Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 1, 2021

Realtor Close never far from center stage

New state president focuses on financial health of Realtors

Before agreeing to serve as president of Greater Chattanooga Realtors, Travis Close had never seen himself leading the association, he says.

His drive to strengthen the industry in which he works and his desire to see his colleagues prosper had led him to serve on the boards of the local association and the multiple listing service, he adds, but he preferred to labor behind the scenes on committees and in other capacities while others stood in the limelight.

Then someone asked Close to serve as president, and in 2015 a slice of Greater Chattanooga Realtors history was made when he spearheaded not only the switch to another multiple listing service but also the deployment of a different lockbox service.

“We joke as local presidents that we had either an easy year or a hard year, and when I say we did an MLS and a lockbox change during my year, people go, ‘Whoa,’” Close says. “You need an amazing staff to pull that off, and [Greater Chattanooga Realtors CEO] Carol [Seal] and her crew made it as painless as possible.”

History began to repeat itself a few years later when someone asked Close to begin preparing to run for president of Tennessee Realtors.

Once again, he had been content to work backstage, this time as divisional vice president.

And, once again, his love for the industry compelled him to embrace a larger role, he says.

Close stood before several dozen fellow Realtors in 2015 when his former Sunday School teacher at Signal Crest United Methodist Church and mentor in the business, Sue Gee, installed him at the local association.

His installation as 2022 president of Tennessee Realtors required him to step onto a larger stage and take the oath before hundreds of colleagues.

“I definitely didn’t want to do that,” Close laughs. “But l love this industry, and I want it to be as strong as possible. For that to happen, volunteer leaders have to step up.”

2022 Strategic Plan

Although Close, 47, won’t begin his term until the end of the National Association of Realtors’ annual conference in San Diego in November, he’s already in the process of taking the baton from his predecessor, Alexander Bynum of Dresden.

However, instead of referring to 2022 as “his year” and producing a list of personal goals he hopes to accomplish, Close says his job is to implement the next portion of Tennessee Realtors’ five-year strategic plan.

“There is no, ‘This is my year, and this is my focus,’” he notes. “Instead, it’s, ‘We’ve accomplished A, B and C, so let’s tackle D.’”

The next item on Tennessee Realtors’ agenda is professionalism in real estate, Close continues, but not professionalism in the sense of doing business ethically or dressing well when meeting with clients. Rather, the association will be endeavoring to help its members improve their financial well-being and establish fiscally strong businesses.

“Many agents across the country are living commission check to commission check, and when markets change, those checks come less and less often,” Close points out. “I want our members to be economically healthy.”

To that end, Close will be working with agents, brokers and real estate companies across the state to host seminars that bring in tax advisers, attorneys, retirement planners and more to educate the membership.

This step of the Tennessee Realtors’ strategy plan follows on the heels of a new state law that allows agents to be paid as a business through an LLC.

“In the past, I would collect a commission check, turn it in to my broker and then get a check made out to Travis Close and a 1099 at the end of the year,” Close explains. “Now my check is made out to my LLC, so my tax base is different, and there are benefits to that.”

The goal, Close continues, is to teach Realtors how to “run their business like a business” and enable them to grow their venture and be in a position to sell it when they retire.

“We want to give Realtors options for their future,” he says.

History of service

Although Close never envisioned himself becoming president of Tennessee Realtors, he cast the die that led to this moment in his career.

A mass communications graduate from Middle Tennessee State University, Close became a Realtor in 2006 after leaving a sales position with Clear Channel Radio and moving from Nashville to Signal Mountain, where he grew up.

He credits Gee with sparking his interest in homes sales.

“My wife and I bought a starter home just to establish a footing in Signal Mountain, and after we had our son we started looking at bigger houses. Sue helped us find one,” he remembers. “Working with her piqued my interest in real estate.”

Close joined Prudential Realty Center, the Signal Mountain-based brokerage through which Gee worked, and learned the business at the feet of giants, including Cissy Wallace, Judy Ekiss and Burk Norton, he recalls.

His long history of sales – which began when he sold furnishings at his family’s downtown Chattanooga furniture store growing up - allowed him to easily acclimate to his new profession.

Despite feeling comfortable selling homes, Close endured the customary lean years.

“To succeed in radio, you just have to outlast the guys above you. Someone will retire, you’ll get some of their list, and people will eventually learn your name and it’ll get easier,” he explains. “I look at real estate the same way. The first few years are very difficult because you don’t have an established name or brand, but the longer you do it, the easier it gets.”

Close also all but jumped into serving Greater Chattanooga Realtors. Not only did he volunteer regularly for committee work, but he also donated generously to the Realtor Political Action Committee.

He complemented his contributions to his profession with community service. In addition to volunteering as an adult chaperone and team leader for Signal Crest United Methodist Church’s Youth Appalachian Service Project, Close also served on the board of Notre Dame High School and volunteered with a local Boy Scout Troop.

Accolades followed, and the man who preferred to labor behind the scenes was drawn into the limelight. In recognition of his efforts on behalf of his profession and in his community, Greater Chattanooga Realtors named Close its Realtor of the Year in 2015. Realty Center followed this in 2018 with a service award given in honor of Gee.

“Those things are not why we do what we do, but the appreciation is nice,” Close says.

Close has also left a mark on the greater Chattanooga landscape through his work as a Realtor. Over the years, he’s carved out a niche for new construction and development. Through this work, he’s built homes for clients and raised neighborhoods for families, including Boulder Point, Union Stables and Flipper Bend on Signal Mountain.

“I enjoy working with homeowners who are trying to build the perfect house and being involved in the development of a neighborhood,” he says. “It’s fun for me. I like walking a patch of land and figuring out where the houses will fit.”

As Close gears up for a year of service as Tennessee Realtors, he’s hoping for an easy year but bracing himself for a hard year. Regardless of the intensity of the experience, he says he takes comfort in knowing he once again has the support of an “amazing staff and family.”

“I might be president of the association, but I won’t be working alone,” he says. “Together, we’re going to do good things this year.”