25 Jan Gant Hill Stops By The Podcast Studio For An Interview
Jason: Today I have a special guest on the podcast, it’s Gant Hill who’s the founder of Gant Hill & Associates, a local real estate brokerage firm here in Louisville, Kentucky. I have to admit I’ve known Gant back from our days at St. Xavier High School here in Louisville. It’s funny, Gant was always one of those guys that, he was a few years older than me but I always knew who he was and I thought, “Man, this guy’s going to turn out to be something one day.” Maybe it was the bowtie that he wore that nobody else did, but he always had that look to him that I thought, “Man, this guy’s going to do something.” You know what? Every once in a while I guess I’m right, because I see his name everywhere and that’s why I wanted to have him here as a guest.
Gant, welcome. Why don’t you tell the folks a little about yourself and maybe even how you got interested in the real estate business.
Gant: Thank you for having me Jason. I appreciate the introduction. I’m 42 at this moment in time and have 2 kids. Live in Prospect at the moment, but have always had more of an urban residence. We did go to high school together. I think I was one year ahead of you. I don’t want to stretch it too far.
Jason: Not a problem.
Gant: I got into real estate because I’ve always loved homes. I’ve always loved architecture. I’ve always loved the way people live, the way they live, and found that fascinating. Grew up on a street, Lightfoot Road, off Mockingbird Valley where there were very few kids and there were a lot of older people. My best friends growing up were Pierre the poodle across the street and Irene the housekeeper from the house across the street, as well as a gentleman by the name of Mr. Peter, who was in his ’70s and others in the area that were insightful and business-minded, but also shared my love of real estate and architecture as well. It was interesting. I was forced to gravitate to a slightly more mature audience as a kid and that forced me to really enjoy the …
Jason: That would explain to me why, in high school, that even though you’re a year older than me, I felt like, man, maybe that’s why I thought you were older than me because you had a different upbringing. From day one, you were maybe more business-minded like you said, as opposed to playing baseball and soccer, you’re out thinking about real estate and architecture and how could I make some money at this?
Gant: I don’t know. I was a terrible athlete. Never was very good at throwing or catching and a little chubby as a child so it was one of those things. I had to go where my strengths were for the most part. It was fun. I went to De Paul School. I wasn’t having the typical childhood upbringing where you go out and you play football with the neighbor. I was on my bike a lot and talking with the older neighbors on my street until my buddy Brent Stern moved in, about the age of 12 or 13. For the most part I started off always loving the business and wanting to do that. I knew pretty much throughout my entire high school and college career what I wanted to do.
Jason: I think you’re very fortunate, because I know many guys that struggle through life and not knowing what they want to do. To have that passion for real estate from an early age has really affected and driven your career, which is great. Do you remember maybe your first real estate transaction or how you first entered the business?
Gant: I was going to go to the Stern’s School of Business at NYU and I couldn’t afford to go. It was just ridiculously expensive so I stayed back, went to U of L, and got my real estate license as a freshman in college while I was bussing tables and Vincenzo’s. Was working at Semonin’s. I was probably 18 or 19 years old, 1993. I was shadowing other agents, such as Sam Stockard and Jan Karzan. Two wonderful agents that have been in the business for many years. In fact, Sam Stockard is still in the business. My aunt and uncle decided to sell their property and buy another, so I helped them with that transaction. It was a significant transaction for the time and that was one of my first deals.
Jason: Kind of catapulted you in the business.
Gant: It really did. I went from living in my parent’s basement to having a nice car and a condo at the Harbison on Main Street.
Jason: Fantastic. I’m going to go back to something I picked up on. That’s the cool thing about having guests and people I’ve known for a while. I never realized that you worked at Vincenzo’s. One thing that I’ve always been amazed at when I’ve watched you operate your business over the years has been your customer service skills. Maybe you learned this from Vincenzo’s as a fine, 5-star Italian restaurant here in Louisville. I’ve always been amazed at how you treat your customers. I mean, I deal with Realtors day in and day out. They’re all fantastic but you by far have exceeded my expectations of how to treat a client.
