Randy Hodde, co-owner of Hodde Real Estate in Brenham, is a matchmaker.
“We’re property matchmakers,” Randy said. “We help people find their place, not only the physical place they need to be, but their feel good place—the place they come to really live.”
Many of the firm’s clients come to escape the mounting pressures of city life. They are drawn to Washington County and the surrounding area for its rolling hills, ancient live oak trees, history, Norman Rockwell charm and convenience.
“72 percent of the state’s population is within a 215-mile radius of Brenham,” Randy, who works statewide, but considers Washington County and the surrounding Central Texas counties as the brokerage’s primary territory, said. “We’re a place where a lot of people want to be.”
While Dallas, San Antonio and Austin are all within easy drives, Washington County has historically been the rural destination for Houstonians. As Houston has grown, so has the area where Randy and his team work.
“Most people like to be no more than an hour and a half from their getaways,” Randy said. “When I first started in 1998, Burton represented the far western edge of where Houstonians were willing to buy, now it’s Giddings, which about 25 miles farther west.”
He and his team are also seeing interest in Burleson, Milam, Leon, and Brazos counties as well as Austin, Fayette and Washington counties where Houstonians have traditionally settled.
“It’s a high growth area, which is definitely good for business,” Randy said. “It’s hard to be successful in real estate if people don’t want to live where you’re selling.”
The growth, which creates opportunities, also creates an interesting dynamic.
“There are long-time residents who think that the countryside is too full of people and it isn’t really country anymore,” Randy said. “But when you consider this area from the perspective of new residents who live in subdivisions where the windows on their house almost touch the windows of their neighbors’ houses, then this feels like wide open freedom.”
Knowing the properties you’re listing or that your client is buying is one of the keys to being a successful rural real estate broker. As a third generation Washington County native, Randy has a competitive advantage.
“When I was a kid, my dad not only worked in rural real estate, we had cattle and a farm services company where I worked,” Randy said. “I’ve gotten to see a lot of this area from a different perspective, so I know the land in a way that others might not.”
The pull of his roots brought him home to Washington County.
“I was a typical small town boy intent on going to the big city, earning big money and having a schedule that was more predictable than the one offered by agriculture and rural real estate,” Randy said.
When he got his diploma from Brenham High in 1991, he headed east to Sam Houston State University where he earned a degree in industrial technology. His expertise with computers and planning took him to the oil services and manufacturing industries.
By 1998, he had realized something important.
“I’m not a cubicle person,” Randy said.
During his corporate stint, Randy had obtained and maintained his real estate license. In the meantime, the farm and ranch division of Roberts-Horne Real Estate in Brenham where Randy’s father Leroy had worked since 1976 closed. Leroy maintained his real estate license. Operating under Hodde Land and Cattle Co., Leroy handled two or three transactions a year, while he concentrated on the ranching and cattle business.
They joined forces, combining the power of Leroy’s network with Randy’s technology and marketing skills, and opened Hodde Real Estate in historic downtown Brenham. The office is located in the middle of Randy’s life. His home, which he shares with his wife, Debbie, and their two children, Carsyn and Cooper, is 3.5 miles to the west. His grandfather’s land, where he was reared and his parents still live today, is 3.5 miles to the northwest.
Although Brenham is rapidly transitioning from a country town to a small country city, Randy has been able to give his children some of the same life-shaping experiences he enjoyed as a kid. They are a stock show family concentrating their efforts on market barrows.
“While sports are great, showing animals is the only activity that I can think of where the whole family is actually involved in the competition,” Randy said, noting that his parents step in and feed the projects when he and his family are out of town.
Last year was a banner year for the family. Carsyn had the overall grand champion at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo; a class champion that was named reserve division champion at the San Antonio Livestock Exposition; a first place in class at Rodeo Austin; and an eighth place in class at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Her projects made the premium sale at all four major stock shows in Texas with the proceeds supporting her college fund.
“Last year’s success will be hard to duplicate, but we’re going to have fun trying,” Randy said.
Although last year was monumental, Randy identifies another experience as one of his favorite moments. The first year Randy showed market hogs, his project earned reserve grand champion at the Washington County Fair, which according to local residents is the state’s oldest. The second year his daughter showed market hogs, her project earned reserved grand champion at the Washington County Fair. Their accomplishments were 30 years apart.
“As a parent, there is something special about being able to share things with your children that are important to you in a place that is important to you,” Randy said.
