Real Estate Families – From The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Real Estate Families – From The Chattanooga Times Free Press
Crye-Leike Gunbarrel Road office managing broker Carol Craig sits with her son Jay Craig at their office on Thursday. Many families working in real estate act as teams of parents and children or spouses. (Staff Photo by Patrick Smith, Times Free Press)

Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008 , 12:01 a.m.


By Reporter Jason Reynolds




Although families work together in many industries, real estate is perhaps one of the most family-oriented professions, some real estate agents say.


“Being an independent contractor is tough … but it’s easier with family,” said Carol Craig, a broker with Crye-Leike Realtors who works with her son, Jay, in a team known as the Craig Group.


Numerous area real estate offices have up to three generations working together, and some agents say their children grow up wanting to join the family business.


Family members know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and can help each other compensate, Mrs. Craig said. For example, her son is a better organizer, she said, and she has more than two decades’ experience to her son’s one decade of experience.


Family members are more likely to pick up the slack if the other needs to devote time to family matters, said Mrs. Craig, co-manager of Crye-Leike’s East Brainerd office. She was part of a real estate partnership in Florida, and says nonrelatives were not always as willing to help out.


At some companies, more than two family members work together. ReMax Properties North is owned by the Shipley family. The principal broker, Sheila Shipley, has been in the business nearly 30 years.


Her husband, Jimmy, died on Dec. 8. He co-owned the company and worked there after retiring from DuPont as an electrician, and also owned numerous rental properties and handled foreclosed properties for ReMax. Sheila’s son,


Aaron, works with her on the Real Estate Superpowers team. Aaron Shipley said his two older brothers, Heath and Travis, help in the business, as does his uncle, Rob Shipley.


“I was warned by several that I would not be able to work with my family,” Aaron Shipley said. “This could not be further from the truth. I feel very fortunate and blessed.”


Mr. Shipley said that it is a blessing to work with his father, and that his father instilled such values in him as keeping his word and enjoying work.


Nathan Walldorf says he is carrying on the family tradition of working in real estate. His grandfather, Herman Walldorf, founded Herman Walldorf & Co. Inc., which his father and uncle own. His sister worked there before she was married.


“It’s been a lot of fun working with my dad (Charlie Walldorf),” Mr. Walldorf said. “I’ve been learning from him … and we support each other.”


Realty Executives of Chattanooga is home to another large real estate family: Broker Elwynn Schwartz, her mother, Bettye Harrison, and daughter, Karen Riede.


“It feels like a big extended family rather than just a business,” Mrs. Schwartz said.


Mrs. Harrison said she started in the industry in 1956 as a secretary and bookkeeper for a real estate agent. She earned her license in 1961 and has served twice as president of the Chattanooga Association of Realtors. Now, she works with her daughter and granddaughter.




Mrs. Schwartz also says that working with family brings benefits. Her mother has accumulated five decades of industry knowledge, and her daughter is good with technology.


One Realtor says that family members also provide a large degree of trust in handling business affairs.


“That’s the No. 1 positive,” said Sabrena Turner, co-owner of Help-U-Sell Today Realty. “You think more alike. You have your differences, which is good. But we always see eye-to-eye.”


Ms. Turner owns the firm with her brother, Brent Severs, and mother, Brenda Turner. Mr. Severs said that clients have told them they like working with a brother-sister team, which is unusual in Chattanooga.


“People view us as an underdog versus the big corporations,” he said. “They know we have a stake in it and it’s not just a paycheck.”


Mrs. Craig said she agrees, because she and her son just closed a deal where the client found them on the Internet and liked the fact that they are a family team.


Working together can have one drawback at times, Mr. Craig said: Finding time off. The Craigs have to make time for vacations with their own families and make sure those vacations don’t turn into working vacations, he said. Technology has made that harder to do.


But, sharing similar vocations helps spouses understand when you’re working long hours, said Teresa Boyer-Young, broker-owner of Best Realty GMAC. Her husband, Robert Young, is vice president of sales at Rarity Communities Inc., a developer of high-end developments.


“We understand each other’s schedules,” she said. “Spouses outside the industry may not understand what it’s like to come home at 9 in the evening.”




Mrs. Boyer-Young’s daughter, Tiffany Merriman, joined Best Realty four years ago. She had considered becoming a nurse, but settled on real estate after seeing her mother in action, Mrs. Boyer-Young said.


Mr. Craig said his children also get to see him and his mother working in real estate. The children help create and distribute real estate signs and flyers and love telling people about their father and “nana” working in real estate, he said.


Mr. Shipley said that it took some effort for him to convince his mother to let him work with her. She told him to go to college first, which he did, and then told him to work in the financial services industry. He worked for more than a year at a mortgage originator, and then she recruited him.


Mr. Shipley’s brother, Travis, is readying to work full time with the company, said Brandi Pearl Thompson, an agent who works closely with the Shipleys, who say they regard her as a member of the family.


“It means a lot to me, knowing you have people there who care for you,” Ms. Thompson said.