Robert Hundley is a local real estate expert in Gilbert, Arizona. He is also one of the authors in the new real estate business book, Becoming A Local Leader, which features 20 stories from top producing local agents, who through their story share their strategies and their tactics on how to build a business through relationships and referrals in a specific geographic area. 

One of the things you’re going to see as a theme in all the chapters of the book is the idea that all these agents value relationships. They don’t just talk about it, they really do value it, and therefore they spend time and money building new ones and nurturing them and giving value to the people who live and work in their area. Because they know if they do that first, it will come back to them in business through referrals. So, it’s this principle of giving value and the true value of relationships, and then how to actually talk the talk and walk the walk around relationships. 

We work together and we came up with this project to create this book, Becoming A Local LeaderⓇ, so we could share some messages with agents out there to hopefully elevate the standard of agents, the way agents build their business to help them become more respected and relevant in the industry. And so, you want to be a part of it. You had a chapter. When you wrote that chapter, you had a message that you were going to try to convey to agents out there. So, if you were to sum up what that main message is, what would that be?

Well, you touched on it quite a bit in the intro, and that is relationships and how we go about valuing and putting the work in, getting the benefit out of those relationships. I like to think of them as sort of twofold. There’s the horizontal relationship, the connections that I have with other professionals. That’s huge. 

One of the first things I look at are the relationships that I have with other agents. So often we have this sort of competitive nature. “They’re on one side and I’m on the other.” At the end of the day, I really look at it as, yes, I understand that and I value that. But I also look at it and say, yeah, but at the end of the day, we’re just trying to get the best deal for everybody and create a win-win. 

You’ve got that. You’ve got the relationships with other professionals, lenders, title companies, inspectors, all the different vendors. I don’t know if you’re going to touch on that in a little bit, but for me, some of the most important relationships that I have in real estate are having a plumber, having an electrician, having an HVAC person that I can call. And when they pick up the phone and see that it’s me, that there’s hopefully a smile on their face. “Hey, what’s Rob need now? What’s going on? How can I help? How can we work together?” 

And then, the other part of relationships are the ones that we spend probably the most time cultivating and that’s the vertical, that’s the clients. How do we create not just a transaction but a relationship? How do we become their trusted real estate adviser or somebody that can really help them on the very specific details of their own deal, but then down the road? How can they refer to us with a sense of, “Wow, let me show you my real estate person. They are phenomenal. They’re fantastic.”? And just being able to then nurture and develop those relationships as well. 

That’s really what I’m trying to say. I was going to say it in a nutshell, but this doesn’t seem quite like that. At least it’s an awfully big nutshell. 

You wrote in the book and you summed up the power of relationships. A lot of people when they get into real estate, it’s not like their parents did it. They don’t have friends or family who have done it, who have shown them the way. They just hear about the industry, hear it might be good for them and they kind of just get into it. So, if you were to speak to all the new agents and maybe you years ago when you got into real estate, what are some of the surprising benefits of those horizontal relationships? 

There are a couple of things you touched on. The first one you touched on is these horizontal relationships you talked about, these other professionals. You got home service professionals, you got personal service professionals, you got real estate professionals, finance professionals. I think when people don’t put enough time and money into relationships, because they maybe don’t know how they might be beneficial, how they might be used, what value does come from that. Maybe because it’s not intuitive to think about the value that comes from these professionals. 

So, from your experiences, what has been some of the surprising value that’s come from those relationships that you wish you knew when you started? Because maybe you would have started faster and spent more time earlier on building and nurturing those relationships.

Well, first of all, I think if I were to be talking to somebody starting out, I would say, expect to be surprised. Expect to have some of those connections. You’ll yield fruits that you had no idea at the time. There’s that old adage, givers gain. And for me, that cultivating of relationships that we’re talking about, is really about how I can help you? How can I help your business grow? How can I support you in what you’re doing? 

When you do that, the return on that, even though at the time you think these home inspectors aren’t going to refer anybody to me. And then out of the blue, you get a call from somebody and they say, “Oh, yeah. Sharon spoke so highly of you. We really needed an agent.” It was weird because we were in the checkout line together. I kept thinking, “Boy, she looks kind of familiar.” It was like, “Oh, yeah, you did a home inspection for me a couple of years ago.” You wouldn’t expect to get something out of a conversation in a grocery store checkout line, but it happens. And so, expect it or maybe don’t expect it, but don’t be surprised when you get surprised.

