HAR: Then and Now

The Houston Association of REALTORS® has proudly served the real estate needs of the greater Houston area for more than 92 years. As the community has grown, so has the Association, becoming the largest individual membership trade association in Houston and the second largest local association/Board of REALTORS® in the United States.

HAR’s past presidents and chairmen and women recently gathered to reminisce their days serving the organization and discussed the phenomenal growth that has occurred. This is the first in a series by Houston REALTOR® about these conversations.

“What I think is remarkable in going back to look at the history of HAR is to see its evolution and the growth and the depth of its services and influence in this community as an integral part of the economic fiber of the fourth largest city in America and certainly recognized as one of the leading cities in the world,” said Julio Laguarta, who served as HAR president in 1967 and moderated the discussion.
“This Association is growing and becoming of greater importance every day and is looked upon as the recognized expert in the real estate industry,” he added.

David Stirton, who assumed the presidency of HAR in 1958 at the age of 32, recalled that the Association had approximately 500 REALTOR® members back then, with another 500 associate members subsequently joining.

“The association was approximately 1,000 members and we met at the Capanza Restaurant out at South Main Street where Greenbriar crosses Main,” said Stirton. “We had a typical attendance at our meetings of 200 to 400 people and one of our speakers that year was then-Mayor Louis Cutrer.”

Stirton was actually the second member of his family to man the helm of HAR. His father served as executive secretary in 1937 of what was then known as the Houston Board of REALTORS®, and Stirton recalls what things were like back then.

“During World War II, I think the board probably had 200 members and our office was on the ninth floor of the Second National Bank building at Main and Rusk. Dad had – and I remember running it – these metal plates, usually in two stacks, maybe a total of 200 that they would use to send out a monthly newsletter of the Houston Board of REALTORS® in that manner,” explained Stirton. “I think the office had moved there from the second or third floor the Crest Five and Dime store at Main and Capital and then we moved to Lamar and Louisiana, which was eventually torn down for the Hyatt hotel.”

Laguarta added: “I was a brand new member of the Houston Board of Realtors® in 1956 and Frank Sharp made an offer to the board to buy the southeast corner of Lake and West Alabama, across the street from the Builders Association building – with a nice parking lot and an auditorium where they held meetings. We bought the property and before we ever built the building, somebody came along and offered us three times what we paid for it to sell the location, so we took the offer. We were getting the building fund together and we were getting contributions made.

People were able to give $25 or $100 because we sure didn’t have enough resources to do that, and we ended up buying a property on West Alabama just west of where the Southwest Freeway was ultimately to come through. Hanes Hurlock, who was a past president, sold us the piece of property and then gave us a lot behind it for expansion to put the print shop because MLS was just growing by leaps and bounds. We ultimately outgrew that facility and bought the property on the Southwest Freeway.”

Stirton said he likes what he sees of the Association these days, especially when he picks up his copy of the Houston Chronicle. “The thing that always touches me is when I read the morning paper there’s about an eighth of a page ad across the bottom of the page and it says, ‘REALTORS® take care of ya.’ And that’s just a great testimonial for what Bob (Hale) and his staff have done. And I think to me one of the greatest skills is how in the world does he keep these incredible people on that staff, which Halliburton or anybody else would give their eye and teeth for, and they know they can go someplace else and maybe make more money but they don’t have that atmosphere of a team that makes things happens so I pass that on to Bob also.”

More reflections on HAR history in our next installment in November.