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Front Page - Friday, December 22, 2017

Nu Vision takes new look at real estate sales

Fewer office-related fees means ‘Your split is yours to keep,’ Woodburn says

Katherine Woodburn, owner of the newly launched independent real estate firm, Nu Vision Realty. - Submitted

By David Laprad

In a real estate market defined by the word “more” (more business, more agents, more optimism), Nu Vision Realty owner Katherine Woodburn says Realtors are ready for less.

So, she’s giving it to them.

At Woodburn’s newly launched company, which opened its Lee Highway location in November, Realtors won’t pay any fees. No desk fees, no transaction fees, no office fees – nothing. “Your split is yours to keep,” she says.

Woodburn launched Nu Vision out of a desire to step out from under the umbrella of a franchise and start her own concern. She was previously part-owner of the now-shuttered Exit Realty franchise in Chattanooga. While Woodburn has good things to say about the company, the dos and don’ts that come with doing business with a franchise were too restrictive for her.

“Franchises put you in a box. You have to do things their way,” she adds. “I want us to determine our own destiny.”

Woodburn also wants her agents to earn more money. Hence, the no fees policy. But “no fees” doesn’t translate to “no support” for Realtors. On the contrary, Nu Vision already has all the bells and whistles agents need, Woodburn says, including yard signs, lockboxes, work stations with online access, a conference room for meetings with clients and a lead-generation system.

Woodburn also promises to soon have “top of the line training that will teach agents to sustain themselves.”

Agents also have access to Nu Vision’s broker, Rod Cook, a 12-year veteran of the local real estate industry who’s worked with two of the biggest names in the region – Aaron and Sheila Shipley, owners of ERA Blue Key Properties.

Cook is taking a “down the hall” approach to supporting his brokers. This means being available to give everyone one-on-one attention.

“I can sit down with each agent and develop a program that works for them and helps them to succeed,” he points out. “Instead of putting our agents through a boilerplate training program, we identify the skills they have and the best way they can use them to get their name out there.”

While Woodburn says the good health of the real estate market makes this a great time to launch Nu Vision, she would have had no qualms about starting the brokerage under less favorable conditions. She did it once before when she and her husband opened their own mortgage lending company in 2008 – after the real estate bubble burst.

“We launched our company in the middle of the crash,” Woodburn recounts. “People said we were crazy. But we were tired of working for others – and it was a big success.”

Woodburn has since relinquished her mortgage loan officer license and earned her real estate license. Her mission is to turn Nu Vision into a place where agents can “thrive and brand themselves as opposed to being branded by a large company.”

While Woodburn might have an aversion to franchises and large companies, she’ll be competing against those very entities for a piece of the real estate pie in Chattanooga. But that thought doesn’t faze her.

It doesn’t concern Cook, either. Rather, he says he believes the trend to buy local will find its way to Nu Vision. “There’s a big trend toward wanting to work with local companies and people,” he adds. “You see it with restaurants, stores and more. People like to support the businesses based in their community.”

Cook also brushes aside the suggestion that brand recognition is of paramount importance in real estate. Buyers and sellers don’t work with a particular company, he explains, they work with an individual they know.

“When I list a house, it’s usually for a repeat client or someone who was referred to me,” Cook says. “They’re not going with a real estate company, they’re going with a person.”

With this in mind, Nu Vision will be carving out its share by focusing on having well-trained and determined agents.

“We have a brand-new agent, Amanda Kroeger. The first thing I told her to do was send out Christmas cards to everyone she knows and include her business card,” Cook says. “People need to know Amanda as a Realtor now. She’s the person who’s going to help them find what they need.”

Nu Vision took instant shape when Exit Realty closed and a portion of the agents moved with Woodburn. The company currently has eight real estate professionals serving residential and commercial clients in Tennessee and Georgia and an in-house lender. While this is small compared to many local brokerages, Woodburn is more focused on defining the heart of Nu Vision rather than its size.

“I don’t want to put a number on Nu Vision,” she says. “I’d rather maintain a small office feel and make sure we become a family.”

To help nurture a friendly atmosphere, Woodburn and Cook recently held an office Christmas party at which they presented gifts. Cook says he poured a lot of thought into the presents and wound up making two of his agents cry.

“One lady has had a really tough year, personally and professionally, and needed to relax, so I bought her a massage at Massage Heights, where she can have peace and serenity for an hour,” Cook adds, laughing.

“I also gave a sign with the word ‘Faith’ on it to someone who doesn’t always believe in herself. I wanted her to know we have faith in her.”

Cook then pauses to wonder if the second lady might have preferred an hour at Massage Heights, too. Sometimes, those who agree to take less still want more.