Lisi Chavarri was climbing the steepest mountain she’d ever faced. Only a few months earlier, she’d uprooted herself and her unborn child from New York City and moved to Chattanooga to begin a new life.
Since then, Chavarri has given birth to her son and had started the process of earning her real estate license. As she cared for Maddox during his waking hours and studied while he slept, doubts plagued her mind.
“Real estate isn’t part-time or even full-time; it’s all the time if you want to serve your clients the right way,” says Chavarri, 36. “So, I struggled with what to do because when you have a newborn, they’re on all the time, too.”
As Chavarri burned the proverbial candle at both ends and then cut the candle in half to produce new ends to burn, she remembered something through the haze of exhaustion and uncertainty: she’d made it in New York City.
She wasn’t just a big girl, she was a big city girl, and if she could make it in the Big Apple, she could make it anywhere – including Chattanooga.
Two years later, Chavarri is proving herself right as she balances single motherhood with her work as a fully licensed and trained agent with Scout Realtor Group.
Chavarri’s days are still far from easy, and her nights are anything but carefree, but her fortitude, along with the help of her family and a highly involved boyfriend, are enabling her to thrive in both roles.
“It’s been a challenging, humbling experience, but it’s working out well,” she says. “I’m lucky to have help. It allows me to pursue my career wholeheartedly while my son has the care he needs.”
Assistance is also available at work when she needs it. As a member of Scout Realtor Group, a gathering of five Re/Max Renaissance agents that work together and support each other, she’s able to draw from a large pool of help when she needs it.
“It feels good to have that support because we believe in achieving balance in life, even though we all work hard,” she explains. “It feels good to be able to step away to take care of something, and my clients never miss a beat.”
Chavarri says working in a profession she enjoys also eases her burden. She looks forward to meeting new clients, learning what they want and finding a perfect home for them. “I love the responsibility that comes with showing buyers around and telling them, ‘This is where you need to be,’” she adds with a smile.
As Chavarri has worked with buyers and sellers, she’s discovered that her experience living in a large metropolis has become one of her key strengths as a Realtor.
“I saw the direction in which Chattanooga was moving,” she says, referring to the trend in the city toward urban living. “I thought I’d be able to help curate that experience for clients. Having lived in big cities, I know what urban communities are hoping to experience.”
Chavarri’s level of confidence is such that she’s even been known to successfully steer clients toward a living scenario they’d never considered. A couple with which she’s currently working originally wanted to live on a farm, but now they’re considering an urban lifestyle in Chattanooga’s growing Southside community.
“After spending time with them, I realized they like cool, hip stuff, so I said, ‘Have you thought about the Southside?’” she says. “My job is not to sell my clients a house but to educate them and give them resources so they have a feel for every possibility before they make an investment.”
Chavarri is also committed to her fellow agents at Scout Realtor Group, which she provides with administrative support.
Becky Cope English, founder of Scout Realtor Group, points out she can’t imagine working without Chavarri. “She tends to know what’s happening with each Realtor in our group and helps us stay on top of our business schedules,” English says. “I’ve often referred to her as our petite powerhouse.”
Chavarri has also expanded her role as a real estate agent in the community by becoming an active member of Greater Chattanooga Realtors. In addition to being a graduate of the association’s 2018 Leadership Academy, she’s now serving on its Leadership Development Committee, which will help shape next year’s class.
“Leadership Academy gave me a sense of how important it is to contribute to the local board and that it does make a difference when Realtors get involved,” she says. “It’s not just about paying your dues; there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that needs our input.”
Chavarri says she chose to serve on the development committee to bring awareness to the academy and share its value in the hopes other Realtors will participate. “The program is a valuable asset to the association,” she adds. “I’ve always volunteered, but without direction. Leadership Academy identifies your strengths and gives you direction.”
Although Chavarri is still fairly new to the Chattanooga real estate community, she’s spent many of the last 20 years in one aspect of the business or another.
Chavarri is the daughter of Chattanooga Realtor Maria Chavez, the managing broker at Re/Max Renaissance’s Cherokee Boulevard office. Both Chavez and Chavarri’s father emigrated to the U.S. as children when their parents moved to the States from Cuba.
Chavarri grew up in Miami, where her parents had settled, and at 16, became her mom’s assistant at her Century 21 franchise in Miami Beach. By 18, Chavarri had earned her real estate license and, from there, worked as a mortgage broker and then an appraiser.
After 23 years in Miami, Chavarri was ready for a new experience. She found it during a trip to New York City. “I fell in love,” she recalls. “New York City gives you a passport to the world. Having lived there and experienced its diversity, I feel as though I’ve traveled around the globe.”
After moving to New York City in 2006, Chavarri worked in the lending side of the real estate business, making her one of the first to feel the heat when the market crashed the following year.
