By Shandra Hill Smith
With the real estate industry turned upside down in many ways during hits to the housing market in the changing economy, some professionals chose to walk away from the business until it rebounded – if not for good.
A group of rising stars has stuck it out in recent years, however, and met some successes along the way.
These real estate standouts – each under the age of 35 – remain driven in their daily work to help homeowners achieve what proves to be one of the top goals for many Americans.
Here now, a spotlight on a few of Intown’s young guns in real estate.
Carrie FalettiCarrie Faletti, 31
Harry Norman, Realtors – Buckhead Office

Nearly seven years ago, when Carrie Faletti was contemplating a career choice, she determined her options needed to include at least two factors: She wanted the opportunity to operate her own business, and to work in a capacity that would allow her to help others realize their dreams.
“I had always had an interest in interiors and architecture, and both my parents and my parents-in-law had some experience in home construction,” says Faletti, a real estate agent with Harry Norman, Realtors. “In addition, my best childhood friend was a successful agent at the time and she encouraged me to get my license.”
Faletti, 31, committed to trying her hand at real estate for a year. “It hasn’t necessarily been easy, but here I am – six-and-a-half years after obtaining my license – proud to be strengthening my brand and the quality of service I provide to my clients, especially in a market in which so many agents are leaving the business.”
With a sales area that includes most of metropolitan Atlanta, and “sales in Midtown, Dunwoody, Decatur and Smyrna,” the Brookhaven resident has a number of notable gains. They include: number one in closed units (2009) for the Buckhead North Office of Harry Norman, Realtors; Stellar Young Professionals, Jenny Pruitt & Associates (2009); Harry Norman, Realtors Agent of the Month, Buckhead North (2009: months of May, June, July, Aug., Sept., Oct., Dec. and Feb. 2010); Platinum Circle Member in total sales for Harry Norman, Realtors Company Agents of the Year (2009) and Life member, Atlanta Board of Realtors Million Dollar Club.
When not spending time with her family’s three Chihuahuas – Pumpkin, Patch and Peanut – she and her husband enjoy traveling to their beach home in Seagrove Beach, Fla.
Active with organizations such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Young Realtors Council, Faletti says she manages to maintain work/life balance by embracing positivity.
“This business demands a lot of energy, especially in a down market,” she adds.  “In order to keep my thinking positive, amidst so much negativity in the media, I choose to read a lot of motivational books, listen to positive speakers and spend my time with people who also choose to be positive.” Additionally, “my husband has always been an inspiration to me and he continues to motivate me to celebrate the wins – both professionally and personally.”
Ben Hirsh, 26
Hirsh Real Estate Group
At 26, Ben Hirsh owns two real estate brokerage firms and manages a team of agents.
Through Hirsh Real Estate Specialists, he sells residential real estate and manages a team of four that he plans to grow to 15 or more in 2011. For Georgia REO Team, Hirsh has a management team in place that allows him to be less involved in the day-to-day operations of the company that liquidates foreclosure properties for clients such as Fannie Mae.
With a love for business and a passion for real estate, Hirsh credits his parents with cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit in him. “Real estate is the perfect fit for me because there are so many business opportunities,” says Hirsh, who enjoys promoting the area where he lives: Buckhead. “I believe that owning a home that you love can be one of the top-five most-fulfilling life experiences for humans, and I absolutely feel honored to be a part of that experience with my clients.”
The business model for Hirsh Real Estate, he says, includes his team serving as the go-to specialists in their respective markets “and leveraging our advanced technology to dominate the Internet. Ninety-five percent of homebuyers start their search online and we want to be the first to reach them. At the moment, we are seeing around 15,000 visitors every month and that number is constantly increasing.”
In his personal life, Hirsh is excited about an October expected arrival: the birth of his first child, a “daughter to dote on,” as he puts it. He enjoys traveling the world with his wife, Lauren, and has visited around 45 countries to date. “One of my goals in life is to visit every single country, which leaves a lot of vacation time still to come!”
Adam Ellis, 29
Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty
Growing up in real estate, it was only natural for Adam Ellis to join the housing industry after graduating magna cum laude, in 2004, from the University of Georgia. Teaming up with his mother, Patti, to form Team Ellis, Adams serves Intown neighborhoods through Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty. “I guess you could say that real estate is in my blood,” says Ellis, who earned a degree in advertising from UGA, and today brings his marketing knowledge and skills to the team. “I grew up with a mother in real estate and a father in home building. At eight, I’d ride in the back seat accompanying my mom on real estate runs. At 12, I was designing flyers for Mom’s listings.”
Team Ellis specializes in properties in Intown neighborhoods such as Midtown, Morningside, Virginia Highland and Ansley Park.
“I love being able to help people find a home that they love or help them move on to another stage in their life,” says the 29-year-old Ellis, a Life member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors Million Dollar Club.
“Making sure our homes have extensive Web presence is a main focus,” he adds.  “We also emphasize the fact that we stay in constant contact with our clients – whether it’s through e-mail updates and reports or phone calls.”
For balance, he enjoys spending time at the gym.
“As unpredictable as this business can be,” says Ellis, “that’s the one place I can go every day and regain a little control in my life. Being involved in some neighborhood organizations is also a good way to get to know the faces behind some of the homes you look at every day.  Also, volunteering for some organizations, such as CHRIS Kids, helps take the focus outside of myself.”
Ben McKenzie, 30
Prudential Georgia Realty – Midtown Office