I remember one day I saw you up at the Kentucky Motors Speedway at a Porsche driving event. You had brought some of your customers who, you already had the sale but you were just taking it to the next level of that customer, I guess bonding experience. Tell me a little bit about your approach in your business and why you think that’s so important.
Gant: Well, I love what I do. I enjoy the people I work with. We almost choose each other more from a friendship and more at the personal level than the professional level, in many ways. I always have a personal relationship with my clients and I lead with that. I really am not looking just for a one deal type of situation. I’m looking for the entire real estate experience with that client. Also I care about them personally and I enjoy getting to know them. They’re all unique and they all have something to offer to me. Every day I get out of bed and I work, I have a great time because I love the people I work with. Life’s too short not to. I’m not looking at it as a commission. I’m not looking at it as a deal done and closed. I truly look at it as a life long relationship. I always have because at the end of the day, you always should be looking out for their best interests first. It’s just the right thing to do and they will always reward you for it in the end.
Jason: Luckily for me, I’ve had the opportunity to work with you on multiple deals and I’ve seen you as you as you’ve brought customers who have entrusted them to build with me. You’re there as much as the customer needs, from the initial contract signing all through the custom building process, which it takes a lot of time. It’s not a one step transaction for you and you’re, “Hey, give me a referral fee.” You’re there as a client advocate. You’re advising your client on what they should and shouldn’t do. I can see it in their eyes. They truly value your opinion. They’ll, “Gant, what do you think?” I know Courtney some of your associates, have been with us too. “Courtney, what’s your opinion? Do you think I should have a third bedroom?” They’re always valuing that opinion that you have and I think you’ve earned it. Congratulations. That’s nice.
Gant: Thank you.
Jason: Another thing that I find fascinating about your business, Gant Hill & Associates, is your associates. You have such a broad range of offering. I follow you on the social media outlets and it never ceases to amaze me what you’re doing. You’re doing what, it seems like large, multimillion dollar commercial projects, small single family, and then last night I saw you on Facebook and you were promoting a container-living apartment project. Tell me, how do you manage that all and how do you get into such different, yet interesting lines of business?
Gant: I’ve gotten to the point where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. I have some amazing people around me that are the true experts and professionals in the areas that they choose to focus. I just support them. I don’t tell them where they need to go. They show me the way. I have about 32 or 33 people that work with me that each of them bring something unique and I don’t think any of them really compete with the other. They offer something completely different, every one of them does. I’m just very fortunate to have that opportunity because I learn from them and they allow me to do more.
In the case of the multimillion dollar commercial deals, I have people with me that are business brokers. We had a 10 million dollar transaction on a bunch of fast food restaurants, including the businesses as well as the real estate. Then we have agents that can procure financing for 50 million dollar hotel transactions or we can run an apartment. It’s fun. We love it all. We really do, but again, we’re focused on the relationship. When our clients reach out to us and say, “Hey, I was just in Austin, Texas and I saw this really cool container home development. Can you help me develop one?” Sure.
Jason: We can do that.
Gant: We can do that. We do happen to have relationships and we happen to have already been working with, in this particular situation, the container builder and architect on other projects, so it was an easy marriage. That’s what has led to that project in particular.
Jason: I hope it works out. I saw some of the renderings and the location where you’re planning on doing that and I was blown away. When I think of container living it doesn’t have the most visually aesthetic picture in my mind, but what you showed me was very architecturally easy on the eye and pretty impressive looking.
Gant: They are fun. We’re not making these tiny houses and we’re not making them low income. These are the real deal. This is Dwell living at its finest. I call it a Dwell Magazine centerfold. It’s going to be cubism. It’s going to be sleek and modern, but edgy. The landscape in Germantown, near the railroad tracks behind Germantown Mill apartments, to me is ideal, on the corner of Shelby and Ash, for our first project. We’re hoping to have about 6 units there. Again, they’re not going to be low income. They’re going to have great finishes. We’re going to have wonderful doors and windows, almost commercial grade, probably. We’re really excited about this project. It will be the first of its kind in Louisville.
