Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, November 14, 2014

Keeping real estate in the family

The Edrington Team is (L-R) Doug, managing partner; Grace, controller and contact expert; and George, one of five salespersons. Three support personnel round out the group. - (Photo provided)

The Edrington team is a package deal. You don’t get one of them when you list or buy a house with them, you get all of them. It’s a family thing.

There’s George Edrington, the husband and dad amongst the bunch, who spent years in automobile sales. He didn’t just sell cars, either, he earned his education in sales and management by attending the prestigious NADA Dealer Academy, and throughout his career in the industry worked his way up from salesman, to general manager, to corporate. “I didn’t just sell cars,” he says, “I learned the psychology behind selling them.”

Then there’s Grace, the wife and mom. When her nest emptied in 2004, she told George she was going to get her real estate license. He wanted to be a good husband, so he joined her on weekends, when he was off from his full-time job. “We wanted to get into the business, but we didn’t know anything about it,” he says. “So we started driving to East Ridge once a week and not going home until we had a listing or a sale.”

Grace nods from behind a laptop. She and her husband are seated near each other at a conference table at Prudential RealtyCenter.com on Riverfront Parkway, where they have hung their licenses. She’s a quiet type, so George speaks for her.

“She watches the money, and is our contract requirements expert,” he says. “We run everything past her so it’s legal when it goes to the other side.”

With George’s sales skills and Grace’s background in administration, the couple did well. But their team was incomplete. In 2005, they added the third person sitting at the table: their oldest son, Doug.

Dad is still the one speaking: “He did all of the grunt work for a while, like putting out signs,” he says. “But when he got out of school, he became a successful salesperson, so in 2010, we turned the reins of the business over to him. He’s in charge now.”

“I get to take all of the heat,” Doug says, smiling. It’s his turn to talk.

“I majored in electrical engineering in school,” he says. “But I didn’t want a job where I clocked in and out, or where my pay was based on what my employer said I could earn.”

“I told him to do the electrical thing, to not go into sales. It’s 80 hours a week,” George says. “But when he decided to make the jump to real estate, we welcomed him with open arms, and introduced him to the business incrementally. He went on every appointment with me for six months to learn the art of sales. Now he’s mastered it, and is teaching it to others.”

With father, mother, and son spearheading the group of nine people, the Edrington team is a mix of old school methodology and new thinking.

“We’re structured like a company rather than an individual,” says George, who gives the Edrington team its foundation in tradition. “The laws in real estate business are geared toward the individual Realtor. But in today’s society, if you can’t do something for someone right now, they’re gone. You can’t tell a customer ‘no,’ so we’ve put together a team to support our sales people so we can always tell our customers ‘yes.’”

In addition to Grace, the support team includes the Edrington’s youngest son, Tyler, an administrative assistant, and Trey Kilgore, whom Doug describes as being a “seller’s concierge.”

“He takes care of our Internet leads and does whatever is needed to keep our customers happy,” he says. “Not many sellers can say they have a concierge at their beck and call.”

The Edrington sales team is made up of five agents who cover the width and breadth of the Chattanooga area. As sales manager, Drew Carey oversees the other four agents, including: Clay Taylor, who works the North Georgia market; David Lemon, who tends to business in Cleveland; Cathy Baily, who focuses on Chattanooga proper; and George.

Together, these agents sold over 200 homes over the last 12 months, or a home nearly every working day. This represents a 100 percent increase in business over the previous 12 months, when the Edrington team sold a little over 100 homes.

Their secret? “We’re working harder, but we’re also working smarter,” said Doug. “We’re also spending a lot of money on the technology side of things.”

By technology, Doug means popular real estate websites, which has yet to win over many agents. “Whereas most agents have held up a cross to Internet marketing, we’ve embraced it, and it’s worked well for us,” Doug says. “Customers are getting online and saying good things about us, and it’s creating more business for us.”

Doug loads an Internet marketing site on his laptop and enters a zip code, and several properties appear on screen as well as the contact information for the Edrington team.

“Many Realtors don’t like where technology is taking us, but we’re grabbing hold of it, and our business is taking off as a result,” Doug says. “Of course, it’s taken a lot of time, money, and effort to make that happen.”

George might be an old school Realtor, but he recognizes the importance of what his son has done. “The millennials have taken over,” he says with a deadpan expression. “But that’s the future of the business. You’re one click away from selling a home.”

While the Internet is a useful tool for connecting with customers and doing business, good customer support never goes out of style, George says. Everyone on the team agrees this is a huge component of their success. “The customer experience is more important than the sale,” George says. “Real estate is more about caring for the customer than closing the deal. If a customer loves you, and he loves his experience with you, then he’ll buy from you.”

While the Edrington has built a successful business, they’re not exempt from the challenges that can come into play when family members work together. Doug, however, believes they make it work, saying, “We’re more forgiving with each other, but we also challenge each other more.”

It’s not always been easy, though. For example, George had a hard time turning over the business to Doug. “Being a baby boomer, it was tough for me to let go and watching a millennial take over,” he says. “I’ve accumulated all of this knowledge over the years, and I’m always wanting to interject my advice. But at the end of the day, he’s making the calls now, and it’s easier for me to step back and be a salesman.”

“The hard part for me is knowing what he doesn’t when it comes to technology,” Doug said.

That said, father and son have found interesting ways to work together. “We play ‘good cop, bad cop,’” George says. “Sometimes, you need a nice guy to go in, and other times, you need a tough guy to push something through. So we bounce off each other like that.”

“It’s a good mix,” Doug says, nodding.

When tension does rise, the Edringtons have found that being a part of a family has made it easy to smooth things over and move on. “You have to know where to draw the line,” Doug says. “My parents raised me in a way that I can do that. Nine out of ten times, we’ll come to a resolution, and then go home, grill out, and not give it a second thought.”

Everyone does get together outside of work about once a month, and will occasionally take a vacation together. This allows family members outside of the business, including Doug’s wife, Laura, to swoop in and change the topic of conversation from work to something else – such as creating the next generation of Edringtons. “We have a bunch of four-legged kids,” Doug says, “but mom and dad keep kicking for a two-legged one.”

“I’m 60,” George says. “I need a granddaughter.”

Until that day, George, Grace, Doug, and the rest of the Edrington team will be focused on their goal of becoming number one in real estate in the Chattanooga area. And dad knows what that’s going to take.

“We need to gain market share,” he says. “The only way to do that is to hire more people, so we’re looking for talented folks to join our team. By talented, we don’t necessarily mean experienced. We’ll hire you, send you to school, and bring you up our way.”

When asked if the Edrington team would ever parlay its success into opening its own brokerage, George emphatically says no. “The Kelly Family has been very good to us, and their brand at Realty Center would be impossible to duplicate,” he says.

Business is so good, the Edringtons need help. Just remember: they’re a package deal. When you go to work for them, you get all of them. It’s a family thing. 

For more photos, pick up a copy of the Hamilton County Herald.