More than 1,700 members—a record!—registered for the 2023 Texas REALTORS® Winter Meeting that took place in Austin in February. Chairman of the Board Marcus Phipps kicked off the meeting’s Opening Session with a time-lapse video of new signs installed at the top of the Texas REALTORS® building, across the street from the Texas Capitol. “Those people in the Capitol who look out the window? They’ll know where the REALTORS® are,” Phipps said.

Immediate Past Chairman Russell Berry and Texas REALTORS® CEO/President Travis Kessler asked an Opening Session panel of industry experts questions about the market, the REALTOR® association, housing affordability, government activity, and future trends. The panelists were NAR Immediate Past President Leslie Rouda Smith, NAR Vice President of Governmental Advocacy Joe Harris, Texas Real Estate Research Center Assistant Research Economist Clare Losey, T3 Sixty CEO/President Jack Miller, and Texas REALTORS® Chairman Marcus Phipps.

Members enjoyed education sessions covering top trends, actionable advice, and emerging topics in real estate.

Kicking off the commercial program, Research Economist Harold Hunt from the Texas Real Estate Research Center spoke optimistically about the state of the economy. He stated that while inflation is a concern, the consensus is the U.S. will have a mild recession—and that the Texas economy should perform better than other states. During the Commercial Spaces & Electric Vehicle Charging Stations panel, Huyen Do, Founder/Managing Partner of DROX Investment Group, Anup Parikh, Owner of Pangea Charging, and Kimberly Gray, Founder/CEO of EVSERT, discussed the challenges and benefits of adding charging stations to rental and commercial properties. “There are opportunities in multi-family apartments, even if there are only two to three electric cars; it’s a profit center,” said Parikh.

The One to Four Contract session with Darian Rausch was an in-depth walkthrough of the commonly used form. For risk mitigation, he said, “It’s best practice to show all three disclosure notices—TREC, Texas REALTORS®, and local—and let the seller choose which one.”

“You have to make connections with people,” said Socar Chatmon-Thomas, at the Building Your Referral Network: Locally and Abroad session. She advised taking CE in other cities, states, and countries to meet and network with the local agents to get out-of-the-area referrals.

During A Deeper Dive into Errors & Omissions Insurance for Property Managers and Lease Specialists, Barney Schwartz, SVP, Assured Partners of Texas, tackled the rise of TREC complaints, the importance of multifactor authentication, emotional support animals, and more.

John Saba, an attorney at the law firm Wittliff Cutter, discussed copyright law and how members can avoid claims and litigation in Protect Yourself From Online Copyright Issues. He stated, “If you take away one thing from this session, get permission in writing and get it before photos are created.”

During the Tech/MLS Forum, Denee Evans, CEO of Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS), shared best practices and resources for members who volunteer in a leadership capacity at their local MLS.

Instructor Ginger Unger taught the Introduction to Risk Reduction course, where she walked through areas to be aware of to prevent lawsuits. There was a discussion and examples given on risks related to property management, fair housing, commercial, farm & ranch, and competency.

At the Housing Forum, Tray Bates, Texas REALTORS® Vice President of Governmental Affairs, spoke on the need to improve housing affordability and accessibility.

At the Strategic Planning Forum, Committee Chairman Brian Sales introduced the association’s new strategic plan and moderated a panel discussion, with 2021 Texas REALTORS® Chairman Marvin Jolly, TREC Chairman Scott Kesner, and Texas REALTORS® Executive Vice President Mike Barnett discussing trends and issues facing the association and the real estate industry. Much of the meeting was dedicated to getting input from the audience about the value they receive from Texas REALTORS® and how the association can most effectively help members achieve success.

Attendees at the Governmental Affairs Forum, Overcoming Political Tribalism, learned strategies to overcome partisanship. Stephen Hawkins, Director, Research at More in Common, presented data showing the deep-rooted political divide in our country but also said the two political camps have many similarities. Former U.S. Congressman Will Hurd (R-Helotes) talked about what that divide currently looks like in national and statewide politics. The forum concluded with awards for advocacy in 2022: the Greater Texoma Association of REALTORS® was awarded the Lehman Local Board Governmental Affairs Achievement Award; Emaly Baehr of the Central Hill Country Board of REALTORS® won the Grassroots Advocate of the Year award.

This year during the Public Policy Forum, Public Policy Oversight Committee Chairman Jennifer Wauhob moderated a panel of Texas REALTORS® Governmental Affairs staff, who discussed real estate-related issues at the Texas Capitol. According to panelists, property tax reform and infrastructure investment will be top of mind during the ongoing 88th Texas Legislature.

Recognition for Outstanding Contributions

Texas REALTORS® honored several members, programs, and local associations for their work in 2022.

