Local real estate firms in nation’s top 250

Sandra ClarkOur Town Leaders

Knoxville’s top three real estate firms are among the nation’s top 250, according to a recent survey by RISMedia, a trusted source for real estate industry trends, strategy and rankings. RISMedia identifies the country’s largest and most successful firms ranked by closed transaction sides out of over 200,000 firms nationwide.


Realty Executives Associates finished first, being named one of the top 50 brokerages in the United States. REA ranked as the 49th highest-producing brokerage in the nation.

“Making the top 50 in the United States is a huge success for our agents. They are now ranked amongst agents and firms in major metro areas,” said Justin Bailey. REA closed 11,075 transactions in 2021, up 21.2% from 2020.

Realty Executives has a storied legacy in Knoxville, holding the No. 1 spot now for over four decades. Founded by Vance Burkey in 1977, the company has been led by CEO Justin Bailey since July 2020. Bailey is a fourth-generation Realtor in Knox County.

Keller Williams came in at No. 2 in our market, ranking as the 130th highest-producing firm in the nation. The firm closed 6,068 transaction sides in 2021, down 3.4% from 2020.

Keller Williams Knoxville was founded by a group of local agents in 2008 and in record time rose to the No. 2 spot, surpassing Coldwell Banker, the brokerage that had held that spot for several years. Sharon Laing is the operating partner with the help of Josh Belcher, newly-named team leader and CEO.

Belcher said: The demand for real estate here in east Tennessee is stronger than it has ever been. We have experienced a record number of sales and have seen exponential growth for new development in the area. One thing that continues to hold true is that the cooperative relationship between real estate agents still serves as the most effective way for buyers and sellers to transact. The real estate agent, serving as the fiduciary for their client, still provides the best opportunity to maximize the price and terms for a seller and they create the best opportunity for a buyer to compete for homes they wish to purchase. More real estate is being sold cooperatively between brokers than at any time in history. Buyers and sellers that wish to represent themselves in this market run the risk of leaving money on the table or continuously missing out on homes they want to buy. KW continues to train our agents on how to represent their clients at the highest level regardless of where our market is shifting! 

Coldwell Banker Wallace came in at No. 3, ranking as the 211th largest firm in the country. Coldwell Banker Wallace, founded in 1936 and one of Knoxville’s oldest firms, is owned by brothers Jim and George Wallace. Recently, the firm named Andrew McGranaghan as director of agent services. A graduate of West High School and the University of Tennessee, he moved up through the ranks as a successful agent with CBW.

Ranked by volume, Realty Executives sold over $3.4 billion in real estate. Keller Williams did just over $2 billion, and Coldwell Banker Wallace did a little over $1.1 billion. Combined, that’s $6.5 billion in real estate transactions in Knoxville, Tennessee, by the top three firms in 2021, up from $5 billion in 2020.

Two lessons here: 1) Knoxville real estate values are increasing. Most folks already knew that from the recent yellow tax appraisals. And 2) our town’s top firms are blending new, youthful leadership into the ranks to meet current market challenges.

Knoxville is ‘hidden gem’

Knoxville was one of 10 local housing markets called a “hidden gem” in a January 2022 article in RISMedia’s housecall by Paige Brown.

The U.S. housing market is hot right now, Brown wrote, “however, there are still some local housing markets that provide a high standard of living without breaking the bank.”

The National Association of Realtors’ 2022 Housing Market Hidden Gems report identifies the top 10 U.S. housing markets with notable underlying fundamentals, such as strong wage and job growth, but where home prices are generally considered undervalued for 2022.

NAR predicts that these hidden gem markets (in alphabetical order) will experience strong price appreciation in the year ahead:

  • Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
  • Daphne-Fairhope-Farley, Alabama
  • Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Arkansas-Missouri
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
  • Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, Florida
  • San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
  • Spartanburg, South Carolina
  • Tucson, Arizona

Interestingly, all are located in the Sun Belt with Knoxville being the northmost.

Ellis makes 30 under 30

Kendra Green Ellis, an associate broker with Coldwell Banker Wallace, was one of the 30 under 30 honorees for the nation, selected by the National Association of Realtors. Ellis, 29, posted 2021 sales of $10.5 million with 35 transaction sides.

Kendra Ellis

She wrote: As a middle school student, I watched my parents buy a raw piece of land and turn it into a beautifully designed condo development. Before that development began, my mother obtained her real estate license to help sell the houses my dad was building. She gave me my first job as her assistant. I watched her juggle between being a mom of four girls, teaching high school biology full-time, and selling more than $200,000 in real estate when her access to technology was submitting offers via a home fax machine.

About 25 years ago, my parents built their final family home. My husband and I have moved every two years since we were married and had the amazing opportunity to buy the home I grew up in. So, we have slowly been renovating the house and turning it into what I dreamed of as a child — painting over all the scuffs on the wall I left from sliding down the stairs with a crib mattress. Now I see my own kids living out my childhood memories surrounded by our family farm and extended family.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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