Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, August 4, 2023

Best-laid plans lead to real estate

Plan D seems to work for Hughes

Haylee Hughes is a buyer’s agent for The Iris Rodger Team at Keller Williams. This is a departure from her first professional path – graphics design. - Photograph provided

There was a time when Haylee Hughes believed she’d figured out what she was going to do with her life. However, there are few, if any, similarities between what she envisioned then and what she’s doing now.

There were multiple times, actually. Plan A took shape at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where Hughes earned an undergraduate degree in graphics design. She enjoys painting, she says, and at the time, she believed using her artistic skills in a professional capacity would be a good way to earn a living.

However, after graduation, Hughes did only a little design work. This was fine, she adds, because Plan B was waiting in the wings.

“I earned a master’s degree in art education and started to teach at Boyd Buchanan,” she recalls.

When Hughes and her husband, Nick, started a family five years later, she decided to leave the employ of her alma mater and stay home.

Plan C, then, consisted of raising a daughter and the son who followed closely on her heels. When the second child turned one, it was time for Plan D.

“I was ready to do something besides be at home,” Hughes notes with a hint of exasperation.

Plan D turned out to be ideal for someone who’d learned that change is a natural part of life: real estate.

The opportunity came when Keller Williams Realtor Iris Rodger – a fellow parishioner at Clear Creek Church of Christ – offered to hire Hughes as her administrative assistant. Hughes accepted and then quickly became a licensed agent.

Today, Hughes is working as Rodger’s buyer’s agent and contract-to-close coordinator. In other words, Plan D became Plan E – the plan that’s in place today.

Hughes, who turned 39 this week, couldn’t be happier.

“I’m passionate about real estate,” she says. “I love meeting new people, and my works allows me to meet people from all over the country.”

What’s more, Hughes continues, she often spends enough time with her buyers that they become friends.

“Real estate has allowed me to build a lot of relationships with people I now love,” she says.

While Hughes relishes the time she spends with her buyers, she says, helping them find homes and negotiating favorable terms is only half of her job. The other 50% seats her at a small desk in Rodger’s home office, where she tends to the contracts for the team’s listings.

This work appeals to the side of Hughes that appreciates a well-organized file.

“I’m a bit of a Type A. I actually call myself an A minus,” she laughs. “I’m not too hard on myself, but I do like organization, and that makes me a good contract coordinator.”

Hughes says the thing she appreciates the most about being a Realtor, however, is the flexibility, as it allows her to be with her children when they need her.

In other words, Hughes says, she’s available to shuttle her daughter to cheerleading and her son to his baseball games.

“I am, first and foremost, a mom. So, I fit my work around my family. That was hard to do when I became a Realtor, but I’ve become better at it.”

Fortunately, Hughes says, family time involves more than serving as chief of transportation. Visits to Renaissance Park in the North Shore community, friendly competition at Top Golf and game nights at home are a few of the activities everyone enjoys.

There is some crossover between work and family, says Hughes. Rodger, who owns 11 rental properties, is a proponent of growing wealth through real estate. Over the nine years Hughes has worked under Rodger’s tutelage, she’s learned to increase her family’s equity through rentals.

Hughes and her husband, the creative director at WestRock, currently own three long-term rentals and a short-term rental cabin in Elijay, Georgia. Part of the quality time they spend together involves renovating the houses they purchase to prep them for rental.

Hughes says she prefers the word “renovate” over “flip” because it better describes what she and her husband hope to do when they purchase a house.

“I don’t like using the term ‘flip.’ It’s insensitive,” she explains. “I like to use the word ‘renovate’ because that’s our goal. We want to make houses better.”

Hughes and her husband liked the results of their most recent project – a North Shore residence – so much they decided to move in.

Hughes says Rodger’s mentorship has changed her life, as well as the lives of her husband and children.

“She taught me how to invest in my future. Realtors don’t have an employer contributing to a 401(k) or retirement plan, so she started building her investments and using the money she made to her advantage. And she’s taught me how to do all of that. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”

Rodger was not part of Hughes’ Plan A, or B or C, for that matter. Neither was real estate. However, this unexpected career has paid unexpected dividends. For this reason, she intends to encourage her son and daughter to become explorers when they come of age.

“I never felt like I was meant to be a graphic designer,” she says. “And, now that I have kids, it’s hard for me to imagine an 18-year-old having to choose what they want to do for the rest of their life. That seems bizarre. I want my kids to go to college, but I’m not going to force them to make that choice.

“Maybe they’ll take a couple of years off and travel, or do missionary work or something else, and learn who they are before they commit to anything.”

That seems like a good Plan A.