One local woman who moved to Sellersburg six years ago found she was being drawn back to Jackson County.
Now each day, she makes the commute to her recently opened real estate business in Seymour.
Kathi Combs-Byrd grew up in Crothersville and is the daughter of America Smith and the late Vernon Smith, who passed away in 2013 after a long illness. He had previously owned Smith’s Tire Sales and was retired from Cummins Inc. after 33 years. Her mother still resides in Jackson County.
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Combs-Byrd was working for Schuler Bauer Real Estate Services in southern Indiana and kept getting a lot more business up in this area.
“The company had been wanting to expand up this way, so they asked me if I would be interested in spearheading an office here since I was from the area,” she said. “We started the process in October of last year and started doing business in January, but the official grand opening was on April 28.”
Combs-Byrd was married six years ago and moved to Sellersburg. At the time, she was selling real estate here, and then after she married went into property management and sold commercial real estate.
Her husband is Travis Byrd, the president of Travis Byrd & Associates LLC in Sellersburg. The couple have a daughter, Alexis, 21, and a son, Camryn, 16.
Combs-Byrd has been in real estate for many years and has a long history in the field, but she actually started out selling eyeglasses.
“Sales has pretty much been my whole background, and I used to manage a little optical store here in town,” she said. “One day, my boss came to me and asked if I’d ever thought about selling real estate because I had an easy-going rapport with people.”
She decided to give it a try and found she really liked it, but she continued to work at the optical store.
“My boss at the time, Kenny McKeand, let me taper my hours at the store down until I was in real estate full time,” she said. “That’s how I got into the business, with his support and encouragement.”
Combs-Byrd received her real estate license in 1992 and has had several mentors along the way, including Donn Bishop, a real estate leader in the community for years at Century 21.
“He was a local broker here with an office, and that’s where I started out in the business,” Byrd said. “I was there for probably about eight years, then I moved to Indianapolis, where I worked for a large builder up there called Beazer Homes.”
She started doing appraisals from there and received her appraiser license and then moved back to Seymour because her family was here.
Then she got back into real estate here locally and stayed in Jackson County until she and her husband moved south to Sellersburg, Combs-Byrd said.
“One challenge of the real estate business is that it’s becoming very technologically driven, and so people can just go online and look up anything they want,” she said. “Maybe the biggest challenge today is that we have a low supply of homes for sale but a high demand.”
Seymour is a good market because it’s centrally located and people can jump on the interstate and go to Indianapolis or Louisville fairly quickly, she said. It’s also a great place to raise a family, the school systems are good and people in the area are very friendly, she said.
“In the Seymour office, there is me and my assistant, Cathy Otte, who is a longtime Jackson County person and does a great job,” she said. “There are also agents just kind of coming in and out. We have a new agent that just started, Ann Cain. Also, Shelley Turner, who is a Jackson County girl, too.”
Otte, who lives in the Seymour area, started working at the company March 2017 and currently is the marketing coordinator at Schuler Bauer. Previously, she worked in inside sales at The Tribune for four years.
“Kathi and I have been friends for over 20 years, and we are more like sisters than friends,” Otte said. “She has a passion for this business, and anyone that has been a client of hers would agree.”
Otte had not worked in real estate before, but the chance to work with Combs-Byrd, her passion for flipping homes and the challenge are what brought her to the business, she said.
“Schuler Bauer is in a league of its own,” Otte said. “Since being with the company, I’ve seen everyone is willing to help one another, even if they are each other’s competition, like one big family.”
As for the future of Schuler Bauer, Combs-Byrd said she wants to continue to grow the company and be involved in the community.
“I’ve covered the spectrum of the business by being a real estate manager, appraiser and in commercial real estate property management, but I always defaulted back to selling,” she said.
She keeps coming back to selling because she loves the process and enjoys that part of the job, even though she has come full circle.
First-time buyers are especially fun to work with because they are looking for their first home, and it’s exciting to see that, she said.
“What I like most about real estate is helping people and working with them as a team,” Combs-Byrd said. “Seeing that smile on their face at the closing and knowing they are happy makes me feel like I did a good job.”
Name: Kathi Combs-Byrd
Education: Graduated from Crothersville High School, attended Hanover College, earned business management degree from Indiana Wesleyan University
Awards and honors: Realtor of the Year in 2002, consistent top producer, multimillion dollar sales volume consecutively, ranked top 10 percent of Prudential agents for volume nationwide, Century 21 Centurion award winner (top 1 percent for sales volume in nation)
Community involvement: Past member of the board of directors for American Red Cross, Humane Society of Jackson County, Jackson County Board of Realtors, Girls Inc. of Jackson County, Red Sky Rescue and Jackson County United Fund
Other experience: Past Indiana residential appraiser, past member of Phi Beta Psi sorority (nonprofit for cancer research), graduate of Leadership Jackson County
Outside interests: Animal welfare, politics, reading, doing things outdoors, volunteering at her church, Northside Christian Church in New Albany
Information: kathicombsbyrd.schulerbauer.com or 812-521-9200