Jason: No doubt. That’s one of the things again that I’ve always been interested about your firm. I think you tout yourself as maybe a boutique retail or residential, I’m sorry, a boutique real estate firm is because you can’t offer those specialized services. I guess you get it through relationship building because with 33 agents and not all of them are doing the same thing, you’re all over Louisville, which is awesome. Tell me a little bit about, how do you manage all those different aspects? Do you have the guys that just specialize in all those different areas? It seems like you do have a specialty for everything with only 33 agents, yet you offer so much.
Gant: Again, I oftentimes hand-choose, or the people come to me, and usually they’re already specialists in their areas. It doesn’t require a lot of management, although I do manage but it’s more from a counseling and friendship level than it is a boss. I don’t see any of my agents as employees, or even associates for that matter. I see them as partners. It’s easier to manage a partner sometimes than it is to manage a subordinate. I don’t see anyone as a subordinate. I do have great people around me. I have, you mentioned Courtney, who’s been with me for many years. She’s amazing. She does the job of 4 or 5 people. I have others. Pam, who you built a beautiful home for, is now working with me and she does an amazing job. She’s got tremendous experience and background. Brought on another person. Every one of them have been friends of mine or have had personal relationships before.
Jason: That’s really cool. The fact that you have customers and clients that have turned into partners I guess is a testament to the relationship you build with them. I’m going to kick back to one time I think you and I were having lunch and we were just talking about business in general and sometimes how do you value businesses. I can’t remember the exact business we were talking about but you were like, “Yeah, one of my associates who works with me actually is a business evaluator.” I guess you just never know how broad an offering you can offer your clients when you have the access to that type of personnel.
Gant: One thing we do is we have people that work with us that maybe you’re not leading with my firm. They may be an accountant or an attorney, have another occupation that one would relate them to, but they happen to hold a real estate license with me. That’s a big generator for us because again, I’m focused on that relationship and what they bring to the table more than I am leading with my company. So that business broker you’re referring to happens to have another company and he’s one of the best in the business. His name’s Ken Kapp with Allston Consulting. He’s amazing. I’m very lucky to have people like that around me. It gives us another layer of involvement that we wouldn’t have otherwise and we’re able to continue to develop those relationships with the client and add to what we’re able to do.
Jason: Cool. Well as we near the end of our episode, which I can’t believe, time flies when we’re having fun. I think when we enjoy and we’re passionate about what we do the time really does move on. As we leave, I want to ask you, you know I follow you pretty closely, what you do, but I know you’re always working on, and maybe you can’t divulge, but you got any projects that are coming up that you can, maybe I guess tease the listeners about and maybe come back in future episodes and tell us a little bit more about?
Gant: We have a lot of fun things happening. We’ve been very active with restaurants as well lately. That’s been an area that we have enjoyed. We’ve also been very active with investment because with the stock market being at the high, it’s lost a little ground here and there, but I think people are looking to diversify. I think they want to invest in what they know. Most people know their neighborhoods and they know real estate. They know homes. They know apartments. We’ve been active with that quite a bit. That’s been fun for us. Especially when somebody is looking to add a couple pieces of property to their retirement savings. It really is a great way to diversify from the marketable securities and it’s a way that you can sustain your net worth and grow it without having a lot of turbulence and the fluctuation of other markets.
Jason: I think that’s a great point because most people have done well for themselves and they do a lot of investing in the market. Some people may not even know what they’re investing in but with real estate it’s tangible. You know exactly where your money’s going. You can touch it, feel it. It is a sound investment and it is a great way to diversify.
Gant: We’re starting to crowd fund. That’s becoming an area that I think is going to be the future of real estate investing because a lot of people are interested in buying certain properties but they don’t want to deal with the direct management of it. They also like to diversity internally as well. They don’t want to be the only owner. We invest along with them. We have done a project recently where we did crowd fund and it’s been very successful.
Jason: That sounds fascinating and I think that might be the teaser for another episode because I think, I do get people all the time approaching me about wanting to invest. They love what I do and they love real estate but they may not want to invest a million or 2 million dollars in a project. It sounds like that might be a great intro.
Gant, I want to thank you again for coming out today and joining me on the podcast. It’s really been enlightening for me and look forward to having you back again in the near future.
Gant: Thank you. I really appreciate it. It’s been great working with you and knowing you for 30 years.