100-year-old real-estate broker has no plans to retire
Ebby Halliday of Dallas, who started her own firm in 1945, presides over Texas' largest independent residential brokerage. She says: 'I worked like a dog but acted like a lady.'
Dallas' "First Lady of Real Estate" celebrated her 100th birthday this month, with no plans to retire from the company she founded 66 years ago.
Ebby Halliday runs Ebby Halliday Realtors, which has more than 1,600 agents and generates $3.5 billion in sales a year as Texas' largest independent residential brokerage.
"Why would I retire when there’s nothing I would rather do?" she said to Jessica Rush of Star Local News.
Halliday (all the Texas news stories call her "Ebby") started in real estate in the early 1940s, when she was running a hat boutique. The husband of one of her clients wondered if, because she sold hats, she could also sell his experimental concrete houses. "The next time you visit your friend who sells the crazy hats, ask her if she has any ideas how to sell my crazy houses," the husband said to his wife, according to the Star Local News article.
In the days before staging and model homes were common, she decorated one of the houses and ended up selling 52 homes in nine months.
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Halliday says she remembers when real-estate agents carried their listings around in their pockets. She was instrumental in bringing the multiple-listing service to Texas. She embraced computer use early and grew her agency into a full-service brokerage, providing relocation services, property management and mortgages.
She shared her story in a Q&A with Realtor Magazine's Barbara Ballinger in 2006. This is how she described her work ethic: "I worked like a dog but acted like a lady."
Halliday also plays the ukulele and makes up songs, which she sings to the people she meets. She serenaded Ross Perot on his 80th birthday with an original piece.
Mary Frances Burleson, who started at Ebby Halliday Realtors as a temporary receptionist 50 years ago and now is the company's CEO, learned the business from Halliday. This is how she describes the secret to Halliday's success, from Realtor Magazine:
She reads people very, very well. She remembers an agent's name and knows to ask about his wife and kids. She’s also great at sharing everything she knows and has become the Pied Piper of an industry that she’s passionate about, inspiring others to join. She's also become a Pied Piper in her community, showing how to get involved.
We don't know if Halliday is the oldest working Realtor in the United States, but she is certainly among a select few. George W. Johnson of metropolitan Seattle, who died on March 10, worked as a Realtor until six days before his death at age 98.
Halliday: We are passionate about our work and hope we are as fortunate as you. You are an inspiration to us !!! We wish you the best !! stonebridgetitle (dot) com
What an inspiration! It's lovely to hear about such a passionate Realtor.
--Community Builder @Realtor.com
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.