Sherry Chris, a veteran in the industry, discusses healthy risk taking
Sherry Chris is a true veteran of the real estate industry. Chris started her career in the 1980s as a realty agent and was promoted to branch manager at Royal LePage in 1987. Chris rose through the corporate ranks to become the firm’s executive vice-president over the 16 years that followed.
Chris joined Realogy in 2006 as the chief operating officer at Coldwell Banker. As the brand’s president and CEO, she was then tasked with launching Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate (BHGRE) as a franchise brokerage brand. Chris has been the CEO at Anywhere Expansion Brands since 2019, which includes ERA Real Estate and BHGRE.
RealTrends recently spoke with Chris about her career, healthy risk-taking and the industry’s evolution since the 1980s.
This interview was edited to be concise and clear.
Brooklee Han: Your career started as an agent in real estate before you moved to the management side. What drew you to the real estate industry in the first place?
Sherry Chris: I was a young woman when I bought my first house. I found it to be an interesting experience and thought I could do a better job. I quit my finance career to become a real estate agent.
BH: Could you tell me more about the transition from your finance career to the real-estate industry?
Chris: My background in finance allowed me to understand mortgages and the value of owning a house as a long-term investment. It also helped me to understand how to build wealth for my family and the homeowners. There is also the emotional aspect of it.
BH: After working for a while as an agent, you transitioned to the brokerage management side. What motivated you to make the switch?
Chris: I believe that most people realize where their greatest potential uses of their skills lie in their career path. I discovered that helping people to buy and sell real property was the best use my skill set. I became a manager and began training and supporting brokers-owners and agents. My finance background was a huge help. It is very rewarding to help brokers build valuable assets, as it is to help consumers build valuable assets in their real estate holdings.
BH: What are the most important lessons you have learned about your career?
Chris: As you move through your career, you grow as a person. You also get more opportunities that push you further. I encourage everyone to be bold and try new things.
I was thrilled to accept the opportunity to start Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate during the financial crisis in 2007. Brokers were not interested in joining a new brand. But there are always ways to make a difference and create a unique value proposition.
I’ve realized that I enjoy taking calculated risks. I can see the upside and the downside and that helps me decide whether or not to take that risk. This is true for both personal and professional life. Some people are not ready to take on as many risks. It is a personal decision, but I encourage people not to be afraid to take risks and to be open to the possibility of great upside.
BH: What do YOU consider to be the greatest risk in your career? How did it end?
Chris: Realogy joined Chris in 2006. I began my career in Canada, and I now hold dual citizenship. But I decided to take a leap of faith, leave my Canadian career, and start my American career at Realogy. It was exactly where my heart was, at the largest realty company in the world. I knew it would offer many great opportunities.
It was a risk back then, but I knew there could be tremendous upside. Today, I oversee two brands that have close to 50,000 agents across 30 countries — something that would not have been possible if my family had stayed in Canada.
BH: You started BHGRE during the Great Recession. Today, we are in another period of economic uncertainty. What lessons did you learn from your experiences in 2007 and 2008 that are still relevant today?
Chris: It’s not necessary to have a lot of money to be successful. Creativity is more important that having lots of money and not spending it wisely. At least, from a business perspective.
We looked at different ways to do things when we launched Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. At that time, Realogy’s CEO told me to not launch the brand if it was identical to our other five brands. Instead, he wanted me to identify a niche in the market and fill it. We were able to license the name Better Homes and Gardens from Meredith Publishing to launch a lifestyle brand with a greater reach to the end consumers.
When I look at the many successful brands today, both within and outside of Anywhere I don’t see any that reach out to the end consumers in a way that is tangible and allows them to imagine the next phase in their lives through design and, ultimately, a home they can call their own.
BH: What have been the most significant changes in the industry during your career?
Chris: The industry is the same today as when I started in the 1980s. Agents and consumers have strong relationships and the roles of agents are just as important today. There have been some changes, however.
In the 1980s, banks controlled the industry through brokers and broker-owners. Agents didn’t have the same freedom and flexibility as they do today. Agents and large teams are now more prevalent in the industry. However, there are many business models that can be tailored to the needs of individual agents. Today’s agents have more options, which means broker-owners have to choose their own lane and create a value proposition.
Our industry has seen technology play a larger role. It can be used to create efficiencies that allow agents do what they do best, have more face-to–face contact with customers, and act as the human being who is there to guide them and advise them in the transaction.
Technology has made it harder for agents to do their jobs. They have to sort through the technology and all the information consumers are coming to them with, and help them decide what is relevant to their current situation.