Reflections of Toni C. Nelson, 2005 HAR Chair
Q: Describe what HAR was like organizationally during your year – board structure, membership size and any other unique features.
A: In 2005, HAR had already risen to national prominence as an innovative leader and technological powerhouse, so it was quite easy for me to carry the torch forward. Membership was in the neighborhood of 22,000 and we became the second largest association in the country that year. The real estate industry was booming and yet, at national conferences, we were constantly asked, “Is real estate in a bubble?” We knew Houston real estate wasn’t a participant in the bubble. Unfortunately, when the bubble did burst, the impact trickled down to Houston. We are so fortunate to live in Houston where we experienced a slower economy, but not the devastation felt by the rest of the country. Of course, now with 11 months of consecutive growth – Houston is back and stronger than before.
Q: What was the most controversial issue during your year as HAR chair?
A: The largest controversy in 2005 centered on minimum services of brokerage and it was brought to TREC for a ruling. New business models were evolving and the issue shed light on the fact that everyone, including TREC, had to take a good long look at old paradigms and see if they fit the new age in our industry. I think everyone just wanted to play on a level playing field. After many fiery debates at TAR, TREC and in our board meetings – as always, it was resolved peacefully.
Q: What were some of the hot issues in Houston during that time – politically, socially or otherwise?
A: I think the biggest shock for 2005 is how the REALTOR® family (local, state and national) came together to form a foundation to help the victims of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, which occurred in December 2004. Little did we know that we ourselves would soon be in need of our own foundation. In the summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and left thousands homeless in its wake. I have never been so proud to be a REALTOR® at this moment in disaster. I saw so many members come together to help victims of the hurricane. Many members offered their own homes as shelter. And, of course, HAR opened its generous heart again to contribute to a foundation and assist with dues to help REALTORS®in need. We did not have a Trade Expo that year because those displaced by the hurricane were still calling Reliant Center home. It was a small price to pay.
Q: What do you consider the greatest accomplishment of your year?
A: HAR introduced service ratings to the membership. We also implemented a way, which still exists today, for customers to rate the services they receive from their REALTOR®. I started the year with the statement, “We have a duty and an obligation to reach down and pull others up – “ and Client Service Ratings was one of many ways we were able to demonstrate that client experiences count and can help you get more business, too.
Q: Do you have any funny or memorable moments to share from your term?
A: In Washington, D.C., we ate lunch at the Republican Club before our meetings scheduled with Congressman Tom Delay and others. I had on white pants and a waiter spilled the entire table’s  glasses of iced tea down my back and rear. There was no time to return to the hotel and change before the meeting. The waiter gave me a napkin and I wore that on my derriere while addressing my congressman and others.
Q: What would you consider the greatest innovation at HAR since the conclusion of your chairmanship?
A: Market Insight – I think when you combine the knowledge resources of CSS, Broker Metrics [Terradatum] and HAR.com status reports and traffic count, you give the consumer the best opportunity to make a good decision about pricing his home and/or buying one. I’m on board with any initiative that enables REALTORS® to help people get where they want to go better, faster and less costly. REALTORS® are the finest people I know.
Houston REALTOR® will visit with another former HAR Chair in the June 2012 edition.