In 2011, Houston REALTOR® magazine interviewed 1967 HAR President Julio S. Laguarta as part of our “HAR: Then and Now” series, which looked back at the Association’s rich history through the eyes of its past leaders. With Laguarta’s recent passing, we once again share his interview with you, our readers.
Q: What were the circumstances that first brought you in to HAR?
A: I joined the Association in 1956. It was the Board of REALTORS® back then and I was just out of the University of Texas. I was encouraged to join by Charlie Bell who was [HAR President and CEO] Bob Hale’s predecessor at that time, through my dad who was an associate member of the Board. He was head of the real estate department at Humble Oil. The Board at that time was very aggressive from a standpoint of seeking new members. You had to have two existing members endorse you and sign your application in order to be processed by the committee.
Q: How different was the structure of the Board back then?
A: At that time the membership was bifurcated in that you had REALTOR® members, brokers, sales associates who were members of the Board and the state association, but not members of the national Association, so they really couldn’t call themselves REALTORS®. Then there were associate members who were not members. They were title company people or like my dad who was sort of in the business but not specifically in the brokerage business and not builders or developers. And then there were affiliate members, and affiliate members were associate members that paid more money.
Q: What are some of the highlights of your real estate career?
A: It was a proud day when I got my REALTOR® pin, which was the old logo background of a high rise and a community with five stars on it which was for the five members that I had been successful in recruiting.
In 1975, I was President of TAR. I am the only President that ever won in an election by the floor. Usually you go Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, First Vice President, President. I went Regional Vice President, 1st Vice President, President. I skipped those two steps in there. I stood up and said, “Gentlemen, I will agree to withdraw my name from nomination on one condition and that is that you can stand there and look me in the eye and tell me I’m not qualified.” So we went to the floor and we won with 89 percent of the vote.
Then I went on to be Chairman of the Legislative Committee. And in the Committee, under Bud Miller, I came up with the idea to create the Real Estate Research Center. I had the privilege of serving as the initial Chairman. Tony Meeks, who was our Director of Education, had a friend who was on the faculty at A&M and he said, “Why don’t we go meet with this friend of mine at A&M and see if A&M would embrace the program.” Pat explained what we were trying to do and he said, “We will back you 100 percent and would love to have that at Texas A&M.” It was a marriage made in heaven.
One of my highlights the year I was chairman was when we had a legislative dinner in the Washington building and I was seated next to a relatively young congressman from Wyoming named Dick Cheney. We remained good friends because he was good friends with Al Abrams, who was the staff person that we hired to be our first Vice President to be in charge of political affairs for NAR.
I also had the privilege of being involved with the REALTORS®’ National Marketing Institute – the CCIM. I was President of the CCIM and was part of the faculty that taught the first CCIM portion in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I traveled all around the country teaching those programs. It was something I enjoyed doing and that was very parallel with my business which was commercial here in Houston.
I know that one of the highlights during my year as President of NAR was when we invited President Ronald Reagan to speak to our group. We met in the Oval Office with President Reagan and Elizabeth Dole, who was his Chief of Staff. Then when we concluded our meeting, we got in the presidential limousine and drove from the White House to the Hilton Hotel. It was a year and a day after he had been shot at the very same hotel.
Q: What advice would you offer a new member who’s starting a career in real estate?
A: Conduct your life with integrity, be honest in your dealings, work hard, understand that your client is the one that is paying you and that you serve. It is only through superior service that you are not only going to get paid for this transaction, but be paid for subsequent transactions.