Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 1, 2017

Leap of faith pays off for Montieth

Realtor Lori Montieth leads a team of six at Keller Williams Realty Chattanooga on Premier Drive. She’s currently one of the top 10 agents in the Greater Chattanooga area. - Photograph by David Laprad

Things were going well for Lori Montieth. She was married to a fireman, expecting her first child and her career gave her a sense of purpose.

Her job in social services took her across a broad swath of northern Georgia doing foster care assessments, planning parent-child reunions and counseling families. She loathed the idea of being stuck behind a desk, so the road suited her well.

But one evening, as Montieth drove the countless miles between her work and home in Chattanooga, something besides her son stirred inside of her: she didn’t want to be hours away from her child every day as he was growing up.

Fortunately, Montieth had created a fallback plan without even realizing it.

Her husband, Jarred, purchased, renovated and sold houses on the side. To gain access to more properties, Montieth had earned a real estate license.

In order to stay close to home and family, she would upgrade her part-time venture to a full-time job.

“I didn’t go into real estate thinking I would make a career out of it,” says Montieth, who leads a team of six at Keller Williams Realty Chattanooga. “I already had a job. But having my license opened that door.”

Montieth says she believed her change of direction was divine in nature: “God had a purpose and a plan.”

Her husband, Jarred, agreed with her but still felt compelled to impress the gravity of the situation on her.

“He told me, ‘You’d better make it work,’” Montieth recalls.

She laughs now at the memory, but she wasn’t laughing then. Once Montieth pulled the plug on her job as a foster care worker, a fear of failure accompanied the realization that she was no longer earning a paycheck.

If she was going to contribute to her family’s finances, it was up to her and no one else to make the money.

Montieth combatted the anxiety that’s common among new agents by pouring everything she had into her work. “I was scared I wouldn’t succeed, so I kept going and going and going,” she explains. “I never stopped to breathe.”

Montieth had one other mountain to climb: self-doubt. She had just left a career in which she had the answers for every problem, but was starting over as a Realtor.

Montieth didn’t cut herself any slack because of her inexperience, either, as she strived to make every transaction go perfectly. Once again, she scaled those heights by putting in extra time.

“I looked at purchase and sales agreements over and over and over so I could understand them. When I sit down with people, I want to know what I’m talking about,” she says.

Compounding the challenge was Montieth’s timing: she went full time not long after the housing bubble burst in late 2007.

Montieth worked her contacts and followed the guidance of her mentor, Keller Williams agent Donnette Moore. She also relied on certain skills she’d developed as a foster care worker.

“When I first started, I was intimidated by the thought of being a salesperson. That’s not me,” she explains. “But people don’t want to be sold on a house; they want to be informed.

“My previous job helped me in that respect because I’m good at providing information.”

Montieth’s efforts paid off and, by 2012, she needed help.

“I was trying to show houses, do paperwork and be a mom and a wife, and it was impossible,” she says. “So, I hired a transaction coordinator.”

Montieth’s transaction coordinator was Deborah Powell, aka her mom. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’ll never be able to pay her,’” she says.

Next, Montieth hired a buyer’s agent – lifelong friend Leslie May. “She was wonderful. She came on board and took the reins. I barely had to train her,” Montieth says.

Three other buyer’s agents followed: Becky Hooper, Rachel Wright and Kristina Black. Three years ago, Montieth also added a listing manager to her team, Marjorie Lyons.

“Marjorie talks with our sellers and loves on them,” Montieth says. “She allows me to focus on bringing in more clients.”

Monteith’s latest hire is Haley Taylor, her marketing manager.

One might assume Montieth has learned to relax now that she has team members handling many of the moving parts of her business, but the tightly coiled Realtor has yet to begin breathing easy.

“Having a team brings other stressors because now I have people under me who need to feed their family,” she adds. “Thankfully, they’re an amazing group of people.”

One of the factors in the success Montieth has achieved is her wealth of contacts, which she developed growing up and living in Chattanooga.

Montieth earned degrees in sociology and psychology at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City.

Inspired by professors who sparked her interest in criminal justice, Montieth returned to the city of her birth to earn a master’s degree in that field at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Montieth then began working with foster children with serious emotional disturbances. Although she doesn’t miss her former career, she looks back on that time with a sense of accomplishment.

“It’s difficult to change familial patterns, but while I was with those children I planted as many seeds as I could and hoped that someday they would remember some of the things I said,” she says.

“I wasn’t always with a child long enough to see the seeds come to fruition, but every case was special in its own way.”

With a solid team in place, Montieth has reached the point where she can focus on building and maintaining relationships. More importantly, she can also take time off to see her son, Moxon, play ball.

“When my son started playing baseball, I said I’d never miss a game, and I haven’t,” she offers. “That’s one of the reasons I started a team. I wanted to have more free time but also make sure my clients were taken care of.”

Montieth says spending time with her family is her top priority.

“Nothing is more important than them,” she says. “We take our son to school and pick him up at the end of the day. It works because I have people I trust on my team.”

Somehow, Montieth is able to squeeze a few more drops of juice from her schedule, which allows her to contribute to her community and church.

She takes dinner to the boys at YCAP, a YMCA program that works with at-risk youth, every other Thursday, and on Sunday mornings she can be found at Crosspath Church singing with the praise and worship team.

Work is always nipping at her heels, though. Even with all Montieth’s success, the part of her who was once anxious about succeeding is still there, even if its voice is much quieter than it once was.

“I think every Realtor wonders if they’ll ever sell another house. You have to continually push yourself because things don’t fall in your lap,” Montieth acknowledges.

 “If you quit working in real estate, real estate will quit working for you. You can’t say, ‘I’ve made it; now I can rest.’”

But Montieth can look her husband square in the eye and say, “I made it work.”