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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, August 4, 2017

Family business finally lures DeFoor




DeFoor

No doubt about it, Larson DeFoor is a home-grown woman. She was born and raised in Ooltewah, and her family is deeply embedded in the Chattanooga community as citizens and business leaders.

DeFoor’s father and uncle, Ken and Byron DeFoor, have a long history of real estate development in the region and have had a hand in everything from offices to condos to the Embassy Suites hotel in East Brainerd to the $88 million Westin hotel and condominium project in downtown Chattanooga.

Despite the family’s real estate legacy, DeFoor was determined to pursue a career other than real estate when she headed to the University of Alabama in 2007, where she majored in food and nutrition.

“My father actually tried to steer us away from doing this kind of work because it’s very stressful,” DeFoor explains. “When I first got out of school, I was just happy to be working at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. I was there for two or three years originally hostessing, and then eventually, doing all of their accounting and bookkeeping.”

About two years ago, DeFoor took a step into the real estate world when she took a job as office manager at Live It! Realty, a prominent local boutique residential real estate firm. DeFoor had already worked for Jenny Noblit, founder and broker at Live It!, during one of her summer vacations in college.

After becoming office manager of Live It! in 2015, DeFoor’s professional life changed quickly. “I had been working for Jenny for two months, and she decided to give me paid leave to go get my license.”

In many ways, DeFoor, 28, is a typical millennial. She comes across as confident and team-oriented and is quick to tell you she’s all about service and not heavily focused on money and material possessions.

“Larson works hard to represent her client’s best interest,” Noblit says. “I’ve seen her be a calming force when a deal becomes high anxiety, and her organization skills are highly valued in keeping the details in order.

“There’s quite a lot of paperwork involved in each deal, and she is skilled in staying on top of everything and keeping her clients in compliance.”

Noblit says she also is impressed by DeFoor’s entrepreneurial spirit, adding the young Realtor was able to “hit the ground running” because Live It!, a small, close-knit firm, offered an ideal environment in which to learn a lot in short amount of time.

“One of the things about the business that attracts those with an entrepreneurial spirit is that it is ever changing, never boring, and you learn something new with every transaction. Larson was able to gain the valuable experience of actually working with buyers and sellers.”

The Hamilton County Herald chatted with DeFoor about her family, being a millennial in the real estate profession and the thriving Chattanooga market.

Other millennials in their 20s and 30s who might be considering a real estate career could probably learn something from you. What was your first year like? Was there a learning curve?

DeFoor: “My first year was pretty tough. You want to give good customer service and give them all of your time, but that can actually take up all of your time. I think part of being a good Realtor is steering your client into making the best decisions possible.

“It’s only because of (access to) people like Jenny Noblit, who have been doing this for a long time, that I don’t run into too many surprises. I have to rely on help from my broker and other agents. We do that a lot in our agency. I really get a great deal out of listening to the more experienced agents.”

Tell us about your first sale. How long did it take?

“It took a while. We began the process in December closed in April. There was a lot of confusion. When you’ve signed a contract, there is a lot of pressure, and it’s very stressful.

“There is also a lot of things that you can’t do anything about, and you have to just let it roll. Staying self-motivated is one of the biggest challenges. I’m lucky to have a support system and a husband who is very supportive.”

What rewards are you finding in your job? What keeps you motivated?

“Being a good agent to my clients definitely keeps me motivated. I don’t really care about much as long as they are happy. If it has been a very easy process for them then I can go to sleep happy. So, what really motivates me is not going to bed feeling anxious or stressed.”

Do you have a specific demographic or work within a niche?

“I really enjoy working with my friends and family. I’ve worked with a lot of buyers and sellers that are in, or around, my age. It’s very interesting to see what people are buying. Many are buying small, good location, and fixer uppers, and a lot of people want to live closer to the city.

“Some of that has to do with the fact that gas ends up being more expensive if you don’t live close to the city. If you live in places like Ooltewah or Ringgold (Georgia) you have high gas prices and the stress of the commute.”

How would you describe real estate market in Chattanooga right now? As a whole what makes it an exciting market?

“There are a lot of areas that are developing properties, so it’s still a hot market. In places like Ooltewah, things are going up everywhere but not as much as downtown. It’s cheaper to build out there, and you get more for your money.

“But not everyone wants to live out of the city. Ooltewah is more of a family-oriented place. A lot of people just aren’t interested in the suburbs.

“Many people are renovating homes in historic areas. That can be very exciting because if you can get a home at a low price – and if you have the money to renovate – you can do a lot with it.

“These houses are only going up in value. If you really believe in a certain area, think it’s on the rise and have the money, then all you have to do is buy the property and sell it in a few years. You will make a profit. Chattanooga is a really great place for real estate investment property; so many pockets are on the rise.”

Real estate is notorious for its ups and downs, and of course, most of us remember the housing meltdown in 2008-2009. Are you afraid of a crash; do you anticipate one?

“When I was in school we had an upmarket. But since I went to college and during the past 10 years, I’ve been living in more of a down market, meaning it’s not a market in which things instantly sell. Before the recession, it was very easy to sell a home.

“But now you have to put in the work to sell houses even though we have a promising market. I wasn’t working when the market was super hot before the recession.

“But honestly, I hope that it’s never that hot again because if it’s that hot it probably means that there is a crash coming.

“We are definitely in a healthy market now. Buyers are also a lot more thoughtful when purchasing a house than they used to be. They are thinking about their monthly payments, their job security and their quality of life – maybe even more so than past generations have.

“My generation is more into waiting it out than going further into debt. Millennials are starting to buy very carefully and thoughtfully.”

What’s your personal life like?

“Right now, I am living in Saint Elmo with my husband, Max. It’s a really lovely community. We got married in October. We had a six-day engagement and got married right away!

“We didn’t need all the frills (of a big wedding.) We had a nice dinner at Ruth Chris’s, got a private venue and invited all the people that are closest to us. My husband is an auditor.”

“I have to mention my wiener dog, Greta, and my Chihuahua, Max 2. I love going to the pool with my dogs. My wiener dog especially likes to swim, so we can spend all day at the pool. I also really like hanging out with my family. My husband and I are avid “Game of Thrones” and “Twin Peaks” watchers.”

Right now, you have a $1,250,000 home listing, which is a bit more expensive than a typical Chattanooga listing. I know the property belongs to your uncle. What’s notable about it?

“My uncle’s name is Byron DeFoor. He and my cousin live in the house. One of the great things about Chattanooga is that you can buy so many beautiful mountain homes. This is an exquisite, really well-built mountain home in Ooltewah.

“It’s about 6,000-square-feet with a backyard and a huge deck. There is also a huge master bedroom and bathroom, living area, three-car garage, huge utility hallway, gorgeous countertop and no shortage of storage.

“It has really exquisite cabinetry. It has a 900- square foot guest house that’s gorgeous.

“It’s a really great place for a large family or someone that wants to live in their final home. It also has a finished basement that could be used for a mother-in-law or a college student with its own entrance, full bath and efficiency unit in it. My uncle and dad are very thoughtful about the buildings they build, and this house is no exception.”

It could be hard to sell a house over $1 million in your market. What strategies do you have for moving a high-end property?

“Yes, it’s worth over a million dollars, but there are other ways to focus or repurpose the house. There is definitely a demographic of older people that are not ready to go into homes or assisted living,

“So, that could be an alternative route. It would be a great retirement home for a group of people. This is the listing that I am most proud of. It’s the biggest listing I’ve ever had so it’s also the biggest responsibility.”