Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 24, 2014

Realtor Robert Backer gives his clients and his profession his all

Robert Backer is one of the top Coldwell Banker Realtors in the country, and one of the top overall agents in Chattanooga. - (Photo by David Laprad)

Realtor Robert Backer doesn’t believe in resting on his laurels. As one of the most successful Coldwell Banker agents in the country, he’s earned at least an extended vacation. But as someone who spent several years in the restaurant business, he’s used to putting his nose to the grindstone and leaving it there.

Take last Saturday – a beautiful day by any measure. Backer showed five houses, including one at 6 p.m. “People say they hate getting me out on a weekend or in the evening, but I have to work when my clients aren’t working,” he says.

Licensed in Tennessee and Georgia, Backer works with buyers, sellers, and investors. He says he enjoys helping first-time buyers, loves listing houses and representing sellers, and understands what investors are looking for because he owns investment properties as well. If he had a motto, it would be, “Leave no stone unturned.”

“I love it,” he says. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

There was a time when Backer said the same thing about the restaurant industry. Born and bred in Chattanooga, he started out washing dishes as a teenager, and over the next two decades, did everything imaginable in the industry – including owning his own place. “I owned a restaurant in downtown Chattanooga before downtown Chattanooga was cool,” he says.

There came a day, though, when Backer was ready to do something else. “I’d grown tired of it,” he says. “The restaurant business is a young man’s game.”

Backer’s mother had worked as a Realtor at Coldwell Banker Pryor Realty, so he decided to cast his lot in the same direction. “I’d always liked looking through the big MLS books my mom would bring home,” he said, smiling at the memory.

Backer laid out a plan outlining his goals for the first year and went to see Peggy Pryor, co-owner of Pryor Realty. She welcomed him warmly, he says, but tried to talk him out of going into the business because she thought he had unrealistic aspirations for a new agent. He insisted she give him a shot, so she did.

Backer reached his goal and then some. Eighteen years later, he’s still doing it. He’s consistently among the top two or three percent of the Coldwell Banker agents nationwide, and among the top one percent of agents in Chattanooga. “I’ve been lucky through the years,” he says. “I started in 1997, when Chattanooga was an up-and-coming market. Since then, I’ve been through the good times and the bad times, and maintained pretty good production throughout. I just seem to have a knack for doing this.”

Backer believes active agents should do more than work to fill their own coffers; he says they should also give back to the profession which has given much to them. He does his part by contributing his time and expertise to the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors, where he’s a director for 2015 and is serving on the Professional Standards Committee. He’s currently chair of the committee, which hears complaints clients, companies, or agents might have against another agent or company, and decides what, if any, action should be taken.

“We don’t receive a lot of complaints,” he says. “We have a good group of Realtors in Chattanooga. Most of the complaints involve minor mistakes.”

Backer says if Realtors represent their clients well, avoid misleading the public through their advertising, and follow the Golden Rule, then they should be fine.

Although Backer is a hard worker, he feels the same sense of urgency regarding his family. And things are going well at home. He and his wife, Jennifer, recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary, and they’re the proud parents of Jake, a student at Notre Dame High School.

“When I’m not working, I’m spending time with my family,” he says. “We like to take mini-trips, and I go to my son’s football games on Friday nights.”

Although Backer is nearly two decades removed from the restaurant business, he can still be found in the kitchen, as he loves to cook. “I cook all the time, and I cook everything you can imagine,” he says. “We’ll have parties with my friends who are still in the restaurant business, or who were in the business but are now out of it, and we’ll cook good food, and way too much of it.”

Backer has been smoking a lot of meats lately, which brings up the question of whether or not he’s truly out of the restaurant business for good. “We always kid around about owning a restaurant,” he says. “But I’d do it differently. I wouldn’t be there 20 hours a day.”

Wherever Backer’s love of food takes him, Pryor can relax: it won’t take him an inch away from his real estate business, as he’s far from tired of it. “She’s often said she was glad I didn’t listen to her,” he says. “It turned out better than we’d both imagined.”