David Gunderman In Their Own Words interview

David Gunderman

Score Card

  • $100 + million in individual sales in 2016; Approximately $200 million in team sales
  • # 75 on “Wall St. Journal/Real Trends Top 1000 Agents in the U.S.” list for 2016 (Team Sales)
  • # 29 “Leading 100 Agents in the Bay Area”  list for 2016 (Individual Sales)
  • Most successful team in the East Bay every year since 2011
  • Second most successful team at Alain Pinel Realtors

David Gunderman breaks the mold. As an  accomplished former Broadway actor, Gay Rights activist and three times married man (to the same partner), he sports a 20 year personal and professional relationship that has positioned both he and his partner as popular team leaders in East Bay real estate, in addition to being proud parents of two teenagers.  This personable and charismatic top producer radiates an ebullient love of job that helps explain his success, and a personal credo that places family above business and ethics above reward.

On the early years
I was born in Los Angeles and was always an over-achiever. I had the theater bug as a youngster in high school. I won a prestigious award, gained theatrical representation as a result, and started auditioning for movies and plays. I ended up at UCLA majoring in Drama, all the while, working in professional theater and appearing in commercials. That helped pay my way through college. I also studied at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) in London and the Commedia dell’arte in Naples.

I was planning to go to law school, and as I was studying for the LSAT, I was cast in a Broadway show, “Meet Me in St. Louis.”  I thought, “Well, this will look good on my law school applications” so I moved to New York and did the show.  Soon after, I was cast in another Broadway show. In fact, I shared a dressing room with J.K. Simmons, who recently won an Oscar for his performance in Whiplash. That led to a 10 year acting career, mercifully without having to wait tables.

We were on a national tour, and while we were performing in San Francisco I met Andrew Raskopf who became my husband and business partner. After 18 months of a long-distance relationship, I moved to San Francisco, ended up as a manager for a major tech publication, taught at SFSU and finally found my calling in real estate.

Andrew is a true Renaissance Man—started his career as a dancer with American Ballet Theater during the Baryshnikov years; has been everything from a monk to a bee-keeper; was a partner in the Sedona Grill, in Berkeley; and a partner in a marketing/ad agency. He’s extraordinary—crazy, wonderful, unpredictable. He says what’s on his mind, and he challenges us constantly.  He’s also supremely evolved.  He has such a great understanding of human nature.

Andrew and I were married three times—in our back yard in 2001 in a Domestic Partnership ceremony; in 2003, when Gavin Newsome disobeyed the law by handing out the marriage certificates that were later nullified; and again in 2008 during the window of time that people were allowed to marry legally.  Our household is comprised  of our two fantastic kids—Katie, an extraordinary athlete, and academic with a heart of gold; Jake, the outdoorsman  and Bear Grylls clone with a Daniel Boulud palette; and Alice our next door neighbor who went from ad hoc baby-sitter to live-in, adopted grandmother.  For an unconventional family, we’re as conventional as it gets.

On his current practice
I went into real estate holding my nose.  I held the somewhat common perception at the time that it was a quasi-used-car salesman profession, and that it was predatory.  But we bought a house and I had a great experience with our agent who brought such a surprising level of heart and professionalism to the experience that the lightbulb went on. I thought, “Well, I can do this for a while and see what it’s like”. What I didn’t anticipate was how quickly I would fall in love with the business.

Andrew and I specialize in East Bay real estate—Piedmont, Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda.   We don’t have $10million+ transactions in this area, so our average sale is approximately $1,300,000. But we do well in the $2-3 million range. We also have a heavy transaction load—more than 150 last year.

Our 8 person support team is comprised of Andrew and me, (the Rainmakers), a full-time Project Manager who gets the homes ready for sale, a full-time Creative Director who is in charge of marketing and brand elevation, a Marketing Coordinator, a Social Media coordinator, a buyers’ agent (with two more currently  on-hire), and  a Transaction Manager. Between marketing support and salary overhead, we spend approximately 20% of gross revenues. You have to make a significant commitment to your business. It needs food to grow.

On David Gunderman—the man
I’m an adoptee, so the concept of nature versus nurture is very interesting to me.  I grew up thinking that I had self-actualized because there are a lot of ways I am different from my family who raised me.  When I turned 30, I decided to find my birth parents.  When I found my birth mother, what was so shocking to me was how much of what I had perceived to be self-actualization was actually genetic. We have so much that is so similar in our core personality.  But I do credit my core ethics to my father and my mother. I also think my experience in theater and what it is to be gay—that all contributes to who I am today.

For my 50th birthday, my daughter Katie gave me a Mason jar that said “The 50 Things that I Love about My Dad.”  There are 50 colorful Post-It notes in it, and when I need a boost or a little perspective, I pull one out and read what she thinks is great about me as her dad. I’m rationing them because I love them so much. The last one I read said, “Because all my friends like you.”  To hear that from a teenager meant the world to me.

On David Gunderman—the professional
I’m “one part head, one part heart.” To me success in this business comes from really understanding human psychology and marrying that to business acumen. The theater made me tough. It taught me

to be self-aware and develop a level of grit and perseverance. I also think that a lot of the empathy I’ve developed has come from observing human nature while operating outside of the dominant culture.  It’s a lot about being gay.  What has also helped is that I view my business choices and decisions through the same lens as the average consumer. As a consumer, I am very, very touchy.  I don’t like being solicited. And that’s how I approach my dealings with clients.

I admit to being driven by ambition, but what drives me is a real sense of justice.  I want things to be just and fair.  I’m always looking for the win-win for our clients. One of the interesting conundrums in life is finding yourself in a negotiation and you realize you’re representing the bad guy. You’re already in a fiduciary relationship so it’s not something you can easily walk away from.  You have to become very detached and professional, and work your way through it.

You have to somehow find a way to differentiate yourself.  When I started my career in Alameda 20 years ago, somebody told me, “Alameda is a conservative town.  Don’t be too out.”  I took that and everything else I was warned about and used it as a road map of what not to do.  A newspaper article said, “David, who moved here with his husband from San Francisco…”  I made sure that the first sentence was about being gay because I knew that it would help me break through the noise.  I think our career began with the market perception, “Who are those two dads who are going into real estate?”

On where the real estate market is headed
My prediction: We’ll hang on to the gains from 2016, and remain flat. But what could actually make it soft or mushy are interest rate hikes and affordability.  I’ve never felt more insecure about predicting the future because obviously our geopolitical times are unlike any other. I think buyers are a bit fatigued by home costs and competitive bidding, so as interest rates go up, I sense that we’re going to feel a subtle softening.

I’m optimistic about the East Bay. It remains hot because downtown Oakland is becoming an extraordinary market.  Inventory is low.  Jobs are coming in droves—I’m told there are five new jobs for every new house being built.  These trends will keep our market robust.  For years, we’ve seen people move here from San Francisco and the South Bay because of home affordability. Now they’re coming here because they want to live here and be part of the East Bay Renaissance.

“In Their Own Words” The 2017 Series is brought to you in partnership with:

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