Conversation with a Leader

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 1:00am

Following his graduation from Middle Tennessee State University in 1970, Bob Parks worked as an underwriter for State Farm Insurance. A short time later, he purchased his first home, which served as a catalyst that spurred Parks to pursue a career in real estate.

Parks became a licensed Realtor in 1972 and joined Clark Maples Realty in Murfreesboro. After spending three years as an affiliate broker, he started what is now known as Bob Parks Realty LLC, at which the he serves as principal and owner. The company is known for its major contributions to various charitable entities and is the largest corporate sponsor of The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Middle Tennessee. About 25 years ago, Parks himself started Christmas for the Children.

You are a veteran within the local residential real estate community. What has been a key change over the years?

What I have found is that both buyer and seller are much more knowledgeable and have access to information they did not have 30 years ago. In some ways, this has made our task both more challenging and easier.

What is your view regarding the growing national trend of buyers and sellers not enlisting agents?

We have not seen this trend to any degree of significance in the area. As more and more people relocate into Middle Tennessee, the buying population is more likely to use a Realtor. Middle Tennessee is so blessed to have a tremendous amount of new construction. Buyers feel comfortable with knowledgeable Realtors to help them with that process. From a seller's standpoint, there is a security factor. Sellers are not simply opening their homes to unknown callers who want to view their properties. Nowadays, there are so many ways to advertise property that a seller may not be aware of all those options. Having a Realtor can help.

What is your opinion of the trend of local residential real estate companies focusing on urban neighborhoods?

The trend is the result of a lot of buyers wanting to be closer to work, recreation, restaurants and shopping. In the past, most people didn't want commercial development near their homes. Nashville's urban neighborhoods are a vibrant and growing market that any real estate company would want to be a part of.

Many real estate agents work 70-hour weeks minimum. What is your philosophy regarding this?

Our strength is our roughly 600 agents. From a production standpoint, we're No. 2 behind Crye-Leike (according to Nashville Business Journal figures). But we want our agents to have balance in their lives. Real estate provides them a living but it is not "their lives." The general philosophy of our company is to train our agents to understand that the career is wonderful but does not need to consume their lives. That is our thought process in interviewing and hiring agents.

What is the company's main challenge?

We are still not as well known in some areas of Nashville as we would prefer to be. We need better name recognition.

How has technology changed your industry?

Technology has allowed agents to be more efficient and knowledgeable. From the consumer's standpoint, they are much more aware of the market and its conditions. And they are tech savvy. With Web sites, they can view properties 24/7.

What is the near future for Nashville-area residential real estate?

Middle Tennessee has not experienced the kind of explosive property appreciation that other parts of the country have. Therefore, there is not a real estate bubble in the future for Middle Tennessee. However, from a new construction standpoint, we can only development so many lots per year. It looks like anywhere from 13,000 to 15,000 new construction permits per year will be a sustainable amount for the needs of the area.

Do you anticipate significant construction of homes using sustainable building materials?

From everything I read, certainly alternative building materials are something we will look at in the future.

What is your take on the local small independent residential real estate community?

There will always be a definite position for those type companies. But you either have to be a very small niche company or a very large comprehensive company to be successful.

Any growth plans?

We have 10 offices and I have no desire to add offices. My focus in on quality.

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