PRESIDENT'S CORNER: Charting a New Course for HGAR

HGAR's primary mission is to advocate on behalf of our members and our industry so you can succeed. My primary goal has been to engage with you and make HGAR stronger and well positioned to weather any storm.

Tony D'Anzica, 2023 HGAR President
Tony D'Anzica, 2023 HGAR President

I learned a great deal from many of our current and past leaders about setting the right tone, staying open to ideas, and fostering a culture of respect, collaboration and compromise.

I hope I lived up to their expectations—and yours. As my presidency winds down, let me take a few moments to reflect on this year.

My primary goal has been to engage with our members. Only through engagement can you increase participation, foster a sense of community and develop new leaders.

We started by reinvigorating our Young Professionals Network. This allowed HGAR to connect with hundreds of new members for the first time, host almost 20 events in every single county, and attract the support of new affiliates and sponsors.

We also built a new framework for a series of events we call “County Days,” which for the first time was scheduled in every single county. These newly reimagined County Days gave every member the opportunity to engage directly with HGAR staff and leadership. Also featured were local elected officials, local business leaders, and local economic development council representatives who discussed local initiatives, real estate development projects, infrastructure projects, and government policies and their impact on members’ businesses in each of their respective counties.

Due to increased engagement in every single county, this year we received nearly double the applications for HGAR leadership positions compared to prior years.

Next year, approximately 11 leaders will serve on HGAR’s Board either for the very first time or as a graduate of our highly successful Leadership Accelerator Program (LAP). The incredible diversity – in terms of race, color, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, etc - of our current and incoming leadership team, Member Day award winners, and LAP class, speaks for itself and is a testament to the success of our engagement initiatives in increasing the diversity and inclusiveness of this great Association.

Every Realtor leader must instill in our members the importance of advocacy and the indispensable role of RPAC in championing and promoting Realtor causes. As a trade association, our primary mission is to advocate on behalf of our members and our industry so that you and your businesses can succeed. Our members listened, and this year more than 100 of them attended Lobby Day in Albany—many for the first time. It was HGAR’s largest delegation to Lobby Day ever—and the largest in NYSAR history.

Our members also recognize the importance of RPAC. While member dues pay for member services, only RPAC contributions help elect candidates who support Realtor causes. This year, our Directors set the tone by pledging more than $11,000 in RPAC contributions at our first Board meeting. To date, HGAR has already broken its own RPAC fundraising record by more than $50,000, leaving us just a few thousand dollars short of our $288,025 goal. However, given the industry challenges we are facing, we need your help to meet our goal. If you have not contributed to RPAC, please do so by the deadline of Nov. 24, 2023.

While advocacy, engagement, and leadership development are critical to our success, we still have to manage an organization with over 13,000 members and millions of dollars in assets. We must never be distracted from improving the level of services we provide to our members, elevating our professionalism, demonstrating our value to consumers, promoting fair housing, and focusing on the management and operation of HGAR.

On January 1st, we found ourselves without a permanent CEO for the first time in 42 years. While that void created a sense of uncertainty, it also prompted introspection, self-examination and a commitment to chart a new course. We conducted a thoughtful, diligent, nationwide search for a new CEO, and after six months of hard work, Lynda Fernandez was unanimously approved by our Board of Directors. With her impressive background in marketing, accounting, technology, mergers, and public relations, as well as her leadership experience, including at the largest Realtor association in the US, we are fortunate to have Lynda leading HGAR into the future.

This year, we tackled one of our biggest and most impactful projects—a review and assessment of the role and value of our newspaper, Real Estate In-Depth. After extensive deliberation involving multiple stakeholders, including staff, HGAR members and leadership, our Board voted unanimously to adopt our committee’s recommendation to launch a new, more vibrant and robust digital platform for Real Estate In-Depth that will roll out this January.

While the print production of Real Estate In-Depth will end in December, our decision will result in an annual savings that will exceed $200,000, while creating a new platform that will engage more members, offer more varied and dynamic content, and create opportunities to develop new streams of non-dues revenue.

To improve financial oversight and optimize management of HGAR’S assets, we also streamlined our budget process, revised our investment policy in light of changing market conditions and higher interest rates, and worked with the staff to ensure closer oversight of income and expenses for every major event at every stage of programming.

In light of our current needs and our expansion into New York City, this year we re-launched our initiative to analyze and reassess the value of our Bronx office building. Soon our committee will complete its work and make a recommendation to our Board that will re-position this million-dollar asset in a way that will benefit our members for years to come.

Thanks to the efforts of our Global Business Council, HGAR was just awarded NAR's 2023 Platinum Global Achievement Award, one of NAR’s highest global honors.

This prestigious award recognizes our global business outreach and programming that included welcoming our Portuguese bilateral partners in their first trade mission to New York City and our successful Global Real Estate Summit. This year’s Global Real Estate Summit welcomed hundreds of attendees from 13 states and three countries. This Summit was sponsored by 11 Realtor associations, making it the largest collaboration of Realtor associations in the country.

HGAR also hosted our 2nd annual DEI Summit, together with NAR and multiple local and state Realtor associations across our region, making it the largest DEI Realtor symposium in the country.

After passage of Local Law 97 in New York City and the All-Electric Building Act in NYS—laws that will dramatically impact the real estate industry—we launched a new Sustainability Committee. This committee will help HGAR become the regional voice of our industry so that Realtor interests are considered and addressed responsibly in the development of new climate initiatives.

We also strengthened our partnership with Fordham University, the Westchester County Association, the Business Council of Westchester, and the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors. We collaborated with every regional economic development council in every HGAR county. We re-energized our Commercial and Investment Division with more frequent and more innovative programming. We’re also working with the OneKey Board of Managers and the Long Island Board of Realtors to improve the commercial experience in OneKey MLS by updating the commercial fields in the MLS.

There is much more to do, including the launching of our Strategic Planning Committee that will guide the course of HGAR for the next three years. We must also continue to prepare for a potential loss in membership, which may be impacted by the pending antitrust lawsuits against NAR and a slowing real estate market. However, I’m confident that our hard work has made HGAR much stronger, financially sounder, and well positioned to weather any storm!

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