Chase founder finds passion in homes, outdoors |

Chase founder finds passion in homes, outdoors

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Shari Chase sits at her Chase International office in Round Hill.

ZEPHYR COVE – One could say Shari Chase is a self-made woman, helping people chase the American dream and finding her own at Lake Tahoe.

The founder of Chase International, which celebrated its 20th year in business in June, started out with humble beginnings.

She was a bus girl at her mother’s restaurant while growing up in Nelson, British Columbia. Her mother, nicknamed Bubbles by her father at a young age, has turned out to be Chase’s inspiration throughout her life.

“She’s never been afraid of work because you see all the rewards of work,” she said in her Zephyr Cove office. The office – one in seven in the 80-agent operation – is adorned with 100-year-old artifacts and original works of art. This includes an Andy Warhol version of actress Grace Kelly mounted over a seating area in the lobby area.

She flashes a big, million-dollar smile when she talks about her other passions beyond luxury real estate. Chase has a penchant for art, history and travel. The latter has taken her up to base camp at Mount Everest, the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids.

After an early stint studying medical technology, Chase honed her love of touring the world by working for the airlines. She was a flight attendant before getting an education in real estate development from her former husband.

When she wanted a change in scene from the Bay Area, she turned to Lake Tahoe.

“It reminded me of British Columbia,” she said.

In 1986, she built up a company from innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.

“I had a business vision involving four or five affluent clients around the world,” she said.

Chase soon learned her back yard provided a backdrop for others who appreciated the beauty, a tranquil setting and an ideal quality of life.

“Real estate is an experience. It’s not about buying and selling a home – especially in Lake Tahoe. I think we’re geographically blessed,” she said.

Chase said the Internet is the No. 1 thing that’s changed the world of real estate over the last 20 years. The company uses the tool for videos that show the Tahoe experience. It’s called the Tahoe Sierra stories.

“It’s changed the world. When we started, we barely had FAX machines,” she said. “We’re now tied to technology.”

But real estate is a people business. At Chase, agents with certain levels of expertise are often paired with clients and buyers with similar interests. Police officers, nurses and attorneys have joined the firm – which has been recognized in national media outlets from the Wall Street Journal to Forbes. Unique Homes Magazine named Chase as one of the 35 most influential people in real estate

Johnathan Dwer, who came on board for Chase two years ago in Reno, said Chase “rescued him” from the insurance business.

“I lost the passion,” he said, while picking up a check from colleague Sue Lowe at the firm’s $5.5 million Pine Point listing. Lowe, an agent with the firm for 17 years who was once a Harrah’s entertainment director, said Chase is hard to keep up with.

“This woman has so much energy,” she said. It appears to rub off.

When Chase isn’t working, she’s serving on the Barton Hospital Foundation board, hitting the gym and hiking. Her favorite trail is the Flume Trail that runs between Spooner and the site of the old Ponderosa ranch site. She’s also the co-founder of the Rock Art Foundation.

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