Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 4, 2021

Combining their passions

Bettis, partners pair real estate sales, design with 35 South

Rachel Bettis, who grew up in West Tennessee, is the daughter of Kay Witt, who in 1978 became one of Chattanooga’s first female Realtors. - Photograph provided

Rachel Bettis is a West Tennessee native who moved to Chattanooga for college, fell in love with the area and never wanted to leave.

“What initially drew me to it, just driving into Chattanooga, is the landscape and the mountains and the terrain,” Bettis says. “It’s just beautiful out here. And then there is a small-town feel. It’s definitely grown a lot, but you are still going to have a hard time going to the grocery store and not finding someone you know.”

Today, Bettis helps others who fall in love with the area and become grocery store regulars, too, as one of three founders of 35 South, an all-in-one real estate and design firm. Along with Linda Gaddis and Susanne McKee, Bettis handles more than listings. She also helps sellers prep their home for market and buyers create a dream space once they have purchased.

The three women were all running their own individual businesses but saw an opportunity to work together. They each are designed-focused – Gaddis has had her own interior design business for years – so together they were able to wrap everything up under the 35 South Real Estate and Design umbrella.

But the history of the company goes back to 1978 when Gaddis’ mother, Kay Witt, became one of Chattanooga’s first female Realtors. During the next four decades, she guided Gaddis and then her assistant McKee in her footsteps. McKee began to mentor Bettis, and it is their pride to build a legacy of female entrepreneurs who remain dedicated with passion for their craft.

Now, they are a team of six women and growing, and feel a heritage of strong women working to enrich a community that is true to being in the South.

“It’s kind of this legacy of women helping women, and I love that so much,” Bettis says. “We definitely have the mindset that we are not competing with each other, we’re collaborating with each other.”

Their camaraderie fuels creativity, and they are able to focus on growth instead of trying to fight for listings in the marketplace.

Also, they can focus on some of the more fun aspects of real estate, like design.

“We take a lot of pride in getting a house ready for market,” she says. And that means making sure a house is still shown in its best light, even in this insane real estate market. They are trying to get the best possible price while honoring what the home has meant to the people who are passing it on.

Maintenance issues are handled, rooms are staged and shot professionally for marketing, and the curb appeal is given a boost.

“You can sell a house in a minute, but we still think it’s really important to take the time to do it right,” she adds. “There’s something about being able to take pride in your house. This is the house that you’ve lived in, that you’ve raised your family for some period of time.

“I just left a staging appointment for a client, and they’re so excited to see what their home looks like when we’re all done. They’ve lived there for several years. They have children now, so the use of it has changed. But it’s still a beautiful home and they are excited to leave the house on a good note.”

Bettis acknowledges those who plan on buying right now should be prepared for a bumpy ride, and it is hard to say when that will end. Or how it will fluctuate. It’s an issue that is statewide and nationwide, and it’s causing her to encourage everyone to be flexible – and fast.

“Even in the last three months it’s changed pretty drastically,” she says. “You have to keep up. Because you’re probably not going to get the first one – but you can get a house. You just have to really work for it. We try hard to set expectations on the front end. But it is so hard.”

Bettis says on the other side of things, as listing agents, they are getting 25 or more offers per property and are working extra hard to sort through each to help the seller find the best one for them.

“It is very hard for the seller to pick one,” she says. “You want to honor each offer, because someone cared enough to write you an offer for this house. You want to present them all, but trying to do that in an efficient way that honors the buyer and helps the seller figure out what’s going to work for them, it’s a whole other task.”

Bettis explains that ultimately, buyers should do everything they can to get prepared before jumping into the market such as getting finances in order, getting a pre-approval on a specific number they are comfortable working with and getting an agent they trust to help guide them through what will likely be a stressful time.

“You have to get creative and you really have to know the market,” Bettis says. “But most of all you just have to be flexible.”