Ashley Dacus got started as a Realtor in the worst possible economic climate, but with residential sales beginning to show signs of life, her optimism has been renewed.
Having survived the Great Recession, Dacus said she can handle anything at this point.
“Now, as everything is starting to have a spring renewal, I feel like I’ve made it,” said Dacus, an affiliate broker for Sowell & Co. Realtors. “I’ve been able to make a living. That tells me I’m good at what I do.”
Originally from Iuka, Miss., Dacus got a degree in political science and went to work as a social studies teacher and tennis coach at Horn Lake High School, but she knew after just a couple years that it wasn’t her “forever job.”
Instead she moved to Downtown Memphis and got a master’s degree in political science from the University of Memphis. An aunt working in real estate gave her the idea of selling real estate.
“It was all very accidental,” Dacus said. “Nothing about how I got here was informed by a path but I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.”
In 2006 she spent the summer in real estate school and then got a job with Century 21 River Oaks. Soon after, she took a job as a project agent for The Lofts at South Bluffs at a time when the condo market seemed steady.
Then the market plummeted and in the years that followed, many people fled the real estate business as home sales dried up.
“I came on as condo sales were really strong and as soon as I signed up, everything tanked,” said Dacus. “We didn’t know what was happening. Nobody imagined 2008. Instantly I thought, well, I’m not so good at this. It was a blow to my ego.”
Three years ago, Dacus joined Sowell & Co., a boutique, primarily residential agency, and began learning the ropes of real estate in a market in which sellers were underwater and even well-qualified buyers couldn’t secure financing.
The first house she sold turned into a lesson in tenacity and patience. It was a small house in North Memphis that needed some updating and had a low listing price.
“Now, as everything is starting to have a spring renewal, I feel like I’ve made it.”
“I sank everything I had into selling that house,” Dacus said. “It was the only listing I had. I treated it like a show place. I was so proud to have it. Then the transaction was horrible, but it closed and everyone was happy. Then I knew what I could fix and what I could do better.”
Over the years her listings have brought her out of Downtown and Midtown to eastern Shelby County where, recently, large single family homes have been moving, she suspects, in part due to concerns over the public schools merger.
“Collierville is going crazy,” Dacus said. “If it’s priced right and looks good, it’s gone.”
The upside of starting in 2006 has been the advent of digital technology, which made it easier and cheaper to market homes. QR codes lead smartphone users to custom-made websites for each home, meaning Dacus doesn’t necessarily need to fill tubes with flyers.
Of course an Internet-informed public can have its challenges too.
“It’s a know-it-all world right now,” Dacus said. “I think it’s amazing that there’s all this information for consumers, but I’m not an appraiser and websites like Zillow certainly aren’t. You can’t always necessarily comp the house right across the street even if a website does.”
Residential sales grew 20 percent nationwide last year, meaning that Dacus could get to experience a normal real estate market for the first time in the next three to five years. If that happens, she said it’ll feel like a reward for fighting her way through the recession.
“It’s been a lesson in patience,” Dacus said. “I realize that my role is to be that calming force. I let my sellers and my buyers know that weird things happen and there is a solution. I’ve learned to be cool, calm and Zen.”