Undaunted Crye-Leike To Expand – Nashville Business Journal

Undaunted Crye-Leike To Expand – Nashville Business Journal
Photo by Todd Stringer, Nashville Business Journal of Crye-Leike CEO Harold Crye who projects 2008 sales of $6 billion.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Nashville Business Journal – by Jenny Burns Nashville Business Journal


Nashville’s largest real estate company didn’t make its 2007 sales goal in a housing market that flattened mid-year, yet CEO Harold Crye is making moves to reposition the company.


Crye sees opportunity. He’s pumping up agent training, opening new real estate offices and ?considering buying other agencies to keep the company competitive in 2008.


Crye admits that $7 billion in sales was a lofty goal for the country’s fourth-largest real estate company, Crye-Leike Realtors, to set for 2007 as national reports of the market sliding in other areas were starting to roll in. The company did what turned out to be its best year of $6.1 billion in 2006.


“We suspected it could get to us sooner or later,” he says, adding agents thought the goal of $7 billion in 2007 had a good ring to it after doing $6 billion in 2006.


Crye-Leike came in at $5.7 billion across its eight-state footprint, a number that represents 32,500 transactions. With the slow market, Crye says he would have been thrilled with anything that was above $6.1 billion, but it still ended as the company’s second best year on record.


His Nashville market’s sales were only down 9 percent. Memphis was down 18 percent.


Overall in the Nashville area, home sales in 2007 were down 14.5 percent from 2006.


It was June or July when sales stopped keeping pace with 2006, Crye says.


At a time when Crye says most real estate companies are sitting still, he’s moving two of his offices to new locations to cash in on growth and opening two offices in the Nashville area.


“I suspect there will be companies closing or merging unless sales pick up or get stronger,” he says.


Crye says he’s looking at buying companies outside of Nashville – cities such as Atlanta where sales are down 25 percent.


Competitor Shirley Zeitlin, owner of Zeitlin Co. & Realtors, says she hasn’t decided whether to open new offices, but is banking on her rebranded image, Web site and specialty divisions to send sales above last year. She expects says she expects 2008 to surpass 2007 sales.


Crye-Leike is focusing agent training on skills needed to sell homes in a slow market, such as marketing, the art of negotiating and technology training.


“About 50 percent of agents have gotten in the last five years, and these folks have never known a slow market,” Crye says.


Today’s home seller wants weekly updates on their home showings and interest and Crye says he’s surprised he hasn’t gotten as many “your agent didn’t sell my house” calls since he says people are “reading the papers.” But he’s optimistic about 2008, saying it’s times like these when consumers choose to go with a big company. This, he says, will grow his market share in 2008. Crye-Leike’s goal for 2008 is $6 billion.


The company has bought 1.5 acres in Thompson’s Station at State Route 840 for its first office in that town. It’s also building a new office near the Starwood Amphitheater to serve Antioch, Cane Ridge, La Verge and Smyrna. He’s moving two offices for expansion and better growth spots. Crye bought land to move the Bellevue office from highway 70 to highway 100 near a new Publix grocery store because that’s where he expects westward growth.


Crye and Zeitlin say they feel there’s pent up demand from folks who’ve been waiting for the best time to buy.


“People who’ve been planning (to buy) or have put it on the back burner, you can really only do that for so long,” he says.


jburns@bizjournals.com, 615-846-4276