Q: What were the pressing concerns of the day during your term in 1964?
A: There was a great push at the time to have zoning in Houston. Our board members had all checked zoning in various places. It’s a wonderful spot for politicians to get a little extra “mordida”. There is a place where money talks. But in Houston at that time, we had a City Hall where there was no bribery going on to our knowledge. Mayor Louis Welch, who was a REALTOR®, became “the REALTORS’® mayor.” He was just No. 1 then – we loved him dearly and his public works [department was] faultless. Lots of public works departments have friends in [government] that approve of paying for jobs that aren’t finished and then the city gets stuck with that. Welch had a fellow in public works who kept the [department’s] nose to the grindstone on contracts to the city.
We had a zoning fight that year. I was elected to be the rep for the REALTORS® and they had a big get-together at the Rice Hotel. They had a ballroom that held 12,000 and it was packed with pro- and con- zoning speakers. I had my speech all made out, and when I got home, I had a call from a friend and he was just cussing me out. I said, “What’s your problem?” He said, “Well according to this reporter, you didn’t say anything for us.” And I said, “I got news for you. You’re listening to the reporter and not what I said. I can send you a copy of my talk which I followed completely.” [Zoning was voted] down and it has been a great help in Houston as has the fact that we have a building of trades here that is free enterprise and we have the best housing in the country with the cheapest price because we don’t have the ungodly requirements they have in other places.
Q: Looking back at the organization, do you see HAR playing an effective role as an advocate?
A: One of the main things we were concerned with was ethics. We had good ethics committees. The first time I was in the real estate business, there was a lady in Bellaire who was considered the queen of real estate there. If you bought a house from her and made a bid on a house and paid her earnest money and it didn’t work through, the buyer never saw the earnest money again. So that’s what was going on, and after I left, we worked with TAR trying to get a good real estate law passed. We sat down and wrote what we think was needed for educating REALTORS®. REALTOR® MCE has been a great help but we didn’t have any of that [back then]. I think you needed to pay a $15 or $25 real estate fee and have no judgments against you. You didn’t have to know anything about real estate; you probably didn’t even need to know how to spell “real estate” to get your license. We worked on that and had a good ethics committee here in Houston. I think we led the state in ethics.
Q: What do you think the challenges of today’s REALTOR® are like compared to when you were actively working in the business?
A: What I see in the future is that the REALTORS® are gonna be back. When I was in one of these MCE classes, the people were worried about how hard it was to make a sale. I said, “Don’t worry. The salesmen are going to come through.” You still need a salesman to sell houses or sell anything. That was one of my great concerns when I was a new broker: is there such a thing as salesmen ship and is it in real estate?
I worked at a company with what was the laziest man you ever saw in your life except when he had a prospect and then you never saw a more organized dynamo. But he knew how to get in there and he had been in the wholesale grocery service in England. So he had to learn salesmanship and he did, and I learned a lot from him. Salesmanship is an art. People are skittish about putting up a lot of money. Usually [buying a home] the biggest investment you will make in your whole lifetime. They use to tell us don’t oversell because there’s nothing worse than getting in a magnificent house and not being able to make the mortgage payments, and we see we have a lot of that now. I’m afraid that our financial authorities are trying to get Humpty Dumpty back together again by raising the amount of money floating around and it’s not gonna work. You can’t put Humpty back together.
We as REALTORS® are going to be in demand and, of course, I don’t know whether you’ve ever sold a house, it’s getting two people to work together. Because when you buy a house, you get somebody to pay more than anyone else to pay for it. Then on the seller side, the seller sells his property cheaper than anybody else would have sold that property. As salesmen put that together and finally the owner or the seller says, “You haven’t done anything. I’m not gonna pay that commission; all you’ve done is a few visits.” He’s signed the contract and I’ve signed it. A REALTOR® earns his money in blood, sweat and tears. That’s what I see for the REALTORS®. We will probably reduce in numbers, but the quality of REALTOR® will improve.
Q: What are your thoughts about the Client Experience Rating system HAR established for consumers to evaluate their REALTORS®?
A: A good agent is going to love that. He can just say, “Look at my rating.” The best advertisement is a satisfied customer.
Houston REALTOR® will visit with another HAR Past President in the February 2011 edition