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Front Page - Friday, September 8, 2017

Life falls into place for Realtor Lickliter

Far removed from his carefree bachelor days of a few short years ago, Realtor Jonathan Lickliter has taken the plunge - into marriage and real estate. - Photograph by David Laprad

Four short years ago, Jonathan Lickliter was a carefree bachelor. He came and went as he pleased, made decisions on his own and was responsible for supporting only himself.

It’s the kind of life some married people wish they could go back to living. But something was missing.

Lickliter had reached his late twenties without finding his calling. He’d traveled down several different roads in search of what he was meant to do, including car sales, but each promising detour wound up at a dead end.

Lickliter’s uncertainty was evident elsewhere in his life. Although a woman had captured his eye, they had an on-again, off-again relationship as he wavered between remaining single and making a commitment to her.

What a difference a few years makes.

At 33, Lickliter is now a married man who keeps his wife up to date on his comings and goings, makes decisions as part of a family and has other people to think about when it comes to his income – including three adoring daughters and twins who are knocking at the door.

But instead of looking like a deer gazing dead-eyed into a pair of headlights and asking, as the Talking Heads once did, “How did I get here?” Lickliter could scarcely be happier.

He attributes a large portion of his contentment to having taken the plunge with the woman who’d captured his eye, Jessica, and falling more in love with her every day.

But there’s something else. Lickliter says he’s found the work he’s been called to do: real estate.

“This job is perfect for me,” he adds. He’s surrounded by the eloquence of a new Castle Gate home in East Brainerd, where he’s hosting an open house on a Saturday afternoon.

Lickliter hasn’t always felt this way about work. But he’s never given less than everything he could to every job. This includes his stints with Outback Steakhouse restaurants in Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tennessee.

Lickliter was working at Outback when he proposed to Jessica. Realizing he’d need to more money after getting married, he secured a position selling cars at BMW of Chattanooga.

Although Lickliter was new to sales, he wound up breaking the store record.

Lickliter credits his success at BMW to two things, the first of which is being in the right place at the right time.

“You don’t sell things to people,” he says. “You give them information and then they buy goods and services from people they like.

“I never sold a car; I showed my customers the benefits of a car and built a relationship with them. When they walked onto the lot, they were already going to buy a car.”

Lickliter enjoyed building bridges and treated each customer like he or she was a friend he was helping.

He traces his knack for building relationships to his upbringing. But he didn’t grow up the son of a salesman; he grew up a pastor’s kid who became involved in ministry at a young age.

“When you’re in ministry, you meet all kinds of people and learn to put yourself in their shoes so you can help them make a decision,” Lickliter explains.

Lickliter did so well at BMW, he worked himself out of a job he liked and into one he didn’t: finance manager.

“That job was paperwork, paperwork, paperwork,” he says. “I’d be stuck at the dealership until 1 a.m. trying to wrap things up after working all day, and I was making half the money.

“It wasn’t working for me. I enjoy being around people, not stacks of paper.”

So, Lickliter moved to Nissan of Chattanooga East and went back into sales. But even after returning to something familiar and comfortable, he felt pulled in a new direction: real estate.

“My entire adult life, my family had been telling me, ‘You need to do real estate, you need to do real estate, you need to do real estate,’” Lickliter recalls. “So, I thought, ‘I need to do real estate, I need to do real estate, I need to do real estate.’

“But real estate is riskier than the car business. In the car business, people come to you; when you start out in real estate, you have to go to them.”

Lickliter was also concerned about not having enough money on hand to sustain him through the first few months of building his business. However, he says he believed he was being called to a career in real estate, so he left car sales in May of last year, earned his real estate license and began selling houses.

To ease his financial concerns, Lickliter also opened a restaurant in Athens with a family member. Although the food was good, he says the endeavor “crashed and burned” because it wasn’t what he was supposed to be doing.

“I knew I was supposed to be selling real estate,” he says. “But I still opened the restaurant – without praying about it.”

Lickliter corrected his bearing, and on Oct. 1, 2016 made real estate his full-time endeavor. “I now wake up doing real estate, and I do real estate until I go to bed.’’

Lickliter says his first 12 months have been “somewhat trying” financially. But, just like being at the BMW dealership when a customer walks onto the lot ready to buy, he knows he’s in the right place at the right time.

“Things have been tight, but I did well last month,” he says. “I believe God has shown me that He’s called me to do a specific thing and that He in turn will bless me for doing it, so I’m staying the course.”

It helps that Lickliter enjoys helping people find the perfect home. He’s also rediscovering the pleasure of building relationships. He nurtures these connections by earning his clients’ trust.

“If I don’t know if there’s a drainage system running through a backyard, I’m not going to tell you there’s nothing that would prevent you from building a pool there, I’m going to tell you I don’t know and then find out the answer,” he says.

“Buying a home is the biggest investment most people make, and I don’t take that lightly. I’ve even told people who wanted to purchase a particular house that I wouldn’t buy it. I’m not going to say what you need to hear to make a sale.”

That’s not surprising coming from the son of a pastor. But Lickliter will be the first to say he wasn’t perfect growing up.

He thought he was at the time, though. The last of three children, Lickliter says he was “the baby, the favorite and spoiled.”

His athletic prowess only boosted his ego further. From fifth grade until he graduated from high school, Lickliter and his family lived in Milan, a West Tennessee town of about 7,000 residents. There, Lickliter was the quarterback of the football team and captain of the baseball and basketball teams.

His feats on the court and the field put his name and photo in the newspaper nearly every week.

“I thought I was the cat’s pajamas,” he notes, shaking his head. “The older I get, the more ridiculous I think I looked back then.”

After high school, Lickliter went to Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, on a golf scholarship. He later transferred to Lee University, also on a golf scholarship.

While at Lee, he became a member of the singing ensemble Voices of Lee and devoted a considerable amount of time to practicing and touring with the group.

Lickliter was not as focused in the class room as he was on the stage, though. He bounced from major to major, stayed up late and slept in, and missed a lot of school. After leaving college a few credits shy of earning a degree, he took a job with Outback.

Lickliter is hard on himself when he talks about that time in his life, and there’s still a touch of regret in his voice when he talks about the decisions he made then.

But he knows the past is behind him and feels fortunate to have found the path he says believes he’s meant to walk.

Lickliter has also made up for lost time. In addition to becoming a full-time Realtor, Lickliter and his wife are expecting twins in November, which will bump the size of their brood to five.

He’s especially glad to report that one of the two newcomers will be a boy. “I prayed for a son,” he says, laughing.

Lickliter continues to be in ministry as well. On one or two Sunday mornings a month, he can be found employing his musical talents as a worship leader at Freedom Church Chattanooga.

Lickliter’s father and mother moved to Chattanooga to pastor the church in 2004. Although they have since moved on, Lickliter’s sister is in ministry at Freedom Church with her husband, the lead pastor, making the endeavor a family affair for Lickliter.

Although Lickliter has gone from being a carefree bachelor bussing tables at Outback to a husband, father and Realtor in a short span of time, there are no signs of stress on his face or in his voice. Instead, he says he “has a peace about things” and is looking forward to years of helping to make people’s dreams of homeownership come true.

“I feel like I’ll be doing this the rest of my life,” he says. “I’m not the one who will make that decision, but I do know I’m where I’m supposed to be.