I remember I had this one agent who was going to an interview with this dog walker. He said, “Grant, I interviewed this dog walker. I kind of want to go. She’s in her 70s or 80s. She’s probably not going to move. She doesn’t know anyone. Should I really go? Is it a good use of my time? Should I try to find some other professions?” And I said, “The fact that you have just asked that question, I guarantee you something’s going to happen from this.” Because it’s these tests that you have as a professional where your brain naturally goes to “Maybe I shouldn’t do this. Maybe I shouldn’t spend time with this person. Maybe I shouldn’t invest in this person.” 

And that’s like this universe testing all these entrepreneurs out there saying, “No, no. That’s the test.” If you actually pass the test and continue to give, continue to see the value or the inner person, where you can’t expect to get something from someone, it might happen. You’ll never know what might happen. You could be the one. I’m going to give you time and money and care about you and help you because you might be the person that might be able to help me. Having that attitude ends up yielding the fruits. 

And so, I told him. I said, “Because you just said this, I guarantee you. Something’s going to happen from this. You have to go do this interview.” And lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened. He did this interview. He’s like, “Oh, my goodness, Grant. I was there and she referred me to a friend who’s buying a home. I just got business. I can’t believe it.” 

It’s these examples that make a professional start to really cement the belief that every person has value. You just got to find it. You got to notice it. You got to pull it out of them. You got to ask them the right questions. You got to spend the time. You got to nurture it. You never know how but somehow it really can reap it. And then, having the attitude is right for the real estate agent. 

Now, another thing you touched on is being more relational versus transactional. Most agents are not going to be like, “I want to be transactional.” They’re going to say, “I’m relationship based. I’m a relation-based RealtorⓇ. I’m relational.” But then you look at their actions, and it doesn’t show that. 

From your own experiences, how have you become more relational? What are the things that you started doing or stopped doing to be more relational? What are some things that you notice in other agents that maybe you can call out to say, “Hey, if you’re doing this, that means you’re being transactional, and you need to maybe do it this way to be more relational.”?

I think that the intent is such an important part of that. Do you intend to develop a relationship? The language that I use in my own head is, how can I become this person’s trusted real estate adviser? When I look at it that way, I’m not looking at it from the focus is just on this transaction, and maybe a couple of years down the road if I put them in my drip campaign, then I’ll get the next transaction. Look at it from the standpoint of, “Okay, what can I do? How can I provide value to this person?” And hopefully, in some sort of a unique way that differentiates and separates me from other real estate professionals they’ve dealt with in the past. But how can I provide value that is going to then nurture and develop and strengthen that relationship? 

A while back I was talking to another agent. I was saying, “What do you know about home improvement? I have a client that was asking me about what they needed to do to go about putting in a pool in their backyard.” He said, “Why do you care about that? That doesn’t have anything to do with you.” I was like, “No, they’re asking me because they see me as their real estate adviser. And so, they are looking for some advice there.” That’s that relationship and that relational piece. I think for me, at least, that’s the clearest way I’ve been able to differentiate between transactional versus relationship approaches. 

I like that. Remembering fitness, my past career, I said, “There’s people who hand out exercises and diet plans. And then there’s people who really take on this life coach role because everything’s got to be in sync for someone’s health to improve.” The people who see beyond what happens in the gym, before, during and after the workout are the ones who actually charge more money or earn more money, have repeat referral clients, long lasting clients, stuff like that. 

Same thing with real estate. Your job is not just to help someone buy a home or sell a home. It’s living a good quality of life in the home. Improving the value of the home, preparing it, improving the life in the whole neighborhood, getting connected to the people and the products and the services. And if you take on more responsibility, I think people are more fulfilled as well. And then you also end up growing a bigger business. 

You talk about that in your book, earning. I love this word because it gets the mind in the right place. “Earning people’s business.” “Earning their commissions.” What are some things that you have done, where you feel, “I did these things with these clients. And as a result, I earned their business. I earned their referrals. I earned my commission. That’s why I got this business. And these are some examples that maybe other agents can pull from.”?

One of the first examples I can think of was one of my first sales. It was helping an older woman make a move and a transition that was beginning to move into that sort of, “I’m not ready for assisted living, but this house has gotten to be too much.” And sitting at her kitchen table, listening to her tell her story. That was an important time and an important event for her and me. 

Did I learn more about what she was looking for in a house? No, I pretty much had all of that together, but it was about not necessarily creating, but maybe deepening, maybe strengthening just a little bit that trust, that bond that said, “Okay. Here’s somebody that I can trust to walk with me on this part of my journey for a little while.” 

I think two of the clients that we have, and I think we can all probably list them fairly quickly, the ones that you’re showing just about everything, it seems like that’s active to them, and they’re just nitpicking and finding it. “Oh, I just don’t like this. I don’t like that.” It’s just that kind of, “Come on. Make a decision. Let’s do this.” 

