Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 7, 2023

Coldwell Banker Pryor gets ‘new’ space

Big changes hidden behind familiar facade

Coldwell Banker Pryor Realty co-owner Phil Pryor, far left, and managing broker Robert Backer, third from right, welcome agents to the grand re-opening of the company’s Chattanooga office. - Photos by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

Built in the early 1980s, the house at 2125 Hickory Valley Road in Chattanooga was built to serve as a home for a single family. However, ever since Coldwell Banker Pryor Realty owners Bill and Peggy Pryor purchased the building in the late ‘80s and transformed it into a real estate brokerage, it’s served as a place where many families have found their homes.

This legacy continues today, although Pryor Realty has since expanded to include offices in Dayton and Spring City, as well as the virtual realm, which accommodates the company’s property management service.

The exterior of the single-story Chattanooga office looks like it has for years. Poised behind a blacktop parking lot, the creme-colored brickwork greets traffic a short drive off Lee Highway and suggests an interior outfitted with old-fashioned furnishings.

For years, this was the case. However, as the many guests at Pryor Realty’s spirited grand reopening June 27 are learning, one absolutely cannot judge a book by its original cover.

Gone are the upholstered chairs and other dated furnishings that adorned the lobby; in their place are spanking new cobalt blue seats and modern artwork. At the back of the lobby, a custom built reception area complete with a standing desk resides where administrative assistant Shelby Stamps occupied a nondescript wooden desk for four years.

As guests file in after Pryor Realty co-owner Phil Pryor opens the doors at 11 a.m. – Realtors are known for their punctuality, not for being fashionably late – they see Stamps standing behind her desk, grinning.

“I keep telling Phil thank you for my early Christmas present,” she says, spreading her hands across the surface of the desk, which she can lower when she’s in the mood to sit.

While impressed, the first group of guests direct their “oohhs” and “aahhs” toward the left, where a stodgy conference room once sat behind a few layers of drywall and accommodated a thick wooden dining room table and four upholstered chairs. The walls are gone, and the sparkling glass that stands in its place affords an immediate view of a sleek conference room with new furniture.

This tone is carried throughout the building, where renovators who began working in September turned rooms that no longer needed to serve as offices in the post-pandemic climate into meeting spaces and work areas.

The alteration that receives the greatest number of accolades as guests circulate throughout the building is the training and agent work room located in the expansive addition to the original house, which visitors are finding by turning right and descending a short flight of stairs.

The revamped space replaced half of a sea of cubicles, which itself was a relic of a rescinded Tennessee Real Estate Commission rule that required a brokerage to have a desk for every agent.

Behind the training area, the cubicles that escaped the sledgehammer are sporting a shiny coat of white paint, while newly carpeted paths make for a softer walk to each compartment.

It was time, says Pryor, who slips into a small office to speak away from the growing swell of chatter throughout the building and sits down in one of his new chairs.

“We wanted the office to be more appealing to today’s agents and clients, as well as ourselves. We come here every day.”

“We also wanted to get our agents back in the office after the pandemic,” adds managing broker Robert Backer, who’s entered the room and leaned against a far wall. “Being around business makes you do business. You’re more productive when you’re here than when you’re at home, sitting on your couch with a laptop.”

Laura Covington, owner of Covington Consulting and Appraising, pokes her head into the room, introduces herself to Pryor and says she’s impressed with the building. However, she declines to estimate how much it’s now worth.

“I don’t have my tape measure,” she laughs.

Pryor says he’s not discussing how much the remodel cost, either, although his wince as he sidesteps the topic suggests the investment was not insignificant.

“He doesn’t like me to say the number out loud,” laughs Backer.

“Let’s just say the remodel was a long time coming,” Pryor responds.

Other changes have taken place at Pryor Realty, although these modifications aren’t visible to the eye. However, the firm’s leadership intended these alterations to be just as appealing to Realtors.

Chief among these adjustments is a reformed commission structure and the implementation of a cap. The firm also tossed certain fees out with the rubble, including the desk fee for agents who don’t desire an office or cubicle.

“We designed our commission structure to be competitive,” Backer explains. “It was time for us to step up our game.”

The backbone of the company, however – from the Pryor family’s ownership to the company’s alignment with Coldwell Banker – remains unchanged.

Although the firm’s founder, Peggy Pryor (who established the company in 1978 and affiliated with Coldwell Banker a few years later), has become less active in its day-to-day operations, Philip, her son, has taken the reins.

Moreover, Pryor Realty recently signed an extension of its agreement with Coldwell Banker, ensuring the global company will continue to have a presence in Chattanooga. (A separate regional Coldwell Banker franchise, Kinard Realty, operates out of offices in Georgia and Cleveland, Tennessee.)

“We’re thrilled with what Coldwell Banker is providing us,” Pryor says. “Their tools and support are excellent and their reputation is stronger than ever. Their ongoing improvement is impressive.”

Returning to the topic of changes, Backer says agents have welcomed the addition of a dedicated trainer, Dara Malone, who provides instruction on Coldwell Banker’s tools, as well as the business of real estate itself. From one-on-one sessions to weekly classes, he says Malone has had an impact on both established agents and newcomers, who combined to close 700 sides (their half of a sale, whether they were representing a buyer or a seller) in 2022.

While Pryor was pleased with the tally, he says the firm’s focus on relationships over sales – including both the company’s association with its agents and its agents’ connection with their clients – remains unchanged.

“Our agents are known throughout the real estate community for being knowledgeable and honest, and people like working with them, so we do a good amount of business,” Pryor says. “But I’m not focused on going to each agent with a sheet of numbers and saying, ‘You need to do better.’ I’m more concerned with how they’re treating their customers and what we need to do to support them.”

Jeannie Schmid, a Realtor since 1996, echoes Pryor’s comments.

“We don’t play the numbers game here because real estate is personal for us. We start with a client and stick with them one-one-one until we hand them the keys to their house or sell their house. We don’t pass anyone off to a member of a team.”

Emily Wiersema, a full-time educator and part-time Realtor, says she chose Pryor Realty when she started her real estate business in April because it stresses quality of service over quantity of customers.

“I didn’t I feel like Robert was pushing me to set unrealistic goals; he was OK with me going slow and steady. That appealed to me.”

Wiersema says she also prefers the smaller size of Pryor Realty to the larger brokerages in Chattanooga, adding that she “doesn’t want to be one of 1,000.”

While Pryor says his family’s firm will never be a mega-brokerage, he is aiming to grow its stable of agents, which currently numbers about 50 across all of its offices.

However, for the moment, he has guests to greet. As he stands to exit the room, Mike Purcell of RE/MAX Renaissance and Dan Griess of Real Estate Partners stroll past the door.

“I’m here to congratulate my colleagues in the real estate industry,” Griess says as he descends into the training area and surveys the space.

“This is nice,” says a guest standing near the bottom of the stairs. “I wonder how much it cost?”