Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 5, 2024

Hood opens homes with open heart

Single mom works as Realtor, social worker while raising 5 children

“Under pressure, I rise to the occasion,” Holt says of her hectic life. - Photograph provided

Shayla Hood, a single mother with five children in tow, has returned to her roots in real estate.

“I was kind of born into real estate,” Hood says. “My grandfather and my parents did homebuilding, flipping houses, rentals, all that stuff, so before I could drive I’d be answering phones for the company business.”

Hood grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, where she and younger brother Eric helped with the family business. In 2002, Hood started her own housing company and grew it for 11 years before moving to Chattanooga with her now ex-husband and children.

After nearly a decade away from the market, Hood became an official Tennessee Realtor in 2021.

Raising five children, Hood says she was hesitant to reenter the field but that her divorce pushed her to take the leap: “I knew it was going to be expensive with five children, and I’d need more money – and I love real estate, and I always enjoyed it – so I realized it might be the right time.”

But real estate isn’t Shayla Hood’s only job. On top of being a single mother to five children and working as a full-time Realtor, Hood is also a supervisor at Omni Family Services, where she oversees therapeutic foster cases. With a degree in psychology and sociology and a master’s degree in human behavior, Hood says she is “passionate about helping people, giving people a voice who don’t have one and making the world a better place.”

Before pursuing psychology and real estate, Hood hoped to make a difference in a courtroom. She says she dreamed her whole life of becoming a lawyer like those she saw on television – convincing juries, compelling judges and defending the defenseless.

Real estate, social work and law demand the ability to problem-solve, pivot on a dime and work under pressure. Hood says she excels at these qualities:

“I really like a challenge, and I get bored really easily, and I’m pretty good at making quick decisions,” she explains. “Under pressure, I rise to the occasion.”

Hood is a proud member of the Choice Homes team at EXP Realty in Chattanooga, where she consistently lands among the top agents on the team.

“We’re all females who stay in the top three or four, and we’re all really close-knit,” she says. “We have a group text going where we share our ups and downs and lean on each other.” Hood adds that they all have a friendly competitive streak.

But not everyone is so congenial. Hood says the worst part of being a Realtor is the negativity from clientele. Clients have challenged Shayla, arguing Realtors are overpaid and unnecessary, don’t know what they’re doing and have personally caused inflation.

“So you just have to have a thick skin,” she adds. “I don’t know if I necessarily do – I’m sensitive. But they can say it to me, and I’ll just talk right back to them and let them know why they should hire me.”

Hood, with two jobs and five children, finds herself constantly busy and running on little sleep. She works every day of the week as a Realtor, and certainly the same as a mother. How does she balance work and family? “Man, it’s hard. It’s hard. I just do the best that I can. I try to block off time to be with the kids, but they get frustrated because work is constant – my phone never stops – but I try.”

Hood says her children are always in the mix of everything she does, even in the smallest ways.

“I mean, like today,” she smiles. “I was walking out and my daughter, Zola, looked at me, and she was like, ‘No.’

“I said, ‘What?’

“She was like, ‘Mom, the shoes. No.’

“And I said, ‘Are you serious?’

“She’s like, ‘Can’t do it.’

“So I had to go back into my closet, get different pairs of shoes, try them on, and some of them are hard to get on, so I said, ‘Help me get my shoes on!’

“Now we’re sitting there at the last minute, sweating, and she’s finally like, ‘OK, I can handle the outfit now.’

“And that’s why I was late.”

Hood is grateful that she can provide her children with a more relaxed and open household – “probably too open,” she laughs – than her strict religious childhood.

With a multiracial family, Hood also values the diversity of Chattanooga. But, she admits, she misses her family. With no family in Tennessee except her children, Hood says, “I have a lot of people depending on me, but sometimes, it would be nice to have another adult to depend on and lighten the load a little bit.

“I didn’t necessarily plan to have a bunch of kids. It just happened that way.”

After giving birth to their first two children, JT and Emmie, Hood and her ex-husband had complications conceiving another child and reached out to adopt. While waiting on the adoption process, Hood’s sister-in-law, Kayla, offered to carry Hood’s baby as a surrogate. Soon after Hood accepted her offer and Kayla was implanted, the adoption agency called Hood to say that a baby was waiting for her in Miami.

So Hood brought her third baby, Zola, home from Florida. Less than a year later, Hood’s sister-in-law, Kayla, gave birth to Hood’s fourth child, Piper. Then, six months after Piper was born, Hood received a second call from the adoption agency, saying that Zola’s full biological brother was just born. So Hood brought home her fifth child, Ty.

“I don’t remember very much of it,” Hood says. “I remember at night, I would make 19 bottles before I’d go to bed. I’d put the formula in 19 different bottles and have a jug of water right there so I could get up quick and feed them when they all woke up.”

On top of her five children, Hood has a sixth dependent. She opened her home to Trent, a friend of her oldest son, JT, when the boys were in middle school. With JT at college in Japan, Hood now has five children at home.

Hood lights up about her children. JT, she raves, speaks fluent self-taught Japanese and was accepted into college on a full academic scholarship. Hood’s oldest daughter, Emmie, is a cheerleader who hopes to eventually follow in her footsteps to become a Realtor.

“She’s like a little mini-me,” Hood says with a smile.

Hood laughs that her youngest three, who she affectionately calls “The Littles,” are endlessly fun and exciting.

As a family, Hood says she and her children enjoy going to the beach, cooking together and throwing dance parties. “We have a lot of dance parties at the house – turn on music, turn down the lights and just dance and sing and be silly together. We love to just be silly.”

Hood loves to travel. After recently visiting her son in Japan, Hood’s next trip is a late-summer cruise to the Bahamas. She hopes to visit Jamaica and Hawaii next, where she can relax, decompress and return refreshed.

“Honestly, I just like to sit in my room in silence and have a moment of quiet,” Hood laughs.

Hood’s biggest dream is to see her children happy and successful. “My kids are everything. They’re what makes me keep going.”

When she eventually retires from real estate, Shayla Hood looks forward to basking in her well-earned golden years. She wants to be on a beach – any beach – where she can enjoy her family with little stress and responsibility.

“And someone bringing me fruity drinks. I would say a margarita.”