You take a step back and you think, “This is probably one of the biggest decisions this person is making in their life.” I owe it to them to let them take the time they need to help them so that when they do get to that point, there is that sense of, wow, Rob or Mary or Bill or whoever their agent is, has really taken the time to earn their commission, to earn my trust, to earn this relationship.

You also talk about in the book; “Relationships are more important today than ever.” Maybe walk people through taking a step back, you know who you are, your career, how you got into real estate, and then how your careers evolved, and why you think relationships matter more today than ever.

Well, I spent the first 30 or so years of my career as a local church minister. All of that time in kind of what people think of maybe is sort of an old-fashioned sense of church. Probably a couple of hundred members. Maybe some of them much smaller than that, 50-60 members all over the country in New England, and then out here and in Colorado. 

It was about that sense of community. These people came together week and week out and kind of shared a sense of community. More than that, a lot of them are in smaller towns. And so, within that, there was a sense of community. A little bit broader, but still that very strong sense of community. Particularly for a lot of these folks, they lived there generationally. Their parents, their grandparents. I had one family way back then who had five generations living in the same house. So, there was just a tremendous sense of community that was there. 

Flash forward now to the present, I don’t see that same sense of community. I think that some of that has to do with people moving as much as they move. Moving for a real estate agent is a very good thing. So, believe me, I’m not against that. It’s how, though, they establish that sense of community. And so, you see things like social media as the new form of community. 

Some of the other sort of hyper-local websites provide that sense of community. Sometimes it’s real, sometimes it’s maybe a little more artificial. I tend to try to find those that provide that real sense of community, that real relationship. 

And so, how did you get business changed because of the way the world is evolving with social media, with online ads being cheap now with all these iBuyers with all these new tech companies? I mean, there’s all these changes happening in the real estate space. Where do you think agents can still win?

Word of mouth, I think, is bigger than ever because it’s rarer than ever. It’s not the same. It’s like what I was saying before. You can’t call, “Hey, mom. Who did you guys use to buy your house?” Because mom lives 1500 miles away. 

So, again, kind of going back to the transactional versus relational. I think so much of the real estate market now is geared toward that sort of disposable relationship. You don’t worry about that. There’ll be somebody there. The challenge is, okay, yeah, there’s somebody there, but are there any good? Are they going to be able to get you the most money that you want to find the buyers for you? Are they really going to put in the work? Are they just going to passively kind of, “Yeah, man. I’ll stick a sign in the yard and we’ll see what happens?” 

Conversely on the other side, are they going to take the time to get to know me, to figure out what it is? Because I don’t even know what I’m looking for in a house. Four walls and a roof would be a nice start, but what else is out there? How can I find something? And so, having that sense of that trust too that says, “Yeah, this person has put in the work.” There’s that connection that you’re looking for?

You talked about that in your chapter. You say the three things. I think it was education, confidence, and dedication. Not every agent has it or has enough of it. Give people some perspective of how long you’ve been in real estate for. Let’s talk about education first. If someone wants to more quickly learn how to do it, how to be a great real estate agent, how to be a really great advisor for people, what would your recommendations be for them?

Be a sponge. I joke with my grandkids. I say, “Right now, your brain is a sponge.” “No Poppy, my brain is not a sponge.” “Yeah, it is. It’s soaking everything in.” 

That’s awesome. That’s such a wonderful and exciting time in your life. Let your mind soak in everything that’s out there. And then, you’ll be able to figure out, “Okay, what can I use? What can’t I use?” 

What have been some of the greatest sources that have helped you learn how to be a great real estate agent?

First of all, my brokers. I have worked with a couple now. Great piece of advice. It made absolutely no sense at the time but I’ll throw this out there. “People make their judgments on a house based on what they can see, rather than what they can’t see.” 

The broker I was working with said, “What I find works really well is, as folks are getting ready to sell their house, have them go through their closet and rearrange all their clothes by color.” By color? No, I’m pretty sure that’s a psychological issue that they should take up with a trained professional. He said, “No. People will look at that and they’ll say, wow, this closet is really neat and organized. Wow, the wiring in this house must be fantastic.” You know, that they’re going to make judgments on what they can’t see from what they can see. That in and of itself was amazing to me now how many times I’ve heard that and seen that and come back and was like, “Oh, yeah. That was the house where everything was all neat and tidy.” It wasn’t everything. It was just the closet that was neat and tidy.

