When it comes to home sales, he’s the perfect pitcher

It’s been 25 years since Ed Olwine walked off a pitcher’s mound for the last time. The former professional ball player, who spent three years in the Braves’ relief bullpen, took with him some strategies that have proved equally successful in his second career in sales.

“As a professional baseball player, I had to prove myself and my talent all the time,” said Olwine, 54. “I was never guaranteed a space on a team. Sales can be like that. In baseball, you’re only as good as your last outing; in sales, you’re only as good as your last month’s numbers.”

It has been Olwine’s post-baseball career that has earned him the most accolades. Two months ago, he was named Salesperson of the Year by the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association. An independent panel of judges made the decision after interviewing him and weighing his credentials. The honor followed four years of being recognized as one of the metro area’s top sellers of new homes by the Atlanta Board of Realtors.

The road to real estate was a winding one. Originally from Ohio, Olwine began playing in the minor leagues in 1980. During the course of his career, he sported jerseys for the Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Braves and Kansas City Royals. After one year of moving eight times, he was delighted to break into the majors in 1986, where he spent three years with Atlanta. After a total of 11 seasons, a bad shoulder sidelined him, and Olwine left the game for good. But he and his wife, Lee-Lee, and their daughter settled in Atlanta, and he went to work for a medical sales company.

Ten years later, Olwine was switching careers again.

“I was in a restaurant and ran into the real estate agent who sold us our first home,” said Olwine. “She encouraged me to think about going into real estate. I checked it out and decided to give it a try.”

That was 1997, a time when the Atlanta housing market was a juggernaut. Olwine decided to make a specialty of representing builders as an on-site agent, dealing exclusively with new-home buyers. He started with Traton Homes and has been with the company ever since in various communities. For the past three years, he has been the agent at the Estates at Fernwood Creek in Cherokee County, just over the city line from Roswell.

Despite the lagging real estate market, Olwine says his time at Fernwood has been his most productive. Last year, he closed 23 deals on houses ranging in price from $300,000 to $500,000, and the neighborhood still has 35 houses to go. He credits part of his success to the community’s location, price range and product, but also admits there’s a credibility factor that comes into play.

“I feel I can really build trust and connect with people,” he said. “I don’t make things up. I believe that no matter what they’re buying, people buy from someone they like. So if you’re a likable person, you’ll do well.”

Josh Hilscher, Traton’s vice president of sales and marketing, has worked with Olwine for four years and agrees that trust plays a big role in his agent’s success.

“He’s a very nice guy, and people do trust him,” said Hilscher. “Buying a house is a much more personal purchase than a washer and dryer, and his ability to connect with the buyer really sets him apart. He’s one of our top agents and has been, even through the (housing market) downturn.”

Still, capturing one of the industry’s top honors came as a bit of a surprise, Olwine said.

“I know that strictly volume doesn’t get you this award,” he said. “I was very appreciative to be nominated. It’s always nice to win.”

The wins most people don’t recognize these days are the ones Olwine racked up as a baseball pitcher.

“If someone picks up on it, I’ll talk about it,” he said with a wry smile. “And sometimes it can be an ice breaker. But I really don’t bring it up or make a point of it.”

“Milestones” covers significant events and times in the lives of metro Atlantans. Big or small, well-known or not — tell us of a Milestone we should write about. Send information to hm_cauley@yahoo.com; call 404-514-6162; or mail to Milestones, c/o Holly Steel, 223 Perimeter Center Parkway N.E., Atlanta, GA 30346.