With a focus on first-time homebuyers, the Atlanta soccer community and his peers (those in their 20s and 30s), Ben McKenzie has worked in real estate for nearly six years. A Decatur native, McKenzie works as part of the Arrasmith Team at the Midtown office for Prudential Georgia Realty. The Arrasmith Team includes McKenzie’s mentor, Jerry Arrasmith, who has helped influence his professional direction.
“Mentors have always been a significant part of my career,” says McKenzie. “I love and appreciate their perspective, insight, experience and patience.”
In 2005, when McKenzie returned from a stint with the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Ore., he was turned on to real estate by a friend’s father.
“After a little persuasion on his part and a period of research through informational interviews, I decided to move forward and pursue my license.”
These days, McKenzie says he is working to gain a greater share of the market in the following areas, along with others: Winnona Park, Oakhurst, Lenox Place and downtown Decatur.
“Our professional position is becoming more and more geared to consultation, and clients continue to rely on us for up-to-the-minute, accurate info and data,” he says.
McKenzie, who’s also tapping into the power of social media for his business, says, on a personal level, he enjoys spending time with and traveling with his wife, Karen. In addition, he maintains a health focus.
“If I’m able to eat right, work out and see family and friends, I can remain productive for a much longer period.  Balance helps me sustain a greater level of energy and enthusiasm in this tumultuous industry of real estate.”

Alden Potts, 31
Dorsey Alston, Realtors
Alden Potts, 31, is marking her seventh year in real estate.
A realtor and accredited relocation specialist with Dorsey Alston, Realtors, Potts helps educate transfers on area schools and recreation and assists them in finding a new home.
Accomplishments of the native Atlantan include: Number Three, Dorsey Alston, Realtors (2009) Top Five, Company-wide, Dorsey Alston, Realtors (2008); Top 5 Percent, Atlanta Board of Realtors (2008); more than $30 million in transactions from 2005 to 2007; and Life member, Atlanta Board of Realtors Million Dollar Club.
Some of the neighborhoods she specializes in are Collier Hills, Peachtree Hills, Argonne Forest, Ridgewood Heights and, in general, areas in Buckhead and Intown.
A member of the Junior League of Atlanta and volunteer for the Shepherd Center, Potts spends time away from work with family – including husband Carter and 15-month-old son Carter Potts Jr. – and friends.
“Finding balance is a challenge for someone who adores being with family, friends, and working around the clock,” she says. “It helps that all of my clients are either existing friends or quickly become new friends.  After all, it’s helping friends and building long-term relationships that defines my success.”

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