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Born and raised in Nashville, Barbara Breen has witnessed Nashville’s evolution first-hand over the past few decades — particularly when you consider her longstanding (and highly successful) career in real estate. An affiliate broker with Worth Properties, she has spent her 25-year career helping clients find the perfect home and mentoring younger generations of real estate agents. But she’s known for so much more, including being the aunt of our very own SB Web Designer, Mary Breen!

Barbara’s list of accomplishments includes being a member of the Million Dollar Sales Club and winning the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors Silver Award of Excellence for a whopping 12 consecutive years. Did we mention she’s also known for her vibrant, sassy style? We won’t give away her age, but trust us, this dynamo is unstoppable! Please welcome this week’s FACE of Nashville, Ms. Barbara Breen.

Barbara Breen of Worth Properties

Please welcome this week’s FACE of Nashville, Ms. Barbara Breen!

Can you tell us about your background and upbringing?

I was born in Nashville and was the oldest of four children, including two brothers and one sister. I have only lived in three houses in my life, which is very unusual for a real estate agent! I grew up on Sperry Road in Green Hills. After my father died at 46, my mother sold our house, and we moved to Mockingbird Road to be closer to the city bus line since we only had one car. I went to St. Bernard’s Academy from grade school through high school. After high school, I went to UT Nashville for two years. I was chosen with six other women to join the first-ever buyer’s training program at Harveys department store.

Since I have always loved clothes, this was great! We went through every department and spent two or more weeks learning what each department did. When all of that was done, they gave us a real job — I was made an assistant buyer in jewelry and handbags, and I also did modeling on the side. The job was a wonderful learning experience. It was not long after my job at Harveys that I met and married my husband, Bill Breen, Sr., and the father of my four boys. The year I got married, my mother died of cancer at only 51, so my husband promised me he would help me make a home for my three siblings. He was the “chairman” of the house, and I was the “co-chairman.” I was a stay-at-home mom and raised four wonderful boys before getting into real estate. I got my real estate license in 1984 to help support our family.

What inspired you to go into real estate?

I had always loved houses and knew what was on the market. Agents used to knock on my door to ask me if I knew anyone who wanted to sell (and if I did, I would tell them). Our family needed financial help, especially since we had two boys in college and two more to go, so [I thought] real estate could be my answer.

Side-by-side photos of Barbara Breen, laughing

Born and raised in Nashville, Barbara has seen the evolution of local businesses, pocket neighborhoods, and even the restaurant scene. And she’s still smiling!

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How have you seen Nashville change over the years, both positively and negatively?

Nashville is not the small town that it used to be. Everyone seems to be out for themselves. However, it’s still a great place to raise a family — native Nashvillians are friendly and warm, so I am sure this will catch on to all of the newcomers. One of the wonderful things about the growth of Nashville is the variety of things there are to do now. Our sports scene is exciting, but we also have a wonderful arts community and amazing restaurants. It all adds up to a great quality of life for residents.

What is your secret to such a successful real estate career?

First, you have to know the market. That means staying in touch with what’s on the market, the condition of each property, and what’s happening in each section of town. So, I make market knowledge a priority. Second, I get to know all of my clients well. I’ve been in real estate for a long time now, so all my clients are referrals from trusted friends and former clients. I get to know them over lunch or dinner so that I can find the right home for them. I can’t sell someone a house I couldn’t live in myself! I want my clients to be happy in their homes so they will come back to me when it’s time for them to move again.

Barbara Breen full-body shot

“I can’t sell someone a house I couldn’t live in myself!” Barbara says of her real estate philosophy.

You have an extensive list of accreditations to your name. Which ones are you the proudest of?

Being a Life Member of the Greater Nashville Board of Realtors is special to me, but I’m most proud of my family. Being a mom and grandmother, and having two very special daughters-in-law, is the biggest privilege of my life.

How do you stay so young at heart?

I stay active and surround myself with positive people who have great attitudes. I make the most of life and enjoy every minute. And dressing in style helps me!

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You mentor many young real estate agents as they are just starting. What is an essential tip you offer them?

Work hard and always tell the truth. It’s important to have a good rapport and reputation with your fellow real estate agents. There is enough business out there for all of us!

Rumor has it you love entertaining. What three things make for a successful celebration?

Good food. Good conversation. Avoid talking about religion and politics. Mix the crowd so that there is diversity which helps us all grow.

What are your favorite ways to spend time when you aren’t selling real estate?

I love to work in the yard and on my home. I love to shop. And I love to visit with all my friends.

Barbara in her pearls

The matriarch of her family and mentor to many an amateur real estate agent, Barbara undoubtedly passes along her wisdom to the next generation.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Be honest. Never tell a lie.

Aside from faith, family, and friends, what three things can’t you live without?

The telephone, fresh flowers, and a glass of chardonnay.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Real estate is a wonderful career. You get to meet so many people, and you have a chance to help them with one of the biggest investments they will make in their lifetime. You can create long-term friendships when you help them with something so personal and important. But real estate is a tough business, especially now with inventory so low in our market. I see a lot of new agents coming into the market because it looks easy. Houses sell in hours or minutes, with seemingly less work on the agent’s part than before. But we are working harder than ever to put people in the house that suits them best, in the location that suits them best, at the price that suits them best. In this environment, I think people are making a lot of mistakes when buying houses. Some of them won’t be able to get out of their houses successfully when they want to, so it takes people with a high level of ethics to advise buyers when something isn’t right for them.

Thank you for bringing so much sass and savvy to Nashville’s real estate industry, Ms. Barbara! And special thanks to Leila Grossman for the photography.

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Read more interviews with our inspirational FACES in our archives!

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