Alex HodaraCEO of Colivo BSBA'10
Real estate CEO Alex Hodara (BSBA´10) acquired 70 properties between 2011 and 2016. He’s 29.
WHEN ALEX HODARA began working as a realtor his freshman year, it cost him every cent of his $2,000 savings. The investment? Taxicabs, to speed his frequent trips between campus and rental showings around Boston. Within four months, he’d recouped his expenses by brokering rentals to other students. By his junior year, he’d formed his own rental company, with 15 agents reporting to him. And by the time he graduated, he’d negotiated sales deals for 20 properties in Greater Boston, landing on Businessweek’s list of best young entrepreneurs in 2010 and the Forbes “30 Under 30” list—in the real estate category—in 2011.
At every step, Hodara (BSBA’10) says, he’s asked himself one question: What are you willing to lose?
“I’m not a big fan of going outside my comfort levels, so throughout my career I’ve always calculated the downside,” he says. “Figure out what it is you can lose—time, money, sleep—and then get focused. You know your downside and you’re okay with it, so strive for that upside.”
Hodara honed his entrepreneurship skills early, raising money during high school by importing poker chips from China during a boom in the game’s popularity, and selling them online. When he arrived at BU, he quickly spotted a new niche market: classmates and their parents who were frustrated navigating the Boston rental market. “Everyone was always looking for an apartment, but they had a general distrust of salespeople,” he says. “I thought my peers would trust me.”
His instincts proved correct, and his business boomed. But a career as a rental broker, however profitable, wasn’t Hodara’s endgame; he wanted to own his own company. He established Hodara Real Estate Group in 2008, while still a junior, and hired a team of agents, all college students, to show and rent properties; soon after, the company added sales to its portfolio, drawing on the connections Hodara had already established with local landlords and BU-affiliated families.
In 2010, he spent six months putting together a seven residential building deal in Boston that would have netted the company its biggest-ever return. Hodara’s mind raced ahead with plans to expand the brokerage. Then, the day before the closing, the whole deal fell apart when the buyers tried (unsuccessfully) to renegotiate the deal directly with the sellers. It was a major setback, Hodara says; he’d been counting on the funds and had already begun celebrating. But it also taught him a lesson.
“I learned that you can never get ahead of yourself, and you need to stay focused on finishing the deal,” he says. “And I realized that I wanted to be accountable to myself, not other people.”
Though Hodara was the head of his own company, he was still vulnerable to the whims of buyers and sellers. After the deal collapsed, he began transitioning out of rentals and sales, and started acquiring and managing properties on his own. The students that made up the bulk of his clientele were graduating, and looking for places that young professionals could afford. If he could raise enough money to buy properties in transitioning neighborhoods with more affordable prices, he thought, he’d corner an up-and-coming market. When he bought and developed his first property, he proved himself a viable competitor; then, he says, he could approach investors about partnering. The strategy echoed his initial risk-what-you-can approach, and yielded a similar payoff: between 2011 and 2016, Hodara says, he joined with investors and acquired 70 properties in Boston and Jersey City. Making the Forbes list cemented his reputation as a forward-thinking entrepreneur, and helped him secure the professional contacts he needed to expand.
Now, Hodara has his eye on growth once again. Inspired by the success of coworking and ride-sharing business models, he’s transitioning Hodara Real Estate into Colivo, a new company billed as an experiment in co-living. Potential tenants, called members, sign up for around $1,000 per month (all inclusive) and are matched with roommates in fully furnished, multibedroom apartments in Colivo-owned complexes. Members get gym memberships, weekly housecleaning, Netflix memberships, PlayStation 4 gaming systems, and regular Colivo-sponsored social events. It’s a concept that Hodara feels his team is uniquely suited to execute, given its long history catering to the needs of the young professional demographic.
“I’ve spent a decade learning how millennials want to live, where they want to live, and what they want in their homes,” he says. “Colivo is focused on them and their technology habits, financial limitations, and lifestyle needs.”
Colivo is run in Boston and Jersey City by a five-person team, and just as the rental agents for Hodara’s college apartments were all college students, the team that manages Colivo’s properties falls right into the company’s demographic target, ages 22 to 34. It’s an important part of his success, Hodara says: to have a team in place that really understands the company’s mission and values, and creates the culture that the company wants to perpetuate. “And I get to work with the people I choose to work with, and have so much fun with them,” he says.
Of course, someone who was a CEO before he earned his bachelor’s degree isn’t sitting back to see how his plans unfold. He hopes to expand Colivo to 100 units before the end of the year and establish a presence in San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon. He has faith in the company, which has a 100 percent occupancy-retention rate. And he has faith in his own track record, too.