This will be the first year their nine-year-old Cooper is old enough to show, so the number of projects they are managing is increasing. In addition, Carsyn is an avid equestrian and has been a lifelong competitor showing American Quarter Horses.
“While we’re on the road a lot at stock and horse shows, I’m still working real estate,” Randy said.
Randy wears a cap with his business logo on it. People from all over the state stop to talk real estate and expand his network of potential buyers and sellers. On more than one occasion, future clients have asked, “What do you know about Hodde Real Estate?”
To which Randy replied, “I am part of Hodde Real Estate.”
This is a key factor in the firm’s success. While Hodde Real Estate is not a franchised name made familiar by a corporate advertising budget, it is a name brand.
He said, “Our performance is not a reflection on a corporate office somewhere, it’s a reflection on our family.”
Even with Leroy’s network and Randy’s technological savvy, Hodde Real Estate, like most businesses, took a little while for the phone to start ringing and for clients to find their way through the front door.
Debbie, who met Randy through a real estate connection, is an agent. (She was reared in a real estate family. Her maternal grandmother was a broker in Tyler and her mother, retired as managing broker for Coldwell Banker offices in Lake Conroe.)
“At Hodde Real Estate, we’re a professional real estate agency and we’re a professional marketing company,” Randy said. “We apply all of our skills to complete the sale and purchase of land, homes, and commercial property.”
To expedite the process, all design and photography used in the marketing materials are completed in-house. Today, there are 11 agents including: Tiffany Abrams, Tammy Foreman, Eric Haugen, Ashley Jahnke, Nancy Cole Penny, Jim Ripple, Brooke Schrader, and Kaysee Schulte as well as the Hoddes. (Debbie has cut her hours in the real estate office to concentrate on Winning Couture, her line of custom-made clothing that she started to service the AQHA equestrian market and has transitioned to the mainstream marketplace. Available at www.winningcouture.com.)
“By keeping the design process in-house, we can respond rapidly simply because we’re not waiting on other people,” Randy said.
When it comes to the farm and ranch properties, Randy is hands-on from beginning to end. He walks the properties to familiarize himself, creates detailed maps using autocad of what exists and what could be, and he takes the photos, a skill he picked up early on in his career from a Boston-based client. Randy’s purchased his first camera used from the client. Today, Randy travels with a full complement of commercial grade Nikon equipment in his truck.
Superlative photography anchors the marketing materials whether they are magazine-quality brochures or digital resources.
As a result of the staff’s ability to recognize a property’s key features and position a property in the marketplace, Hodde Real Estate often has the opportunity to be the agent following. Randy recalled one property that had been on the market for 18 months before the owners brought it to the firm. In his opinion, the property was languishing because its selling points hadn’t been properly showcased. His team repackaged the property and within two weeks it sold for a higher price than it was originally listed.
“As persuasive as photography is, it is simply the tool that gets people to come look at a property,” Randy said. “Technology has definitely changed every aspect of the real estate business, but nothing can replace the experience of walking the land.”
And nothing can replace good relationships.
“Real estate is really about people, which means that it’s really about listening carefully to their wants and needs,” Randy said. “My goal is to provide excellent customer service built on respect and trust so that people come into our business as clients and leave as friends.”
It works. His first sale was a 45-acre tract he represented for a friend from high school. He has sold it three times so far now. His record for representing a single piece of property is six separate transactions. He has also handled the sale of several pieces of local property for the family who owns the Grand National Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland.
“Every deal is interesting because of the people involved,” Randy said. “We’re a family firm with a big reach. Our clients can—and do—come from anywhere and everywhere.”
As fewer people grow up on the land, fewer people come to country properties with all of the skills necessary to optimize its use or manage them. Randy and his team provide service after the sale, ranging from helping people connect with local contractors to helping them with multi-stage land use plans.
“My experience on the land, my experience in the industrial sector where I often worked with civil engineers and my experience with a wide variety of engineering-based software programs, allows me to assist my clients as they begin to form their vision for their new property,” Randy said. “It’s fun to help people see what it can become.”
Growing up in Washington County taught Randy some very valuable lessons that have shaped his life and his business.
“Early on I learned you have to work hard to make something of yourself and you have to treat people fairly if you want to earn their respect and trust,” Randy said. “Hard work, respect and trust are the cornerstones of the Hodde family and Hodde Real Estate. We stake our name and reputation on it.”
This interview appeared in the winter 2016 issue of TEXAS LAND magazine. Click here to read past issues of TEXAS LAND and LAND magazines, plus to become a subscriber!