SAN FRANCISCO — For David Smith, real estate is simple — “[It’s] people over property,” he said to the crowd of eager listeners at Inman Connect.

Smith transitioned to real estate this year after being a pastor, something people close to him were surprised about because real estate agents tend to get a bad rap for being “predatory and flashy” — two words that seem to be the exact opposite of what Smith is all about.

He reassured doubters with this one statement: “I knew if I was going to build my business, I was going to build it my way.”

Confident about his new path, Smith jumped headlong into real estate, not knowing the obstacles that would be in his way.

“Nobody wants to hire a guy with a divinity degree,” said Smith with a chuckle.

Although Smith had his license, business was slow thanks in part to governmental regulations that decelerated the housing market, and he faced personal struggles, too, after losing his home, his life savings and nearly his marriage.

But, Smith dug in and turned to one constant in his life — advocacy.

While waiting for business to pick up, Smith launched “The Local,” a YouTube series that features people in his Langley, British Columbia community.

His first episode featured the men and women building 3 Civic Plaza, a new structure that was bound to change the face of his town. The second episode featured New Hope, a non-profit that helps refugees.

In the video, Smith interviewed the director and shared the stories of refugees who were in various stages of the New Hope process that includes life skills training, education and housing placement over the course of one to two years.

The video quickly went viral, catching the attention of local officials and organizations that wanted to partner with New Hope. According to Smith, the nonprofit includes the video in all of its emails and is still reaping the benefits of it six months later.

“That episode premiered before I even sold a single home,” he said.

But, his fortunes quickly changed as he continued to advocate for people in his community, and in turn, they advocated for him, allowing his fledgling business to finally grow.

Smith said everyone doesn’t have to follow his method to the T, but he challenges everyone to think beyond monetary gains.

“Maybe you don’t have to focus on the most dollar-productive activity,” he said with conviction.

Instead, he said, agents need to think about what they’d bleed for, what they feel compelled to share and what they’d risk it all for.

Smith said the answers to those the questions are the keys to success.

Email Marian McPherson.

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