Q: What did the HAR membership look like during your board presidency?
A: Our membership at that point was in the 7,000 or 8,000 range and it was in the top 10 largest boards in the U.S. but certainly not the largest. It encompassed basically the city of Houston and the Houston city limits and some of Harris County.
Q: Was the central office located where it is today, along the Southwest Freeway, in 1976?
A: The year I joined the Board, it was located on Alabama at Main Street in a one-story building that it occupied for many year. We moved [to the present location] either in 1975 or 1976 during my term, I don’t recollect now. And David Cook and I put the acquisition together to acquire this [Central/Southwest Freeway] facility. After we bought it, we initially occupied the downstairs only. We bought it from an insurance company that occupied the upstairs and then later we were able to get the upstairs for expansion.
Q: As you reflect on Houston’s social and political climate in 1976, do you recall what the hot topic was back then?
A: From an HAR Board point of view, there were a number of things still going on relative to integration (expanding board membership) which we successfully accomplished a number of years before. Still, there were different viewpoints on what was fair and equitable and I think we did a much better job here in Houston than NAR at the time. We also at that time had a board member, I’ll let him go unnamed, who punched a fellow in the jaw who was on our board, unfortunately. The fellow he punched was a member of the board but not on the board of directors. He did that because of the commission schedules, where you had a salesman who paid a very small fee and really were their own independent people and kept 95% of the money. That was a new concept that had started in California and was just beginning in Houston, and some of the board members and other members thought that was terrible. But, you know, it’s a free world if they can make it work that way they are entitled to. Since he was on the board of directors when he took this action, he sued the board also and I think the total damages was $36 million which would have put us out of business. I negotiated and settled it for $3,500 dollars, long story. Hated to see us pay, but we really didn’t have many options.
Q: What do you consider the greatest accomplishment of your year?
A: Well in some ways probably the settlement of the lawsuit. But NAR also held its national real estate convention in Houston that year and it is the only time the main fall meeting was ever held here. The winter meeting was held here prior to that. Probably that was an accomplishment also.
Q: As you look at the growth of HAR what stands out as the greatest innovations?
A: Probably the additional high technology that exists and all the capabilities. I think Bob Hale has done a fabulous and marvelous job encouraging those areas. We’ve had some wonderful people before Bob, including Tommy Morton, but I think Bob has taken it to a totally different level.
Q: How has the real estate market changed in the past 35 years?
A: Service was always important and remembering that your client comes first when you’re acting as a broker. But the degree of service and the combination of specialization that it now takes in the somewhat fast and over-information world we live in will be the biggest changes other than the various changes in economies. I would have to say that even today, what we are seeing across the country and here in Houston, is probably not quite as rugged as how it was for Houston between 1983 to 1989-90 in the oil downturn. Our economics were even tougher then than they are now. [Then the oil and gas industry made up] probably 85% of the Houston economy. It still is more than 50% in the energy business, but we are financially diversified today. Although I would say that some of what’s going on is close to as tough as then but maybe not quite as tough. It will pass if one will be innovative and look for opportunities and persevere.
Houston REALTOR® will visit with another HAR Past President in the July 2011 edition.