Five Questions With HGAR COO Ann Garti
GOSHEN—At the end of this month a familiar face in the real estate industry in Orange County and the Hudson Valley region will be retiring after more than 40 years of dedicated service.
HGAR Chief Operating Officer Ann Garti, who also serves as the office manager for HGAR’s Goshen office, is retiring on June 30. The affable Garti entered the real estate industry answering a blind ad in the Middletown Times Herald Record. She was hired as the executive officer of the then Orange County Board of Realtors, later to be renamed the Orange County Association of Realtors, in May 1980. She led the organization for 31 years and eight months, growing the organization from a few hundred members to an entity that had as many as 2,900 members and a budget that rose from $42,000 at the start of her tenure to $627,000 and a thriving MLS that had an annual budget of $1.3 million.
Since January 2012, after being a critical part in OCAR’s merger with the Rockland and Westchester associations, Garti has served as the COO of HGAR and has sat in her familiar seat in the Goshen office as office manager. As HGAR Chief Executive Officer Richard Haggerty attests in his column, Garti has shined as an association executive and has displayed tremendous leadership in both good and bad times.
The resident of Cornwall is the mother of three grown men—Mark, Andrew and Christopher. Her partner and her “biggest supporter” for 35 years Ralph Friedel, passed away in 2018. Garti has a picture taken by Real Estate In-Depth photographer John Vecchiolla of her and Ralph dancing at an HGAR function as her computer screen saver in her Goshen office.
She considers her mentor to be George Kohl and added Mary Gray Griffith, Lee Rickie and Dorothy Reid were some of her key supporters during her time with the Orange County Association. She also added that former WPAR CEO P. Gilbert Mercurio was her role model and she considers current HGAR CEO Haggerty as one of her closest friends.
Real Estate In-Depth: Ann, you are retiring after more than 40 years serving the Orange County Association of Realtors, the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors and both organizations’ affiliated MLSs. What would you say were some of your major accomplishments?
Garti: I think that the first thing I would have to say is the merger between the Orange County Association of Realtors and the Rockland County Board of Realtors and the Westchester-Putnam Association of Realtors (predecessor organization to the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors). I think that has enabled us to have an incredible organization that is cost-effective, while representing the best interests of the members by being able to provide a great number of services to the members and a lot of professional development for them as well.
Also, I think that just initially the satisfaction of growing the Orange County Association of Realtors to have been able to see a very tiny organization, grow and develop and have strategic plans for its future and to become financially a very viable organization so that we had protection in times of bad markets where we were able to maintain our services, but at the same time we did not have to raise dues to the members. Those were some of the things that I found gratifying.
Real Estate In-Depth: What were the most difficult periods in your tenure and please explain why?
Garti: I think one of the most difficult periods, which turned out in fact to be one of the successes of the Orange County Association of Realtors, was when the Orange County Multiple Listing Service took over providing multiple listing services to Rockland County. It was contentious, there was an antitrust lawsuit filed against us for $5-million. Also, getting the technology to work for the multiple listing service because we had to convert all of the data from Rockland County and bring it into our system. I lost 15 pounds during the whole process! Ultimately, I think that everybody pretty much would agree that it was very successful and that was good for both organizations. Editor’s Note: OCAR prevailed in the anti-trust suit.
Real Estate In-Depth: What were some of the more beneficial changes that took place in the industry over the past 40 years and is there anything no longer part of the industry that you wish could make a return? Also, do you think the role of the Realtor Association has changed over the years?
Garti: I think the part of the industry that I miss and part of it is just a function of size is that there was more trust. I think a handshake was a very significant way of doing business and I think not only the relationship between the members, but just with the public because the public has changed too in the way they want to do business or not. Products such as Errors & Omissions insurance were practically unheard of practically because people were not constantly afraid of being sued, with or without cause. Those are some of the things I miss.
Some of the great things that have changed obviously is that the technology has just totally made the industry more efficient. The technology it goes without saying has facilitated the availability of information about properties and the speed in which it is available and the fact that our agents can work so much more productively because basically, now the public does a lot of the research before they even make any kind of decision about buying or where they will buy or any of those factors.
I definitely think the role of the association has changed. I think we provide a great deal more service and our endeavors in education and professional development have really expanded. And I think that more than ever our role as advocates for the industry—that is major—how we have expanded our role in terms of lobbying and trying to influence elected officials about what is important to the industry and why. Basically, I am very proud of the fact that most of the things we have advocated for are issues of private property rights, so in a sense I feel we are protecting the public as well as our own industry and our own members.
Real Estate In-Depth: Where do you see the industry heading in the years to come and do you believe Realtors will continue to play a major role in residential and commercial real estate transactions?
Garti: I think everybody has said this so this is not something new—this is still a people relationship kind of industry. I think that while technology has served us very well and will continue to do so and will continue to make the industry even better because of the fact that things like closings won’t take forever and it can make us more efficient in those aspects of getting financing, necessary documents, etc. It is still basically a relationship industry. Particularly in residential (transactions), I believe that selecting your home is an emotional decision. When you buy a house, when you find the house that you love, it’s really an emotional decision. So, I still see a very significant role for Realtors.
Real Estate In-Depth: What are your plans in retirement and do you have any message you wish to convey to your HGAR colleagues and staff?
Garti: My plans in retirement, and this is no surprise to people who know me, is I want to “play in the dirt” because I love to work outside and garden and all of that good stuff and to do some traveling. Morocco has been on my bucket list for some time and so has Turkey, but Turkey isn’t happening for obvious reasons! And I do want to perfect some of my baking skills, so I will spend some time doing that. Also, some of the obvious things like having more time to read and visiting museums and the (New York) Botanical Gardens. I really enjoy that.
To my colleagues and staff, I want to say that I think it is very, very important to enjoy what you do every day and to always give it your best effort. I also think that having been through the pandemic, we haven’t had the opportunity for collegiality that would be the norm so as we have the opportunity to being back in the office I hope they will take advantage of knowing and caring about their co-workers. At the end of the day you have to feel like you have given it your best, it is the most wonderful form of self-satisfaction that you can have.