Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 9, 2021

More to real estate than signs, showings

Lee Hobbs is a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty Chattanooga on Lee Highway. She says agents need to be skilled strategists and problem solvers in order to serve their clients well in the ever-changing housing market. - Photograph provided

Realtor Lee Hobbs says real estate is not for the weak.

As a competitive industry that’s always changing, real estate requires agents who are tactically minded, skilled problem solvers and able to adapt to change, she says.

“Some people think all an agent has to do is stick a sign in a yard, but there’s more to selling a house than that,” she insists. “My approach is to give a home a week so I’m not taking the first offer or conceding to a buyer who said, ‘Here’s my offer, and I need to know your answer in five hours.’ That might not be the best thing for my seller. Maybe the best thing for my seller is to wait a few days.”

Hobbs, 43, admits the urgency of the current market makes waiting hard, but she says she has confidence in her ability to negotiate what she says are the best deals for her sellers – even if that means letting offers sit on the table for a few days.

Hobbs says she pairs her bargaining skills with capable problem-solving. “Instead of throwing my hands in the air and crying, ‘This deal isn’t going to happen,’ I figure out a way to make it happen. I don’t stop when I see roadblock.”

To provide an example of her problem-solving prowess, Hobbs offers a story about an inspector who had an issue with the lack of squash blocks (blocks of wood that are a little taller than the depth of the joist) beneath a newly constructed home she was selling for the builder.

When the inspector insisted the home needed squash blocks under every wall, she delved into the local building code to verify his claim. Her research produced information that put the inspector’s concerns to rest.

“He was basing his claim on what the manufacturer recommended, but the code only required there to be squash blocks under the load-bearing walls,” Hobbs recalls. “You have to dig for clarity when someone places a roadblock in front of you.”

Regarding her third criteria for Realtors, Hobbs says she’s been finding her footing on shifting sands ever since she earned her license nine years ago.

“I became an agent when the market favored buyers,” she remembers. “It was very different from today’s market. There was no urgency, so buyers were fine with waiting a week or two.”

Ample inventory (much of which was distressed, Hobbs points out) contributed to the unhurried pace but also fostered challenges unlike the ones Realtors face in today’s frenzied environment, Hobbs says.

“Buyers had almost too many choices; they were always second-guessing themselves and wondering if something better might come up.”

Not only that, buyers also expected more from sellers. Instead of making offers above the asking price, for example, they would insist sellers lower the price.

When a seller couldn’t afford to make concessions, their agents often did, Hobbs says. “A lot of agents dug into their own pocket to make deals work. They were the unsung heroes of that market.”

Although Hobbs was a new agent, over a decade of work as a retail manager for national chains had toughened her skin to some of the hard realities that come with a career in real estate, including long days and even longer weeks.

But Hobbs still confronted a slew of difficulties, not the least of which was selling homes while raising a child on her own.

“Real estate is hard when you’re a single mom,” she points out. “Not only did I have a new job to learn but I was also working on commission.”

As a transplant from Miami, Hobbs also lacked the sphere many of her fellow agents who were native to Chattanooga enjoyed. This made her first year, during which she worked alone, a lean one. Her solution to this problem, as well as the issue of working without the safety net of a regular paycheck, was to join a successful team.

Hobbs enlisted as a buyer’s agent with The Randy Durham Team at Keller Williams. This not only gave her leads to pursue but also access to a transaction coordinator, an inside sales agent and more.

“I liked the perks of being on Randy’s team,” she says. “I didn’t have to think too much; I just stayed in my lane.”

After enjoying the benefits of Team Durham for five years, Hobbs switched to The Lea Team, which Realtor Jim Lea leads at Keller Williams’ Lee Highway office.

Hobbs’ stretch of time with Lea was shorter than her stint with Durham due to the sand beneath her feet shifting yet again. During the next three years, she not only married builder Jerod Hobbs but she also came into her own professionally in 2020 when she sold 47 homes.

Given her new circumstances both at home and at work, Hobbs left The Lea Team and planted her own flag in the real estate landscape – Hobbs Property Group.

“It was time. There’s a certain point when the numbers make it hard to justify being on a team,” she says. “Plus, the market was exploding.”

Looking back, Hobbs says she can scarcely believe she’s been in Chattanooga for 20 years. She moved to the city after visiting her mother and “falling in love” with its lack of pretension, the presence of all four seasons and its outdoor activities.

Her first home was on the North Shore, which still holds a special place in her heart. “I thought it was cool to be within walking distance of Aretha Frankenstein’s,” she smiles.

When Hobbs’ tolerance for the pressures of retail thinned, she says she prayed for guidance. She says she believes the reply came in the form of an unexpected face.

“I said, ‘God, please show me what to do,’ and all of a sudden, I started seeing Mark Hite signs everywhere,” she laughs. At the time, Hite was working with Keller Williams.

“Whenever I saw one of Mark’s signs, I felt like God was saying, ‘Real estate, real estate, real estate.’ So, I earned my license and never looked back.”

Although Hobbs says she’s excited about making her own decisions after spending eight years on teams, she says the name of her business reflects her vision more than her current reality. Although she has a transaction coordinator and a photographer at her fingertips – and intends to eventually hire an assistant and a couple of buyers agents – she’s still a group of one.

“The ‘Group’ in my name indicates that I would like to add team members,” she explains. “But I’m not looking for warm bodies; I want people who will be a good fit. For me, that means being flexible yet systematic.”

It also means strong because, from where Hobbs stands, real estate is not for the weak.