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HAR: Then and Now Reflections of Sam Feldt, 1968 HAR President

Q: Take us back to 1968 when you served as president of the then-Houston Board of REALTORS®.

A: The Houston Board of REALTORS® had about 2,300 or 2,500 members in 1968. Back then, real estate in Houston was pretty good. We had our problems, too, you know. I think every president runs into unanticipated problems. I think the highlight of my administration was when the police chief made a $50,000 commission on a land sale. He had a real estate license. And some of the non-REALTORS® raised hell that he was able to be a police chief and sell real estate, too. That upset them quite a bit. People were calling the Board of REALTORS® asking why we would permit the chief of police to sell real estate. We had no authority whether he had a license or not. That came from the Texas Real Estate Commission. So we had to deal with that situation and the publicity and kind of smooth things out. We got it settled and I think it was understood we had not control over that at all.

The next big item during my administration was the Civil Rights Act, and that was big, you know. We developed a little pamphlet of information, and in those days, MLS would have breakfast meetings all around different parts of the city and we would go to each meeting and distribute these pamphlets and discuss the Civil Rights Bill.

Q: What are some of the challenges that today’s REALTOR® faces that perhaps you didn’t have when you worked in the business?

A: Surviving. Of course we had to survive during some of the slow times, but it wasn’t nearly as bad. In our slow times or recessions you worked harder you could do enough business to survive. Today it’s even harder to do that. Overall, the economy today affects real estate more adversely than it has any time in the 50 years I was in the business. I think those that survive are to be commended because it is a tough world out there. Very tough.

Q: What should  those who currently work in the real estate business or who are entering the business do to arm themselves for survival?

A: Quit. It depends on the reserve capital they have to survive. Things will pick up again. I don’t know when. Maybe in another two, three, four, five years, and if they can survive that, it’s going to be well worthwhile because there will be a backlog of desires and wants. The excess availability of properties today will not last forever, and when the market changes, REALTORS® will be very busy and there will be a good demand for them.

Q: What stands out in your mind as being the most significant innovation at HAR since you served as president?

A: We have had excellent executives, but I think what really made this Houston organization great was Bob Hale. Bob must be a magician to accomplish what he did. To bring it to where it is today and maintain it in this market and provide all the facilities that are provided. In 1968, we didn’t have all this electronic stuff. I think the best thing we had was a great big bulky machine you could put a telephone on and you could get information, but it was nothing like what you have today. Although we had education [classes], it wasn’t near what is being accomplished today. You can’t compare it. In 42 years, there’s been a lot of progress, and I don’t know if I could handle it. All the information that is available today is immense. A REALTOR® today doesn’t have to run around showing properties or taking contracts from one place to another. He can do it all from his computer. It’s a real time saver. I think it’s fascinating.

Bob’s done a hell of a job with this thing. I’m personally real proud of him. I remember the man before him was Tom Morton, who also was excellent, but I don’t think Tom could have developed [the organization] like Bob has. When Tom died, there was a big argument. Bob was the associate attorney at that time. The problem was Bob wanted the job and some other directors were against that because they didn’t think he could handle being both attorney and executive director. But finally he won out and  took over and said both jobs got too big for him, and we now have another association attorney and he’s just done a hell of a job, I tell you that. All of us past presidents—and I think I can speak for all of us when I say this—have an affection for this association and particularly for the real estate industry. So when you get somebody like Bob to accomplish what he did here, it’s almost unbelievable.

Houston REALTOR® will visit with another HAR Past President in the April 2011 edition.

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