Value-Driven Real Estate
When Sherry Chris is not focused on realizing the dreams of homebuyers, she is committed to giving back to communities all over the world.
By Roger Grody
Sherry Chris was named president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC (BHGRE) in 2008 — “I was founder, CEO and employee No. 1,” she quips — and proceeded to shape a brand known not only for its market expertise but values that extend far beyond real estate transactions and commissions.
Chris was born in Montreal but moved to London, Ontario, when she was a young girl. After earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario and an MBA from the University’s Ivey School of Business, she entered the banking industry. “I was fortunate to be able to buy a home in my early twenties, and thought to myself, ‘I could do better than this agent,’ so I started taking real estate classes on nights and weekends, then quit my job,” recounts Chris.
In 1987, the young real estate professional began a 16-year tenure with Royal LePage, eventually ascending to executive vice president at the company’s Toronto headquarters. “I’ve been selling all of my life and my goal has always been to provide exceptional service to whomever my clients are,” says Chris, recognizing a responsibility to consumers as well as her BHGRE broker/owners and agents. “The industry is rewarding because we’re able to help people move on to the next phase of their lives and achieve the dream of homeownership,” she adds.
In 2006, Chris was recruited by Realogy for the position of Chief Operating Officer for Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC, becoming one of the most prominent women in the industry. “We network, encourage and support one another even though we may be competitors,” reports Chris, acknowledging there are relatively few women sitting at the head of the table in this male-dominated industry. Nonetheless, she is confident that women who focus on their vision, hard work and leadership will be successful.
After a short time with Coldwell Banker, Chris was tapped to debut BHGRE, which eight years later is comprised of more than 10,000 affiliated agents at approximately 300 offices across the U.S., Canada and the Bahamas. She is sought out as a speaker and commentator on the real estate industry, appearing on CNBC and Fox Business Network, featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Understanding the potential of social media before some of her colleagues knew what it was, Chris has the most Twitter followers of any national real estate brand CEO.
Chris is dedicated to making a difference through her involvement in housing-related nonprofits. As the Chair of the Board of Directors for Rebuilding Together, she assists with the rehabilitation of homes for deserving low- income families across the nation. Entirely funded through contributions and volunteer labor, the program gives her BHGRE offices and agents an opportunity to strengthen their communities. “We’re a values-driven brand, and giving back is a big part of our philosophy,” insists Chris, who adds, “It’s what gets me up and excited every morning.”
The philanthropic CEO also works with New Story, an internationally-active nonprofit that enables houses for homeless families living in danger to be crowdfunded. BHGRE and New Story are collaborating to make the dream of homeownership a reality for people in Ahuachapán, El Salvador. New Story is now the official charity partner for the BHGRE brand, as the crowdfunding campaign allows franchisees and affiliated agents the ability to set up personalized fundraising pages — a home can be built with $6,000 of contributions—to assist deserving families.
Among her many honors, Inman named Sherry Chris as one of 33 people changing the real estate industry in 2015, and she was named Inman Innovator of the Year in 2010. “Life is my hobby,” says Chris, who enjoys travel, dining out and spending time with friends. She and her husband of 30 years, Ted Chris, maintain homes in Manhattan and suburban Toronto. “He has been my guiding light and inspiration, supporting my career from day one,” she states.