Realtors celebrate a century of service
In 2011, the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors (GTAR) will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Founded by Thomas Hammond as the eight-member Tampa Real Estate Board, the organization has grown to more than 6,700 members. That makes it the sixth largest real estate association in Florida and the 28th largest in the United States, according to Vernon Taylor, president. As a trade organization, GTAR naturally works to further the interests of its members, but according to Carol Austin, chief executive officer, the association's main focus is to serve as the collective voice for the real estate profession. "I think our involvement with the community is a very important part of what we do," Austin explains. "We are very active in protecting property rights for both homeowners and commercial property owners. There is a lot of legislation that affects nearly every aspect of real estate, and we work hard to seek out the best candidates for office who will protect private property rights." Members of GTAR live and work in the communities throughout the Tampa Bay area, which gives them a double incentive to work to improve the quality of life in those communities. Everyone wants to live in a clean, safe neighborhood and the better the community, the easier it is to sell real estate in that area."We wanted to help people with affordable housing, which is why we formed the Realtors Care Foundation of GTAR," Austin continues. "The foundation is run by a separate board of directors and looks at a number of areas in which we can help people, such as education and disaster relief, but the main focus is on down payment assistance." "We have been involved with a variety of issues that help grow the community, including property rights," Taylor adds. "Our association spearheaded the Light The Night to light up downtown Tampa a couple of years ago. The community has always been an important focus because we are part of the community, and we believe in it and want to see it grow." GTAR works with several community organizations, including Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay, James Ranch, Good Samaritan Migrant Ministries, Voices For Children, Real Estate Lives and Habitat for Humanity. Bill Hunt, a Realtor and communications chairman for GTAR, says that even the association's efforts to serve its members benefit the community. "GTAR provides education and resources to allow Realtors to perform their job at the highest level," Hunt explains. "There are advanced education programs that further a Realtor's knowledge and help to keep them on the cutting edge of information, trends and technology in all areas of real estate. When a property buyer or seller uses a Realtor, they are getting more than someone with a real estate license. They are getting someone who is held to a higher standard, above and beyond the laws that govern our industry." GTAR will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a number of special functions that include people from the National Association of Realtors as well as other local chapters, according to Taylor, and the association is focused on doing even more in the future. "The entire real estate industry continues to evolve and Realtors are much more mobile," Hunt says. "They don't spend as much time in an office and GTAR understands those changes and offers courses in the new technologies to help its members succeed." Despite the advances in technology, Austin says there always will be a need for members to meet and network and cooperate in "being the voice of real estate, protecting private property rights, maintaining the highest standards of integrity and being fiscally responsible." "For our anniversary, we are promoting what GTAR has done for the community over the past 100 years and what we will hopefully continue to do for the next 100 years," Taylor adds. For information, visit www.GTAR.org, or call (813) 879-7010.