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“One day, we’re going to live in a beautiful house like that,” Glennda Baker’s mom would say to her on drives along the Chattahoochee River while gazing up the hill at the grand houses by the Atlanta Country Club.
As a child, the associate broker of Glennda Baker & Associates at Ansley Real Estate | Christie’s International Real Estate told Inman she would often accompany her single mother on such drives. Her mom was a bookkeeper for a real estate developer and regularly had to deliver contracts to him at his home near the country club on weekends.
At the time, Baker and her mother had been living in apartments and rental houses since they moved to Atlanta from Tennessee when Baker was just 2 years old.
“I was little, and we were in this beat-up Pontiac,” said Baker, an inductee of Inman’s 2023 Global Real Estate Influencers program. “It was navy blue, and it didn’t have air conditioning. And I was thinking to myself, ‘I think she might have lost her mind.’ She was a big dreamer.”
But dreams occasionally come true, as Baker learned as she sharpened her sales skills as a young real estate agent. Indeed, Baker’s team, Glennda Baker & Associates, is now ranked the 17th team in Georgia by transaction volume, with $64.8 million closed in 2021 alone, the most recent year for which data is available. Baker’s TikTok activity alone also earned her $241,000 in gross commission income in 2021, she said.
‘If the shoe fits, buy it in every color’
Things were not easy for Baker and her mom growing up, with her dad working as a professional golfer based in Chattanooga and Baker spending the majority of her childhood with her mom.
The first apartment the two shared in Atlanta was a furnished unit next to the Fox Theater in Midtown, an old ’20s-era movie palace that’s now a performing arts venue, which she rented for $40 per week. Then they moved to an apartment downtown, where Baker didn’t even have her own bedroom.
“[My mom] set up a pretend room for me on this enclosed patio that did not have heat or air, and I always slept in the bed with her,” Baker explained. “I didn’t realize that I didn’t even have a room.”
Baker’s mom was not able to purchase and own her own home until Baker was in the 10th grade through an owner-financing agreement she was able to make with the seller, who was a doctor. But that milestone for her mother made a huge impression on Baker.
“I remember this pride of ownership that she had, and it was just amazing to me,” Baker said.
Baker “barely got out of high school,” as she describes it and after graduating, went straight to work as a shoe saleswoman. Even though she began by working part time, she quickly became the store’s No. 1 salesperson in the women’s shoe department.
“They thought I was cheating,” Baker said. “So the manager brought me in, and he said, ‘You sell more shoes than anybody and you only work 20 hours a week — how are you doing that?'”
Baker explained to the manager that she always relayed her mother’s advice to customers she served, which was, “If the shoe fits, buy it in every color.”
When her mother learned how much Baker was excelling, she told her daughter she should really be selling something more expensive than shoes and helped Baker get her real estate license. At that point, Baker wasn’t interested in real estate though, so she gave designing and manufacturing women’s clothing a shot. That gig was too cutthroat, however, and after a few years, Baker was ready to try a real estate career.
Turning her sales skills to real estate
Realizing that jumping in headfirst as a sales agent would be tough, Baker tried to find a job as an assistant at first. The first team of agents she approached was turned off by her bubbly personality. The second team fell in love with her but was afraid to hire her because they thought they’d be training their own competition.
Finally, Baker decided to take Mike Ferry’s advice from his book How to Develop a Six-Figure Income in Real Estate. She called up everyone she knew, telling them that she had become a real estate agent and asked if they needed help buying or selling a home. After that, Baker had five people ready to list their houses with her.
With those five clients in hand, Baker approached a broker at then-Buckhead Brokers Realtors (which later merged with Coldwell Banker) and asked for help. She was hired on a 50/50 split in September 1992 and by December earned the title of agent of the month.
After that, Baker kept reading real estate books and following advice for strategies like farming neighborhoods. With her infant in tow in a stroller, having become a single mom herself, she’d walk through the neighborhoods saying hello to everyone and started mailing out newsletters.
“Sure enough, somebody called me and said, ‘Hey, I see you in the neighborhood all the time. I got your newsletter and I want to sell my house,'” Baker told Inman. “I listed that house in 1992 [and sold] that house for $400,000. And then I listed another house in that neighborhood, and it was $900,000.”
As a single mom, real estate became the perfect career for Baker since it allowed her to have a flexible schedule.
“Real estate was my saving grace,” she told Inman. “It gave me the flexibility to never miss a soccer game, never miss a cheerleading competition, never miss the Valentine’s Day party. I sold houses to all of the teachers, I sold houses to everybody in the class, I sold houses to everybody on the soccer team … Real estate really saved my life in so many ways. Here’s a kid who barely graduated from high school who is now entrusted with what is most people’s largest single asset.”
Today, Baker counts bank vice presidents, news anchors and football hall-of-famers among her clients. And her daughter, who she pushed in a stroller through neighborhoods while farming, is now 31 years old and a licensed agent herself. Baker’s son, who is 22, is still figuring out his path but has also taken real estate courses. Making sure they understand how to build wealth through investing in real estate is extremely important to Baker.
Reviving a passion through TikTok
When her kids were young, Baker was very motivated to succeed in her career. But around 2014, she told Inman she hit a bit of a plateau and was less energized about her work. She started coaching with Tom Ferry and was able to find her passion again. Since then she has continued to work with Ferry, attend conferences and stay engaged in the industry.
It was at one of Ferry’s conferences in February 2020 when she was first exposed to using TikTok for real estate, something which is now synonymous with her personal brand.
“They showed a TikTok video that a real estate agent had done and he had 43,000 views on that video, and I was like, ‘Oh, wow — 43,000 views, that’s a lot,'” Baker said. “I could do TikTok. And I came back to Atlanta and tried to do TikTok the way this 25-year-old kid did, and I looked ridiculous. I tried dancing — I looked ridiculous.”
After experimenting a bit and working with a professional videographer, Baker found her groove on TikTok and gradually grew her following.
“I followed what people that were successful were doing and I Glennda-fied it,” she revealed. “I would take a little bit from this person and a little bit from that person, and I put it in the Glennda bag and I’d shake it up and I’d spit it out.”
In October 2020, she had 122 followers, she told Inman. Today, she has about 880,000, with an average of 350,000 views per day.
“I’ve made over $1 million just from people buying houses from me on TikTok and Instagram,” Baker said.
Next, Baker plans to add a television show to her resume by putting together a team called “Glennda Studio” that will help bring the pieces all together, she said. The goal is to make a realistic show about the real estate industry that can serve the buyer, seller, investor and real estate agent.
“A lot of people think real estate is Selling Sunset, right? I don’t know about you, but I’m not walking in the backyard in my stilettos,” Baker told Inman. “So, just really working with agents on doing a listing pitch, meeting with the buyer, showing a house, negotiating a contract and really helping them hone their skills. My main focus right now is, how can I inspire, impact and inform the buyer, the seller, the investor and the agent?”
Coming full circle
Last year, a home in the Atlanta Country Club’s neighborhood, where Baker and her mom used to go on their drives, was put on the market. At her friends’ urging, Baker decided to go and look at the house, even though she knew it wasn’t within her budget.
“I walk in the door, and I realized once I get into the family room, that this is the house on the hill that was my mother’s dream home,” Baker told Inman. “So I walked out on the deck, I can see Columns Drive, and it’s literally like I could see that beat up Pontiac with no air conditioning and [my mom and I] driving down that street, looking up at this house.”
Even though it was “way out of my price range,” Baker went ahead and bought the house in a full-circle moment, with no regrets.
“I bought the house, and I’ve never, ever, felt more at peace anywhere in my life,” she said.