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Cascade Sotheby’s CEO predicts biggest brokerages will survive next downturn

Tebbs found success through fearlessness


Deb Tebbs is the owner of Cascade Sotheby's International Realty in Bend. (Joe Kline/Bulletin photo)

Deb Tebbs built her career as a real estate broker by listing high-end homes in the Bend area, but her most memorable transaction involved a ranch in Eastern Oregon.

In 2009, a man looking to buy land contacted her from out of state, and she agreed to show him around. Tebbs didn’t know much about ranch land, but she didn’t let go of the opportunity, even after the search extended to Joseph.

“I go tour all the ranches there,” she recalled. “Learn about ranches; learn about cows; learn about hay; learn about everything.”

The client ended up buying a ranch in Colorado, but that wasn’t the end for Tebbs.

One of the ranch owners was so impressed with her work on behalf of the potential buyer, she said, that he decided to list his property with her.

“So, that was a $30 million transaction,” Tebbs said. “And the reason why I got it is that I just was not afraid to go learn about it, was not afraid to go do it. Fear is a thing that holds back most people.”

The ranch owner also saw the marketing value of listing with a nationally branded franchise, Tebbs said, and that’s why she’d brought the Sotheby’s International Realty franchise to Bend in 2006. Tebbs said recognition of the Sotheby’s brand among California buyers helped build her brokerage, Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty, into Central Oregon’s largest by annual transaction volume.

Cascade Sotheby’s brokers handled more than $1 billion in transactions last year, and about $700 million of that was in Central Oregon, the firm said. The next-largest local firm, Coldwell Banker Morris, had $363.6 million in transactions last year, according to Central Oregon Association of Realtors.

On one occasion, Tebbs’ pursuit of a deal led her to violate professional standards. She was reprimanded by the Oregon Real Estate Agency in August 2016 over a 2014 incident, in which she showed buyers the interior of a home after the listing had expired by obtaining permission from a caretaker. One of the homeowners, who were in the midst of a divorce, complained that she had asked Tebbs not to show the house.

Not all brokerages measure success the same way. Portland-based Hasson Company, Realtors, which competes with Cascade Sotheby’s for luxury listings, notes that its 35 brokers in the Bend area produced an average sales volume of close to $10 million, while the average for Cascade Sotheby’s 135 brokers was a little more than $5 million. “What we look at is quality versus quantity,” Hasson President Lynae Forbes said.

Tebbs talked recently with The Bulletin about growing beyond Central Oregon. Responses have been edited for length and content.

Q: Why did you open offices in Portland and on the coast in 2015?

A: Living here as long as I have, there are so many people in Portland, Oregon, that own homes here. There are so many people in Portland that have homes in Cannon Beach. It all ties together, and I could see that. I could see that in where the buyers were coming from. And I just feel so passionate about this brand.

Q: What prompted you to become a broker?

A: I was in the restaurant business when I met my husband (Jack Tebbs). He was an entrepreneur. We took over a furniture manufacturing business in the ’80s, built it up, had a retail store. We sold that and moved to Bend. He started building houses here. It was just the path.

Q: Did your husband encourage you to grow your real estate business?

A: I think because he’s always been an entrepreneur, him believing in me was the wind beneath my wings to, like, go for it. He said, ‘You really went for it.’

Q: Where do you see the company in five years?

A: My goal is to keep growing the company so that we have strength through the next downturn, because I believe the bigger companies are going to survive. In business in general, there’s a lot of mergers and acquisitions happening. We’re getting bigger, stronger. I see the smaller ones going away in the downturn.

Q: How do you measure the firm’s progress?

A: Broker recruiting in new areas, broker retention in existing areas, and then market share. Listings and sales. We closed $300 million (more than) our (nearest) competitor last year.

What: Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty

What it does: Real estate brokerage

Pictured: Owner Deb Tebbs

Employees: 20

Website: http://www.cascadesothebysrealty.com/