Alex Hodara, BSBA’10
It all started with Fantasy Football. In 2004, 15-year-old Alex Hodara and his dad won $2,000 playing Fantasy Football, and Alex, being entrepreneurial even then, decided to use the money to start his own business. Poker was really popular at the time, so he chose to sell poker chips. He imported them from China in bulk at a low cost and sold them to his friends, on eBay, to other businesses (he would hot stamp them with the company logo), and on his own site called PokerChipKing.com.
So when he started a real estate company five years later as a junior at the School of Management, Alex already knew a thing or two about entrepreneurship.
His plan is simple: Do what others won’t. In the case of real estate, it’s showing clients care and consideration (which most agents fail to do).
“I’m all about reputation and giving people a really good experience,” says Alex (SMG ’10), who started Hodara Real Estate in January 2009. “Our rental brokerage is really focused on clients and works solely on referrals, and that defines our reputation. I made friends with Louie the Barber on BU campus several years ago and have received countless referrals through him. Every other rental brokerage in the area has a terrible reputation; the agents spend no time with their clients and just try to make as much money as possible. It gives us the opportunity to do just the opposite. Then, with a good reputation and a significant network, we make the real money through property sales.”
It’s brilliant in its simplicity, and it works because most real estate agencies don’t bother. For example, barber Louie Fenerlis sends a lot of business Alex’s way, won an “award” from Hodara Real Estate at its one-year anniversary celebration.
Once Alex really started gaining recognition in the Allston real estate market, he realized he could utilize his simple approach for other real estate offerings too. For his property management wing, he takes care of his buildings and treats the tenants with respect, again unlike most of his competition. He even leaves candy for tenants who are inconvenienced by showings at their apartment. For Hodara Academy, which grants real estate licenses, it’s a similar story—they use technology to teach where others don’t and charge significantly less than their competition.
Alex has been so successful in adding some energy, thoughtfulness, and youth to the real estate market that Century 21 employs him as a consultant on social networking, and has talked about turning Alex’s company into the first “youth” brand of Century 21 called C21U.
For all his success, though—achieved in the middle of a recession caused by the downturn of his own industry, by the way—Alex never would have guessed that this is what he’d be doing.
“When I learned that I could get my real estate license at age 18, I thought it sounded really cool. I’ve always wanted to change something, and I saw an opportunity there to become an agent that people could think positively about instead of negatively.
“I tried to get my friends to join me, but they thought it was a terrible investment. My parents too—they were worried that having a job like this would negatively affect my grades. And even I didn’t totally understand that I could make money. I was thinking more about how I would be helping my friends. But there’s a huge rental market right around BU, so the whole thing sort of just fell into my lap.”
He says that now, but of course it was really his tenacity that made it all work. He went to every off-campus apartment showing he could find until he knew the local market like the back of his hand—and got to know all the landlords, and all the prices. He promoted himself through social media and networks like Louie’s Barbershop. And he ended up making a lot of money. In fact, last year he was finally able to move the company from a small office on Glenville Avenue in Allston to a spacious 1,500-square-foot office on Commonwealth Avenue.
How do his parents and friends feel about it all now?
“They’re taking it all back now,” he laughs. “They’re very supportive.
“My advice would be if you have an idea that you’re passionate about, you should follow it,” he says. “Don’t let people shoot you down, because everyone loves sharing their two cents. Just follow your heart and go for it.”
After graduation, Alex plans to focus solely on his business, building up the investment sales side of the operation while maintaining the reputation he’s built as a rental agency.