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The aroma of barbecue was inescapable, as was the sound of Deacon Bluz and the Holysmoke Band warming up outside. But before the members of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors (GCAR) could enjoy the food and music, they had business to attend to.

The day was Thursday, Sept. 29, and the occasion was GCAR’s annual meeting. GCAR President Nathan Walldorf opened the assembly by leading everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.

After making a few announcements about upcoming events, Walldorf presented a look back at what GCAR has accomplished so far in 2016.

In April, GCAR raised more than $73,000 for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga through its Tee Up & Wine Down for Habitat fundraiser. This exceeded the association’s expectations for the event. Walldorf said GCAR would continue to cultivate a strong partnership with Habitat in 2017 by teaming up with the organization to build a house in the spring. Tee Up & Wine Down will return in 2018.

In September, GCAR launched its Realtor Safety Certified Office program. Walldorf said the steps an office must take to become safety certified are simple. “Our goal is to get everyone talking about safety so we’re making good decisions when we go out to meet clients,” he said. “We want every agent asking for a picture ID before leaving to show a prospect a house.” GCAR will announce more details soon.

GCAR this year also established an ongoing donation effort to provide support for survivors of natural disasters and terrorist attacks. As part of this long-term commitment, GCAR will be donating $5,000 annually to the Realtors Relief Foundation, with all of the money going toward disaster relief efforts.

GCAR will also be providing assistance during the Christmas holiday season to the families of children who receive subsidized meals at school.

Earlier this year, GCAR began training Realtors on Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) programs, and the association continues to explore ways to implement an EAH program in the Greater Chattanooga area. EAH programs connect low- to moderate-income workers with downpayment assistance through their employer. For example, in Pennsylvania, participating EAH employers allow employees to apply for a loan of up to $8,000 for downpayment and closing cost assistance. The loan is interest-free, and borrowers have 10 years to pay it back.

“Fifty percent of homebuyer traffic this year has been made up of first-time buyers, so more people are getting into the market” said Walldorf. “Other would-be buyers would get into the market if they had down payment assistance. We’re hoping to get that from employers.”

GCAR continued to invest in RPAC (Realtors Political Action Committee) in 2016. In addition to the association making its yearly $5,000 donation, GCAR members donated an additional $43,584, which was more than 198 percent higher than its fair share goal of $21,945. Nearly 37 percent of GCAR’s members contributed funds. While Walldorf was pleased with that number, he said he’d like to see more agents pitch in. “Those dollars protect us at the local, state, and federal levels when government folks have ideas that can have a negative impact on real estate, which can then have a negative impact on our nation’s economy,” Walldorf said.

GCAR also started its Leadership Academy in 2016. Launched in February, the revamped program provided 20 participants with a knowledge-based foundation for serving in a local leadership position. Walldorf said GCAR will soon be soliciting applications for the 2017 class.

Membership was up from 1,657 in 2015 to 1,828 in 2016. GCAR’s ranks have risen each year since 2013, when the association had 1,469 members.

GCAR is also on solid financial ground, Walldorf said. While revenues are up, expenses have increased as well, although both numbers jumped only slightly. Final numbers will not be available until the end of the calendar year.

Walldorf said GCAR continued to reinvest its assets in its membership in 2016 by offering more education and designation courses for either free or at a discounted rate. For example, several of the agents in the room took advantage this year of a cut-rate ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative) designation course. “You paid half of what I paid for mine, which is not fair,” Walldorf said, laughing.

After Walldorf completing his run-down of GCAR’s accomplishments in 2016, he introduced speaker Amy Stoehr, who offered tips for running a real estate practice like a business.

Before releasing everyone to enjoy the free barbecue and music, Immediate Past President Travis Close announced the results of the recent election for new directors. New directors serving in 2017 and 2018 include Robert Backer, Becky Cope English, Dan Griess, John Payne, Robyn Ring, and Kevin Wamack. The 2017 secretary-treasurer will be Kim Bass; Geoff Ramsey will serve as president-elect.

For more on upcoming events at GCAR, including professional development opportunities, visit 

GCAR 2017 Board of Directors

President: Mark Hite

President-elect: Geoff Ramsey

Secretary-Treasurer: Kim Bass

MLS Committee Chair: Jason Farmer

Immediate Past President: Nathan Walldorf

Directors: Robert Backer, Myra Cochran, Jennifer Cooper, Becky Cope English, Robert Fisher, Dan Griess, Jon Hughes, Paula Palmer, Brenda Pargeon, John Payne, Robyn Ring, Brandi Pearl Thompson, Kevin Wamack