Kay Hunt standing in front of a steel bridge in Vancouver.

Kay Hunt is well aware of the real estate industry’s cyclical nature, and she also knows that things can get pretty dicey when multiple buyers are bidding on an increasingly-smaller pool of available properties. This managing broker at Imagine Homes Realty, LLC, in Vancouver, also knows that real estate is a team sport where all players need to work from the same playbook—and with a certain level of respect and civility for one another—in order to successfully shepherd deals through to the closing table. 

“This is a highly relationship-based business regardless of the current market conditions or the competition that might exist among real estate professionals,” says Hunt, who has a simple piece of advice for agents who may not subscribe to that philosophy:  If you don’t absolutely love what you are doing, then it may not be right for you. 

“Because of our current competitive market, I often go back to some advice I got during my rookie years:  There is enough business to go around as long as we are not selfish or self-serving,” Hunt says. “Remember the cause and effect of karma is ‘what goes around, comes around.’” 

I Think You’d Be Great! 

A third-generation Japanese American who was born and raised in Hawaii, Hunt has been licensed since 1997. Before that, she was a high school art teacher and an administrator for various non-profit arts organizations. After she and her husband Ed moved from California to Arkansas to Washington over a short, two-year span—disrupting her teaching career—Hunt decided to be a stay-at-home mom to her two children. 

“I had been living in California for 23 years so I was very well connected to the community there,” says Hunt. “When we moved to Arkansas, I was suddenly without a job and without friends; I decided to stay home.”

A sign hanging outside of a building in Washington would soon change Hunt’s mind and point her down an entirely different career path. “Driving down the street in Vancouver one day, I saw a sign for a real estate school,” Hunt recalls. “I told my husband I was interested in doing this and he said, ‘I think you’d be great!’ The rest is history.”

Hanging her license at a company that changed ownership several times in the years that followed, Hunt immediately saw the benefits of having a flexible, make-your-own-hours career. She was able to attend her children’s functions while still making a living. “Anything that was going on with them, I was able to do,” says Hunt. “That was a great time for me, with all of that flexibility.” 

Kay Hunt in front of a house door.Education Junkie

Having moved to her second brokerage in 2008, Hunt landed at Imagine Homes Realty three years ago. She earned her managing broker’s license two years ago, not to officially “manage” an office, but rather to add to her long list of educational achievements and credentials. Among her designations are the CRS, GRI, and AHWD. “I’m an education junkie,” Hunt says. “I’m just continually learning. In order to stay abreast of all the changes and happenings in our industry, you just have to be.” 

For example, Hunt always winds up with more than 60 credit hours over what she actually needs for license renewal. Most recently, she took a two-day social media class with Katie Lance and has also attended a Washington REALTORS® Legal Symposium. “It’s whatever interests me at the time,” says Hunt, “whether it’s required or not.” 

Hunt also believes in being a team player who’s willing to bend and flex for the good of the client, even when facing major hurdles such as low (and waning) inventory levels. To adapt, Hunt says she’s adjusted her negotiation style and “just about everything in the way I do business.” But with 21 years of experience under her belt, and several real estate cycles to show for it during that time, Hunt maintains the same standards of doing business regardless of market conditions. 

In most cases, those “standards” include cultivating strong relationships with her fellow REALTORS®, and with brokers from other states. Unfortunately, she sees real estate professionals becoming “more and more detached” from their co-brokers and other providers during the deal-making process. While technology obviously facilitates communications and makes it easier to transfer information among those providers, it can also make things highly impersonal. 

“Overall, technology has helped our industry,” says Hunt, “but there is no replacement for picking up the phone or having a face-to face conversation.”

Listening to Clients 

Hunt believes in doing business guided by licensing laws and the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. “I believe in the ‘R’ and do what I can to be a voice for my peers,” says Hunt, who became active at the Clark County Association of REALTORS® in 2011, serving on the Professional Standards Committee. She went on to Chair the Grievance Committee in 2013 and today is Chair of the Professional Standards and Diversity Committees. She’s also a member of the association’s Board of Directors. 

