It’s no secret that Nashville has become one of the nation’s most popular cities. However, 40 years ago, the pace of life in Middle Tennessee was quite a bit slower according to Shirley Zeitlin, founder and chairman of Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty.
“Nashville was a sleepy town, and it was a wonderful place to grow up,” Shirley recalls. “The Middle Tennessee area has grown gradually over the past 40 years, but the growth has definitely accelerated within the past decade.”
Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, was founded in 1979. After selling real estate for more than 12 years, Shirley made the pioneering decision to found Zeitlin & Co., to help clients define and find their versions of personal luxury. In creating her own real estate firm, she says that culture was the most intentional endeavor.
“Nothing is more important in business than reputation,” Shirley notes. “What constitutes a reputation is honesty, integrity and trust, and prioritizing the needs of our agents, associates and clients. I wanted to live the values I had been brought up on, knowing they were important. People who have joined Zeitlin have appreciated that culture, just as we have appreciated them for carrying out those traditions.”
Many of the agents currently working for Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty agree that the culture created by Shirley has been a core reason for their longevity with the firm. Kim Brannon and Ami Kase are sisters who after multiple years in corporate America decided to get their real estate licenses and start flipping houses. Kim and Ami have been with Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty for 15 years and believe the firm is a leader in providing an exceptional experience and a superior level of service to both buyers and sellers.
“Zeitlin felt like the right culture to us because the agents were more experienced and more tenured,” Kim comments.
“Kim and I have always strived to be a step above,” Ami adds, “and that’s what the Zeitlin brand represented to us. The excellence of the brand has only continued to grow with Sotheby’s International Realty bringing their brand and luxury experience to the Middle Tennessee area.”
In the Spring of 2018, Zeitlin & Co. formally entered into a partnership with Sotheby’s International Realty, which has had a tremendously positive impact on Zeitlin’s already elevated brand.
According to Jay Lowenthal, a 24-year veteran with the firm, the partnership with Sotheby’s International Realty has put Middle Tennessee’s real estate market on the international map.
“From the international level, Nashville has changed,” says Jay. “It is no longer a sleepy Southern city. Our city is on the international map. Companies are looking to relocate their headquarters here; the tourist industry has exploded; and there are a lot of international buyers who are interested in investing in property in Nashville.”
Julie Casassa, a relocation specialist who has been affiliated with Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty for 20 years, says the new partnership has enhanced her clients’ experiences.
“With the new affiliation with Sotheby’s, I feel I have gained global exposure for my clients’ global networking and am able to provide clients with excellent service with 1,000 Sotheby’s affiliates in 70 countries,” Julie shares.
According to Shirley, the partnership with Sotheby’s International Realty is the best decision the firm has ever made.
“It always kept me up at night that [Zeitlin & Co.] has a strong brand in Middle Tennessee, but all these new people coming in don’t know who we are,” she shares. “The affiliation with Sotheby’s International Realty has changed that, and it has been a real enhancement for our clients to have that global reach.”
With people moving in from across the country and the world, Jay predicts that Nashville’s population growth will continue for the foreseeable future. He also mentions that the preferences of people moving to the Middle Tennessee area will dictate the type of housing that is built; and lifestyle preferences will influence which neighborhoods will be impacted most by growth.
Sue Chilton, who joined Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty 39 years ago, says lifestyle preferences have changed dramatically over the past 40 years.
“Urban areas closer to downtown have taken off,” Sue notes. “Forty years ago, there was more interest in suburbia and having a big yard. Now, the culture has moved more toward convenience and entertainment.”
Sue also notes that with traffic becoming a major issue in the Middle Tennessee area, the demand for urban housing has increased as residents want to live closer to their workplaces and avoid longer commutes.
But some areas far outside the urban core of Nashville have exploded with growth in the past few years as well. College Grove, which lies about 40 minutes south of Nashville, has experienced a significant transformation in the past 15 years. According to Real Tracs, in 1996 the average single-family home in College Grove was 1,412 square feet and sold for $100,000. In 2018, the average square footage of a home in College Grove was 4,102 square feet and the sell price was $908,000.
Kim believes several factors have contributed to the real estate growth spurt in College Grove, including the development of Interstate 840 and buyers seeking a more rural lifestyle. “There is a trend of people from other metropolitan cities moving to Nashville and buying in the downtown core, while local residents are opting to move to outlying areas,” she says.
She also suspects areas similar to College Grove, meaning more rural but still accessible via major interstates, will experience significant growth in the coming years.
There may be many questions surrounding growth in the Middle Tennessee area, but one thing is for certain, Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty is dedicated to continued growth and improvement in their ability to provide five-star service. The firm has much to celebrate in its 40th year, and while cognizant of entering a new decade of business, the team is focused on the future.
“We have great leadership in the company,” says Shirley. “Jessica Averbuch [CEO] and Sam Averbuch [COO] are doing a fabulous job of running the business day to day, which enables me to look to the future. Exciting things are down the road, and I am proud to be a part of it.”
This article is sponsored by Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty.