This special section is the first in a series of articles and profiles about the individuals, departments and services that have forged HAR into the great organization it has become during its 100-year history. We hope you enjoy reading these in the months ahead.

A century of excellence in serving the real estate industry in Houston and across the great state of Texas

The Houston Association of REALTORS® is celebrating its 100th anniversary on Tax Day, April 15. Our nationally renowned organization has undoubtedly grown beyond the wildest imaginations of the 20 Houstonians who banded together at the beginning of the 20th century to exchange ideas about real estate, livestock, hay and grain.

In 1908, this group adopted the name Houston Real Estate and Insurance Exchange, and 10 years later made it all official by chartering the Houston Real Estate Board and affiliating with the National Association of Real Estate Boards—known today as NAR. Judge W.F. Carothers is commonly regarded as the organizer of the original real estate exchange group. In 1920, B.E. Norvell became the organization’s first president.

Little did these men know that a century later, their small group would grow to represent more than 36,000 members. Today, HAR stands as the largest trade association in Houston and second largest local REALTOR® organization in the U.S.

In 1956, the Board of Directors voted to change the official name of the Houston Real Estate Board to the Houston Board of REALTORS® because of the use of the word REALTOR® by similar organizations not affiliated with the Board. In 1990, the Board approved yet another name change, adopting the title of Houston Association of REALTORS® to clarify that the organization is a trade association and not a licensing body.

For years, the group met downtown in the 319 Kress Building and, in 1955, moved into a new building at 716 Dallas at Lamar. In 1961, it became necessary to acquire new office space, and this time the Board relocated its headquarters to 401 W. Alabama where it remained until 1975. That’s when the Board settled into the present location at 3693 Southwest Freeway. In addition to the central location, HAR has three branch offices which offer full membership services in the Bay Area as well as Fort Bend and Montgomery Counties.

Initiated in 1955, decades before the advent of the desktop, laptop and BlackBerry, the original Multiple Listing Service consisted of loose-leaf binder notices and pictures of available properties that were sent out on a weekly basis to Board members. In 1970, the first weekly MLS book was published. Some members recall trudging down to the local association to insert the latest listings into a large binder that quickly became outdated.

As technology advanced, the MLS became computerized, rendering printed books obsolete. In the new Millennium, HAR’s MLS system further evolved with the integration of the system into a Web-based environment through the award-winning website.

Back in 1918, computers and the Internet would have been perceived as creations of science fiction. Today, is one of the most heavily-trafficked real estate websites in the U.S., logging a staggering 1.1 billion hits per year. The award-winning site has undergone a few redesigns along the way and continues to draw praise locally as well as from across the country and around the world for its improved appearance, functionality and member and consumer tools.

Individuals who were at the helm of HAR were designated as presidents until 1996 when the title was changed to chairs/chairmen. Each year, HAR hosts a business meeting and dinner to honor its past presidents and chairs/chairmen who make up the HAR Advisory Committee.

For HAR’s 90th anniversary, Houston REALTOR® magazine sat down with HAR’s past leaders to capture their perspectives on the organization’s growth through the years and identify some of the key developments of their respective terms. Here are some quotes we collected back then from leaders who have since passed away:

David L. Stirton
1958 HAR President
“We were really in the throws of getting into Multiple Listing in the 50s. The other aspect that preceded the Multiple Listing Service was the idea of being a cooperating broker—that through four or five hundred brokers being active, both residential and commercial, we knew each other and so we were able to see a property with a sign on it and we could say, ‘I’ll call Joe and ask him about this.’”

Howard W. Horne
1962 HAR President
“There was a contingent of REALTORS® who said that (the Multiple Listing Service) was socialism, communism, and it should not be a part of the Board of REALTORS®. You can look at that and see where people think that that type of cooperation could be construed that way and a number of our senior members felt so strongly on it that the Multiple Listing Service was kept as a separate organization from the Houston Board of REALTORS®.”

Conrad Bering, Jr.
1970 HAR President
“We started the Houston Realty Breakfast Club and invited the mortgage industry, the title industry, real estate attorneys—all those who were engaged in real estate—to come in and help us because we suddenly discovered that in real estate, politics had to be our business, too.”

Beyond changes in name and the physical location of HAR throughout the years, as well as the addition and evolution of the Multiple Listing Service, HAR now reaches well beyond the greater Houston real estate market to feature thousands of listings from all across the state of Texas through its Homes and Rentals/ branded moniker.

Houston REALTOR® magazine will spotlight the association’s many services and innovations throughout the year, as we celebrate 100 years of excellence to the real estate industry. We will also hear from others who have been instrumental in building the organization into the acclaimed institution it is today.