Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 15, 2018

Veteran Realtor Williams, 70, ‘renewed’ by late matriculation


Realtor Joe Williams says he’s proof that an old dog can learn new tricks.

The 70-year-old Williams and Williams Realty Services owner has earned the Master of Real Estate degree from Realtor University, an accredited program from the National Association of Realtors.

This at least puts Williams in the running to be Chattanooga’s most-educated Realtor.

During his varied 20-year career, Williams has earned several high-end commercial and residential designations, including the CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member), CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) and GRI (Graduate, Realtor Institute).

Williams completed the course work for the ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative) designation twice but never sent in the paperwork.

But for all the blood, sweat and tears those programs require, none of them compared to the depth and intensity of the Master of Real Estate program, Williams says.

For nearly two years, Williams, a full-time business owner and operator, dedicated his weekends and time during the week to completing his coursework, which included both practical and applied learning. This involved taking the core courses and working his way through one of the five specialized concentrations the school offers.

Williams chose real estate asset and property management as his specialty because it covers ground he hadn’t tilled in other programs. “I needed some variety in my life.”

In addition to listing residential and commercial property, Williams is a residential and commercial property manager. He says the specialty coursework he completed will help him to stay competitive in a spirited market.

“Education allows you to be as good as or better than [others],” he says. “It’s been an integral part of my process.”

To earn his degree, Williams also wrote a thesis on the old Wheland Foundry site on South Broad – perhaps Chattanooga’s most vexing real estate puzzle. Williams covered the history of the 141-acre site and discussed possible future uses.

To reach his conclusions, Williams interviewed stakeholders and public officials, attended public forums and workshops and completed a survey.

“Wheland Foundry is a huge economic nut to crack. You can’t just remove the debris and build something; you have to readapt the property,” he says. “Can it be manufacturing again? Can it be a hotel? Can it be a ballpark?”

At least one of Williams’ ideas didn’t make it into his paper. “You might say, ‘Joe, you’re crazy,’ but I was in Vegas and saw a humongous Ferris wheel with enclosed cars and thought, ‘Well, maybe,’” he says.

Williams’ final draft was 200 pages long. He says it confused the lady who reviewed it. “She was from Maine,” he says, shrugging.

Although the list of designations Williams has acquired over the years might give one the impression that he’s cooking a hearty alphabet soup for his business card, he didn’t approach the graduate program at Realtor University lightly. Rather, he waited until the school was accredited to begin his studies.

“I kept telling them, ‘What you have here is too good to not be accredited,’” he says.

Based in Chicago, Realtor University is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the US Department of Education.

Williams did not attend classes virtually or at a physical location but interacted with his professors through email and chat.

When he had completed the program’s requirements, he attended a graduation ceremony in Washington, D.C., held the week of the Realtors Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in May.

Williams says receiving his physical diploma while dressed in a traditional cap and gown was a proud moment, but now he’s focused on how to apply what he’s gained from the experience.

“I learned more about myself than I did new material,” he says. “I learned that I need to get moving. Time’s a-wastin’ and I need to get focused.”

For Williams, progress includes moving his business into the online realm, where he’ll be able to send his listings “to the world rather than across the street.” He says he’s in hiring mode to make this happen.

He’s also considering moving Williams and Williams to a more visible and client-friendly location. His current real estate home is located on the second-story of a professional complex positioned behind another building on Ringgold Road.

Whichever direction his business takes, Williams will be continuing the nearly 140-year tradition of his family in Chattanooga. “We’ve been developing real estate in Chattanooga since 1880,” he says.

Williams has been part of that tradition since the mid-90s when he became a commercial Realtor after a long career in manufacturing. He switched gears in 2003 when he purchased a Century 21 franchise and began listing and selling residential real estate. He now does both.

Throughout his real estate years, Williams has been an active member of the local Realtor association. Although he has not been a director of Greater Chattanooga Realtors (GCR), he has served on several committees, including Professional Standards, Government Affairs, Employer Assisted Housing and Realtor Safety. He also is a graduate of GCR’s Leadership Academy.

“I’m a bit of a spark plug,” he says, winking. “I stir things up. I give them insights maybe they haven’t thought of.”

Williams says he’s not done learning. He’s mulling becoming a certified property manager and is even considering pursuing a doctorate degree, possibly in strategic management.

In other words, this old dog is far from learning his last trick. “Education prompts you,” he says. “This whole process has renewed me.”