Chavarri was devastated and swore off real estate. Then, among the ashes of the life she’d made, she rose like a Phoenix, resurrected as a more determined, self-reliant person. “The liquidity crisis was a terrible experience,” she admits. “But living in New York City during the recession made me who I am today. I reinvented myself.”
To make a living, Chavarri turned to the world of fitness. She had injured herself doing CrossFit and then embarked on a journey of self-healing that was eventually successful. Reversing her injury inspired a new passion in her, and led her to work as a personal trainer, spin instructor and health and lifestyle coach.
Chavarri also managed the fitness department for Reebok Sports Club in Manhattan and the fitness, spa and pool department for a boutique health club.
Then, in late 2015, she became pregnant with Maddox. Having no desire to raise him alone in New York City, she eyed Chattanooga, where her mother was living.
The decision to move to the Scenic City wasn’t easy. Chavarri had visited Chattanooga many times, and was not keen on living in a smaller metropolis. “If you had told me even a few years ago that I would move here, I would have said, ‘No way; I’m a city girl.’”
But Chavarri knew she was no longer making choices for herself, and did what she says she believed would be the most beneficial to her son.
“While I’ve uprooted my life more than once, uprooting my life for someone else is the hardest things I’ve done,” she says. “I had a full life in New York City. I had a great career and friends that were like family.
“So, when I became pregnant and chose to move closer to my family, it was the first decision I made as a mother. While it was the right decision, it was hard. I was moving to a different city, and I didn’t want to.”
As Chavarri weighed her career options, she realized she was ready to return to real estate, but she was uncertain if she should.
“It had been easy in the past to immerse myself in my job, but as a mother, my first priority was my child, and he was young,” she explains. “I kept going back and forth, wondering if I was making the right choice. Maddox is the love of my life, and all my decisions now are based on what’s best for him.”
Chavarri elected to return to real estate because she’d always loved it – barring her experience in New York City – and she believed if she applied herself, she could build a firm foundation for herself and Maddox.
Two years later, Chavarri has not only moved on to adding walls and a roof, she’s full of pride in her new hometown. “There’s something for everyone in Chattanooga,” she says. “The more I research and learn about the city, the more I realize everyone can live here if they have the right representation.”
Chavarri joined Scout Realtor Group after meeting English at a Re/Max networking event earlier this year. English remembers being immediately impressed with her level of commitment, warmth and professionalism.
“I posed the questioning of us meeting at the last minute, and figured it might be tough for this single mom with a busy schedule to make that work,” English recalls. “Lisi accepted, and we met shortly thereafter, with me thanking her profusely for spending an evening with me versus being at home.”
English says she was excited to meet someone who understood her drive to provide the highest level of service to clients. As the two subsequently began working together, English says she also discovered that Chavarri has a “servant’s heart” and is always thinking about others.
“You can teach skills, but you can’t teach heart,” English adds. “Lisi has an abundance of both.”
English says the most unique thing about Chavarri is her ability to balance family, friends and business. “From her diverse background, she’s recognized that in order to fulfill expectations, you have to keep your own cup full by taking care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually,” English says.
As part of the balance Chavarri strives to achieve, she and her boyfriend, Daniel Lucas, take Maddox on walks at Sculpture Fields at Montague Park. But Chavarri says there’s a method to her madness.
“We typically take those walks during Maddox’s nap time,” she laughs. “We’re a family in motion, and we try to do things while he’s asleep so we’re not married to being home.”
Chavarri is also gearing up to go camping, despite the encroaching cold. Here again, there’s a method to her madness. “I chose this time of year to camp because spiders and snakes are less prevalent,” she admits. “Daniel is an outdoorsy, mountain man, but I’m a city girl, and the outdoors is a new experience for me.”
Chavarri is also focusing more on spirituality and personal growth than in the past. She recently completed a self-help seminar in Miami and is currently reading “The Divine Mentor,” a nonfiction work by author Wayne Cordeiro, which she says is teaching her to base her life on Biblical principles.
“This was a year of self-development in every aspect of my life,” Chavarri explains.
As Chavarri talks, it’s difficult to identify her accent. There’s a hint of Latino, but it seems softened. She says no one can figure it out.
“My accent is a mix. When I spend time with my family, my passion level goes up to ten, and I speak with a heavy Latin accent,” she says. “When I see my New York friends, you’re going to hear me say ‘cawfee.’ And the other day during training in Miami, I said ‘ya’ll.’”
Chavarri says “ya’ll” with a born-and-bred Southern drawl and laughs. The sound electrifies the space around her with an infectious, uplifting spirit.
While Chavarri’s accent might be difficult to pin down, it’s evidence of how the different seasons in her life are still with her. She may have reinvented herself, but she’s held on to the best parts of each chapter and carries those with her today.
English notes this is evident in every aspect of Chavarri’s life. In response, Chavarri humbly says she’s a work in progress. She’s not scaled the mountain yet, but she’s getting there.