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Broker Spotlight: Sarah Ellis, Corcoran Classic Living

Name: Sarah Ellis

Title: Broker/owner

Experience: Celebrating my 20th year in real estate!

Location: Athens, Georgia

Brokerage full name: Corcoran Classic Living

Sales volume: $134,808,308.62

Why Sarah Ellis is in the spotlight

After graduating from the University of Georgia and deciding to stay in Athens, Sarah Ellis taught middle school for four years before transitioning to a real estate career. After becoming one of the youngest brokers in her local association’s history, CJ&L Real Estate (now Corcoran Classic Living) was founded in 2005 as a boutique firm by “three top producers with a copy machine, a lunchroom table and an assistant.”

According to Ellis, “Our firm takes the approach that we don’t sell houses; rather, we inform our clients to the highest level so that they may make the best decision possible.” Though working primarily in the luxury end of the market, Ellis says the firm works “with people, not price points” and recognizes that a home purchase is the largest investment many of their clients have ever made, “so we are certain to offer the highest level of service to everyone.”

How did you get your start in real estate?

My family has a light history of real estate just outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As a child, I always loved driving around with my grandfather and seeing what he was working on, and following what happened with our family farm once it was sold and developed into the planned community it is today. It was fascinating to me.

I graduated college and taught school for four years. While I knew that I loved the kids, it was too confining a career for my personality day-to-day. So, I got my license at night while I finished up my school year.

I started selling real estate the day after school ended, knowing I had paychecks coming for two more months, and after that I had no cushion. I had no choice but to hustle up and find some clients. I had a successful first year in real estate with 46 closed transactions — far exceeding my own expectations.

What’s something you know now that you wish you knew when you started?

I now know that mentors are infinitely important. A strong business mentor is not something I had growing up or in my early professional life. As I have become more successful, I have had younger people ask me to mentor them, and I am always honored.

When I was young and starting out, I was afraid to inconvenience someone. I was worried that I would appear unknowledgeable by asking for help.

What I have found later in my career is how excited people have been to offer support and advice. Advice from people who have walked roads ahead of us is always important, and the wisdom from someone experienced is invaluable.

Tell us about a high point in your brokerage career.

Definitely the day when I stepped back and looked at my company from an aerial view and realized it was successful. A managing broker from another company called to tell me how great we were doing as a firm. I had no idea. I had not been closely following my numbers (too busy!), and I certainly wasn’t comparing myself to others.

When we started, I was essentially appointed as the broker. I definitely lacked full confidence that I was capable. I was awfully young, and in high school, a teacher “failed” me on an entrepreneurial test. So, I never considered myself as someone with much of an entrepreneurial spirit.

I put my head down and worked hard and ethically, and our company grew so much. My agents were leaping over their competition with production, but we were all so busy working that we didn’t even immediately notice.

My heart swelled when I took a moment to realize it — we did it! That day was a launching point for me. It was a time when the good work that we had all done was validated, and it made me realize what I was capable of.

What’s your top tip for freshly licensed brokers?

Know your contracts inside and out, backwards and forwards. When something goes awry, and it will, it will be incumbent upon you to make quick and rational decisions that protect your clients and your agents.

The very best way to do that is to start with the paperwork. What is in writing? Take the time always to learn all of the updates and to intimately understand the nuances of the language so that you are prepared to make the best decisions quickly and soundly.

What’s one thing you wish every agent knew?

That we are all working toward the same goal. It’s a competitive industry, and often times agents forget that you can be competitive and kind at the same time. It’s better for our clients and for our profession.

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