things could go wrong.”

Realtor Magazine’s “30 Under 30” judges focus on more than sales numbers, however; the magazine’s website says they also consider the impact an agent is having on his or her community.

With this in mind, one needs to look no further than the way LaRue is helping to shape the Highland Park community in which she and her husband (and their two rescue dogs, Freddie and Chicken) live to determine whether or not she merits being a finalist.

A native of Florida, LaRue followed her future husband to Chattanooga in 2013 when he moved to the city to take a new job. They married in 2016 and later began searching for a home. Drawn to Highland Park’s historical charm and affordability, they purchased a house in the neighborhood in 2017.

Their first big project as proud new homeowners involved an extensive renovation of their backyard. But they soon found themselves spending more time on their front porch, chatting with their neighbors as they walked by.

This led to many impromptu barbeques, wine nights and new friends, LaRue says.

“When the weather is nice, everyone is on their front porch,” she enthuses. “Highland Park pays homage to the 1950s style of neighborhood, when you would knock on your neighbor’s door and say, ‘Hey, I made too much chicken. Do you want to come over for dinner?’”

As an outgoing person, LaRue had felt out of place when she first moved to Chattanooga. But the sense of belonging she found in Highland Park touched her and sparked a passion for her new neighborhood. So, when LaRue became a Realtor, she also became a fervent advocate of Highland Park.

“I would try to get people to move to Highland Park,” she says. “I would say, ‘I like you; come live in my little neck of the woods.’”

LaRue’s efforts to establish not just a home but also a group of neighbors with whom she would spend her life produced an unexpectedly bountiful harvest.

This dawned on her while she was watching the television reality series, “The Bachelor,” with a group of friends.

“Someone asked how we had all met and began pointing at everyone, saying, ‘Aubrey’s client, Aubrey’s client, Aubrey’s client,’” LaRue says, laughing again. “Everyone had done a transaction with me. Now they joke I’m in real estate just to make friends.”

While LaRue and her husband were drawn to Highland Park’s amenities, LaRue says the “diverse and remarkable” people she now calls her neighbors kept her there.

“I’ve connected with both the young and old, the wealthy and underpaid, and people of many different races and cultures,” she notes. “Because of that, I focus a large portion of my business on helping to restore and improve livability in Highland Park.”

LaRue does work elsewhere, with a horse farm in Dunlap serving as a recent example. But regardless of where someone wants to live, her desire is to help them find a place and connect to their neighborhood.

“When I moved here, I didn’t know anyone, and once I found my place and my people, Chattanooga felt more like home than Florida,” she explains. “Now I want to do the same thing for my clients.”

LaRue also ticks other boxes on Realtor Magazine’s list of “30 Under 30” requirements, including serving her profession and broader community.

She does both as a member of the Association Leadership Council at KW Downtown. As the spearhead of the council’s KW Cares committee, she met with the principal of The Howard School in 2019 and planned a day of service with over 100 agents from KW Downtown participating in painting, landscaping, pressure washing and making repairs.

Afterward, the committee decided to establish a long-term partnership with The Howard School and return for another day of service this year.

LaRue also serves on the social engagement committee for the Young Professionals of Chattanooga. It’s volunteer work that plays to what she says is her greatest strength: connecting people.

“I needed those connections when I moved here, so I want to provide them for others,” she says.

Although LaRue is, as Frank Trimble says, a natural at real estate, she pursued other careers before becoming a Realtor, including advertising and development.

To augment her work in the latter field, LaRue earned her license and began making plans to launch her own projects. But when the person for whom she was working began “playing fast and loose with assets,” she left the operation and became an agent.

Meanwhile, Frank Trimble was toiling under a mounting load as a solo agent and had decided to build a team. However, he dreaded the hiring process.

The gregarious LaRue solved this issue by walking into his office and hiring herself.

“She essentially popped in and said, ‘Here I am!’” Frank Trimble recalls.

“We were talking, and I asked him when I would be starting,” LaRue adds.

Four years later, LaRue is the only 2020 “30 Under 30” finalist in Tennessee, Georgia or Alabama. While she’s hopeful the judges will select her, she’s also stumping for online votes, as the public will help to choose one of the winners.

Once profiles of the 50 finalists are live at Realtor Magazine’s website (magazine.realtor) Friday, March 13, visitors can create a free profile and then “like” the finalists of their choice. Participants can vote once each day per candidate until voting closes Friday, March 20.

Whether LaRue is chosen or not, she already feels like a winner.

“This industry has given me an opportunity to connect with people I never would have otherwise met,” she says. “I’ve been to clients’ weddings, baby showers, birthdays and housewarmings. In all of those cases, clients have become more than a business connection, they become a part of my day to day life. There is truly nothing better than that.”