Closing On A Centennial
Led by CEO Suzanne Young, Honolulu Board of REALTORS has been the go-to source for real estate membership and the neighborhoods it serves for 100 years.
Honolulu Board of REALTORS has been a voice for O‘ahu’s real estate industry for the last century, influencing everything from policymaking at the highest level to a family’s personal homebuying journey. Now, as the island’s largest trade organization celebrates its 100th anniversary, HBR also pays homage to its new tagline for 2022 that accurately reflects all that its 7,000-plus real estate agents are: housing advocates, community builders and good neighbors.
HBR remains a go-to resource for policymakers and does extensive research to provide them with data and information about the market. All that behind-the-scenes work makes for better regulations that benefit local families that dream of homeownership. But that’s just one arm of HBR’s multifaceted approach to being a champion for the local real estate market. The other has to do with its extensive membership — HBR is the 50th largest in the nation, out of 1,100 boards — and through diligent effort, HBR’s Realtors are the cream of the crop. The organization asks members to commit to a code of ethics and requires rigorous ongoing education specific to Hawai‘i. That influx of information helps real estate agents keep up with the latest policies and determine if new guidelines will affect homebuyers and sellers.
“We’re the link between the constantly changing policies that are passed and making sure our Realtors stay on top of all of it,” notes Suzanne Young, who’s been with HBR for more than three decades, serving as CEO for the past seven years. “We provide education to Realtors, and our Realtors are the link to individuals. All of this means that you’re working with true professionals when you’re making that big step of purchasing or selling a home.”
HBR was educating real estate licensees before there was even a formal agency regulating the industry, and has been involved in key legislative policies for housing over the decades. Young envisions even more collaborative work moving forward. She expects the organization to continue to play a pivotal role in the affordable housing conversation, making sure developers and policymakers keep in mind the buyers and sellers they’re serving.
As the island’s landscape changes, Young is filled with optimism when thinking about O‘ahu’s real estate future.
“Never before has housing had this attention that it’s had recently,” she says. “All of that has redirected the attention toward affordable housing.”
And, even in the face of intimidating headlines about the real estate market — including the pandemic’s effect on the industry, the shortage of inventory and rising mortgage interest rates — she has a word of encouragement for homeowners.
“It’s important for us to make sure people know they can have hope,” Young says. “Whether it’s themselves or their parents or kids, the journey to homeownership is possible. Our goal is to make sure that people still know there’s possibilities for them if they plan, prepare and reach out to work with a professional to get educated. We’re the place you can come if you need help or information.”
That concept of hope extends past the emotional and into the tangible through the trade organization’s homebuyer education program, aptly titled HOPE (Housing Opportunities are Possible for Everyone).
“It’s a great place to start,” Young continues. “I’ve referred so many people to our HOPE program.”
The initiative partners with Hawai‘i HomeOwnership Center, which educates homebuyers on requirements for loans, and offers coaching, counseling and more. Plus, those working with an HBR real estate agent save on the Hawai‘i HomeOwnership Center membership fee. Visit hicentral.com/hope to learn more.
“Nothing gives us greater satisfaction than celebrating when our Realtors help first-time homebuyers, when local kama‘āina become homeowners,” Young notes. “We know that homeowners create strong families and communities.”
Young will be the first to acknowledge that HBR’s agents are among the most gracious people she knows, and it shows in the way they give back. To help its members make an impact on those around them, HBR has implemented its REALTORS Care Fund to offer financial assistance wherever necessary. This year, the goal was to raise $100,000 for 10 local housing agencies.
Also part of the 2022 celebration is the 100 Acts project that most recently wrapped its fall “Share a Pair of Footwear” campaign in preparation for the school year. Donations from HBR real estate agents went to Boys & Girls Clubs on the island, as well as schools on the North Shore.
“Realtors are everywhere in the community, and so many collaborate with other businesses,” explains Young. “We also did the mahalo postcard campaign to allow them to thank individuals they work with.”
Everyone from contractors and cleaners to gift basket makers and hair dressers got a special thanks from the Realtor in their life. The effort saw agents across the island give “mahalo” cards to people who help them get the job done, take a picture with them and then post it to social media. Each week, a drawing would be held and the winning HBR member and their community partner would win a gift card.
“We’re surrounded by people in our community who don’t always get thanked for what they do, and this was our little way of showing appreciation to them,” Young adds.
HBR was on the move — even more so, says Young — during the pandemic, gifting more than $200,000 to the community during that time. The organization also launched Tech for Teachers to equip 217 educators at more than 60 schools on O‘ahu and Moloka‘i with monitors and headphones to conduct virtual learning.
HBR real estate agents are neighborhood experts, who live and work in the communities they serve, and while the membership list is extensive, Young has a tried-and-true suggestion for finding someone to work with.
“We always recommend checking with family and friends,” she says. “There needs to be a personal connection. You can then check online (at hicentral.com), which has a directory of all of our Realtors. Interview them, interview several, until you feel that connection.”
But before even finding an agent, Young notes there’s one question she gets asked quite a bit: Is right now a good time to buy a home?
“The right time to buy is when you’re in position, and it’s the right house and you’re prepared,” she explains.
And when that time comes, the members of HBR will be there to help.