In 2014, Hunt began serving on WR’s Board, including Diversity Committee Chair in 2016 and Chair of the Professional Standards Committee (a role she’s currently in). “I truly believe that my commitment to my business and to my industry are what set me apart,” says Hunt, who in 2015 received the Horizon Award from Clark County Association of REALTORS® for her participation at the association and was also a runner-up for a 2017 cover story in The Residential Specialist (CRS’s magazine) that she wrote about going the extra mile for clients.

Through her service with Washington REALTORS®, Hunt has met many brokers from across the state. Recently, one of her past clients was moving to the Bothell area for a job transfer. She referred them to one of the agents she knew through Washington REALTORS® and worked in that area. “My clients loved her,” says Hunt, who adds that the home offered an “incredible view” and the classic style of the home was very reminiscent of the house she’d sold the same clients a few years ago in Clark County. “As REALTORS®, we both listened to the client and apparently we heard the same thing.”

A few other deals stand out in Hunt’s mind when she thinks about the interesting home sales that she’s been involved with over the last two decades. In one example, she was selling a home to friend who, upon seeing a huge bison head hung above the bar in the family room, immediately asked if it could be included in the sale. As it happened, the owners had purchased the item for their father’s birthday years earlier, and were pondering exactly what to do with it now that they were selling his home. “They were so glad that someone wanted it,” Hunt says, “so my buyer got the bison head.” This is the kind of win-win outcome that she loves.

A Long Time Coming

Hunt has also worked with her share of “long-term buyers” who know that they want to acquire property but aren’t quite sure of what they want. A patient woman by nature, Hunt took an office walk-in one day when no one else was on the floor shift. The man had walked in from the street, asking about property. “He was very specific about what he wanted, and I wound up working with him for two years,” Hunt explains. “Nothing really struck his fancy.” 

During that two-year period, however, the buyer kept telling Hunt that “money was no object,” so she knew that if she could match him up with the right place, the other pieces would likely fall into place. “Finally, one day he said, ‘I’d like to see this house,’ so we went to see it,” Hunt recounts. When he put an offer in on the multimillion-dollar property, she asked if he needed a mortgage. “No,” he told her, “it will be all cash.”

“It was funny how someone who walked in off the street turned into such a great client,” says Hunt, “despite the work that went into getting him into the right home.”

The Golden Child

Ed Hunt is fond of calling his wife “The Golden Child,” because of the good luck that tends to follow her around. “I’ve been very blessed throughout my entire life,” says Hunt, who is a big advocate of giving—and of giving back—to her community and to the real estate industry. “I think that does come back to you.”

Some of those involvements include an annual Meals on Wheels event in November that Hunt’s company participates in. “We go to the grocery store and stand out in front for 2-hour shifts, collecting donations from the store’s patrons,” says Hunt. “We’ve done this for about six years now.” She’s also active in her local Habitat for Humanity chapter, for which Imagine Homes Realty’s broker-owner is president. “We’re now all getting very involved with Habitat.”

A Group of Like-Minded Co-Workers

As one of eight women who currently work at Imagine Homes Realty, Hunt loves the camaraderie that she shares with all of her team members. While she technically works on her own—without any assistants or direct team members—Hunt considers the unique relationships she has with her co-workers to be as closely aligned and supportive as it gets. 

“We are all collaborative with our ideas, supportive of each other personally and professionally, and assist each other whenever a need arises,” says Hunt. “As a company, we’re pretty distinctive in this aspect. Without this support and the level of trust that I place with them, I could not thrive as I do.”

For example, the company doesn’t have private offices. Instead, it has a wide-open room filled with roundtables where everyone works, plus a conference room for private meetings. Hunt says all eight women are “like-minded” in that they strive for a common level of excellence and ethics and they keep up with the legal aspects of real estate.

“We sit down together and discuss NAR’s Code of Ethics and standards of practice on a regular basis, and we also go through every real estate form,” says Hunt, who enjoys the company’s boutique status, which ensures that everyone receives a high level of hands-on training and education. Asked whether she sees the company growing its head count in the future, Hunt hints that it could be possible. 

With about 90% of her own business generated through referrals from friends, family, and past/present clients, Hunt says she wants to continue growing her business, serving her associations, and helping her community in any way that she can. “I would like to cut back a bit and enjoy my family a little bit more,” says Hunt. “I don’t know if the word ‘retirement’ is even in my vocabulary, but in the not-too-distant future I do look forward to implementing an exit strategy and at least semi-retiring.”    


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