That is so true. And whether you’re staging your house to be sold, or you’re renting it out, people just take a look at some pictures or video, and they just make assumptions around everything else. And the stuff they see, they just go, “All must be like this.” That’s really good advice. 

The other thing you talked about, which I think is really important in real estate is confidence. This is one of the final things I wanted to talk about was, how does one build confidence? How do you build it if you don’t have it? How do you know if you don’t have it? How do you make the person that you’re working with feel that you are confident and competent so they want to hire you and they don’t want to fire you during the process? Confidence we see all the time really does make or break a person’s career. And if they can figure this piece out, it really helps them grow faster. But it’s this weird thing you can feel, but you can’t quite see like a designation or, you know, something like that. What’s your advice for agents to build confidence in themselves?

For me, the way I think about it is it’s sort of like here just in your peripheral vision. Anytime you try and look at it, it goes away. Anytime you try to say, “Yes, I’m very confident.” People are like, “Oh, sure you are. 

A couple of couple of things. One is knowing what you know. And that is looking at all the time and energy that you put into becoming an agent. Looking back and saying, “Wow, a year ago. Six months ago. Three months ago. I didn’t know half of the stuff that I know now. I may not use all of the stuff that I know but I didn’t know it.” So, I know stuff. That’s a start. 

The next part is knowing what you don’t know. Confidence works best when it’s mixed with a sense of humility, a sense of your own sort of humaneness, your limits, and being able to say, “Gee, I don’t know but I think I know where I could find that out. Let me go see what I can find out. I’ll come back and let you know what I find.” 

Coming at it that way as well rather than that sort of false bravado of, “Oh, you don’t need to know that.” Or, “Oh, well, I think it’s a lesson.” I don’t know. That’s a good question. People appreciate that. That I think leads to the third part about confidence and it comes back to some of what we’ve been saying here all along and that is building that relationship, that trust that there becomes kind of a mutual sense of confidence that goes back and forth between the agent and his or her clients that says, “We’re a team. We’re going to work on this together.” And with that connection, then comes that sense of I don’t have to prove myself to you. Not that I don’t want to, but I don’t have to because we have this connection, this trust, this relationship. 

I like that. I know I want to prove to you, but I don’t have to. I want your business, but I don’t need your business. That mindset right there. If people can act on that, I think it will be hugely helpful.

It comes back to the whole thing of divorcing yourself from the outcome. And I don’t mean to say that you’re aloof but that, you know, if this works out, great. If you’d like to hire me, fantastic. I would love your business. Leaving it at that, there’s a confidence there that’s like, “Oh, wow. Okay.”

I love it and sometimes that’s all you have to do is simple words, simple phrases, and leave it at that. Because that is what a confident person would do. They would be brief, concise, say as it is, and then be silent and wait for the potential buyer or seller to make a move and hire you or wait for your client to now make a decision. 

I know there’s going to be a lot of people out there who are getting into real estate late in their career, who are maybe in sunny Arizona, who have been in the ministry like yourself. And for lots of reasons when they read your chapter, they might want to reach out and connect either to learn from you or to build a relationship with you. How can people reach out and get in touch with you?

[email protected]

Now, I was going to end with that question, which is, there’s lots of books out there that real estate agents can pick up. A lot of them have to do with how to generate leads. I mean, there’s the Millionaire Real Estate Agent book, which I really do like, it’s a really great book for real estate agents. But it’s very tactical and on how to build this really big business and team and all that stuff. 

What do you think is the reason why agents should pick up Becoming A Local LeaderⓇ? Why should they pick this book? What’s the difference with this book? What are the different information and golden nuggets they’ll find in this book that they will not find in all the other traditional real estate business books?

The Millionaire Real Estate Agent book is a great book, I agree. But when I pick up a book, typically, I’ll get three to five nuggets or things that are like, “Wow, that was really good. I’m going to write that down. I know I’m going to forget that a couple of times but eventually it’s going to stick and be important.” With this book, I think you’ve got a fantastic chance with not three or five but 20 to 40 nuggets as each chapter is written by a different professional coming at it from a different perspective from their experience. 

I’m super excited not just to kind of pull a Steve Martin and say, “The new phone books are here. The new phone books are here. Look, my name is on a book.” It’s nearly as much as like, what everybody else writes? What’s in here? It’s like, “Oh, wow. I never thought about it like that before.” There’s strategy, there’s tactics, there’s just different ways that people come at things. You’ll think, “Ha! I’ve never done it that way before. That’s an interesting way. I got to try that. I got to give that a shot.” I got to reach out to that person just saying, “Hey, I’d love to talk to you a little bit more about what you did here. It sounds fascinating.”