The ultimate: Steven Braden sells and sells

When the next $10 million property sells around here, a well-placed realtor or two will pocket some serious change. But what about the folks who sell houses for the rest of us?

Although realtor Steven Braden's $4 million sales for the year might pale compared to those who hit it big by selling Mirador or Castle Hill, Braden earns his money the hard way one property at a time, for a total last year of 29 transactions.

"To sell that many houses takes a lot of hard work," says Jim Duncan of Manley Associates, "and having good systems in place to make sure nothing falls through the cracks."

Duncan notes that the hardest part of being part of so many transactions is "maintaining the balance between work and family life."

Braden would agree. He and his family were living in Aspen, Colorado, when the lure of Virginia began to pull them eastward.

While many people might consider exotic resorts like Aspen glorious places to live, Braden points out the drawbacks: "House prices are extraordinarily high. There were no sports programs in the schools, and the academics were weak."

His wife, Cathy, an Orange native, is a UVA graduate, and they had maintained close ties to the area. They decided to "come home."

"We have two children at Covenant and one at PVCC," says the 41-year-old father of four. "One reason we came is the good schools.

"We knew that Charlottesville is a good mix of small community and big city, with an abundance of cultural amenities and natural beauty" Braden says, sounding like a good-will ambassador.

And that's understandable, considering that his job as realtor often casts him in that role.

As an agent and developer, Braden has gotten to know city neighborhoods intimately. He's particularly thrilled by the changes taking place in Belmont and Fifeville, many of which he's helped to broker.

There are two sides to Braden: the gregarious real estate agent who stops when he sees a renovation in progress, introduces himself, and kibbitzes about the character of the place or some architectural oddities. That's the guy just named "Rookie of the Year" by the local real estate board.

Braden's other persona is a passionate devotee of ultimate Frisbee, which he calls "the ultimate winter league sport." Not only is he an avid player, but he's a valuable board member of the Charlottesville Ultimate Disc Organization, according to organizer Chris Smith.

"He's newer to the sport than a lot of us," Smith says, "but he's already taken on a leadership role."

That seems to be true of Braden's career as well– with those 29 sales.

"That's outstanding production for a first year," says agent Joan Esposito of Roy Wheeler. "It's clear Steven jumped in with both feet."

Steven Braden