  • William C. Jennings Award for commercial transaction of the year: Imran Bhaidani, Houston
  • Educator of the Year: Socar Chatmon-Thomas, Austin
  • Tom D. Morton Award for excellence by an association executive: Ken Hogan, Abilene
  • Texas REALTOR® Good Neighbor Award: Sherri Strickland, Victoria
  • Education, Innovation category: REALTOR® Vet Connect, San Antonio Board of REALTORS®
  • Education, Marketing category: Down Payment Connect Series, San Antonio Board of REALTORS®
  • Education, Series or Shorts category: Market Shift Conversation Series, Austin Board of REALTORS®
  • Education, Legal category: Redefining Risk for Today’s Brokerages, Houston Board of REALTORS®

Texas REALTOR® of the Year

Joanne Justice, from Arlington, was honored at the STARs Reception as the 2022 Texas REALTOR® of the Year in recognition of her service to the real estate industry and the community. Justice has held numerous positions throughout the years, including ARBOR president, Texas REALTORS® regional vice president, TREC commissioner, and NAR director, and has served on various Texas REALTORS® committees, including MLS, Professional Standards, and Legal Review. She is currently the NAR subcommittee chairman for Risk Management.

Justice was hooked from the first Texas REALTORS® meeting she was invited to back in 1980. After her first meeting, she started volunteering and getting involved in committees. She has loved every minute of it. Her advice to others is, “Go for the knowledge you can gain, the relationships you can make, and the growth you can have in the industry.” She encourages other REALTORS® to invite their colleagues to get involved to become more knowledgeable and professional.

“Real estate is not a part-time business to me,” she says. “I owe it to my clients to get what they need.” She has made a point to carve out the appropriate time for encouragement, negotiations, problem-solving, or whatever else needs to be done. “Each transaction is different; you learn and grow from each one.”

Although Justice has worked hard to be successful, she is grateful that the business has given her the flexibility to be there for her son. In addition, she thanks her husband for his support.

“It’s a great business to be a part of. It’s been a blessing. And I want to pass it on.”

Board of Directors Highlights

The Texas REALTORS® Board of Directors met to recap committees’ activity, share updates, and take actions.

Kevin Brown from California, the Texas-endorsed candidate for 2024 NAR First Vice President, thanked Texas REALTORS® for the endorsement and the hospitality throughout the meeting.

NAR Immediate Past President Leslie Rouda Smith spoke of the progress on sustainability initiatives started during her term; the NAR strategic plan; progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts; and consumer outreach about the value of the MLS. Texas REALTORS® CEO/President Travis Kessler honored three retiring members of the REALTOR® organization: Greater Tyler Board of REALTORS® President & CEO Ed Moore (49 years in the REALTOR® organization); Greater Metro West Association of REALTORS® CEO Carolyn Wall (26 years in the REALTOR® organization); and Texas REALTORS® Director of Professional Development Debra Hernandez (17 years with the association).

Due to a vacancy on the Texas REALTORS® Leadership Team, the board approved Jef Conn as 2023 Chairman-Elect effective immediately. The board also approved Christy Gessler as 2023 Secretary/Treasurer effective immediately. The board elected Jennifer Wauhob as 2024 Secretary/Treasurer.

The following Texas REALTORS® were elected as regional vice presidents for two-year terms beginning Dec. 1: Region 1 – Jason Ault, Amarillo; Region 3 – J.R. Martinez, Greater Fort Worth; Region 3 – Tim Schoendorf, Greater Denton/Wise County; Region 4 – David Long, Collin County; Region 4 – Bob Baker, Collin County; Region 8 – Kriston Wood, Williamson County; Region 10 – Tanya Jones, Galveston; Region 11 – Carl Leatherman, Harlingen; Region 12 – Ashley Gentry, MetroTex; Region 12 – Ed Eakin, MetroTex; Region 12 – Nancy Garcia, MetroTex; Region 13 – Lorena Pena, San Antonio; Region 13 – Sara Briseño Gerrish, San Antonio; Region 13 – Tracie Hasslocher, San Antonio; Region 13 – Marquis Williams, San Antonio; Region 14 – Cathy Trevino, Houston; Region 14 – Chaille Ralph, Houston; Region 14 – Kat Robinson, Houston; Region 14 – Mario Arriaga, Houston; Region 14 – Richard Miranda, Houston; Region 14 – Theresa Hill, Houston; Region 15 – Susie Kang, Austin; Region 15 – David Pruitt, Austin; Region 15 – Leonard Guerrero, Austin; Region 16 – DJ Mora, El Paso; Kat Robinson was elected to fill an RVP vacancy in Region 14 through Nov. 30.

Christy Gessler elected 2023 Secretary/Treasurer

When the Texas REALTORS® Board of Directors elected 2023 Secretary/Treasurer Jef Conn to fill the vacant 2023 chairman-elect position, the board then elected Christy Gessler as 2023 secretary/treasurer. Here are a few insights she shared about the association, her business, and herself.

Christy Gessler

Austin  |  512•818•3463  |

Gessler is the broker and owner of Freedom 512 Real Estate Group, an independent brokerage in Central Texas. She serves as an NAR Director and was the 2012 board president of the Williamson County Association of REALTORS®. She has served on numerous committees in the state and local REALTOR® associations. Gessler is a graduate of the NAR Leadership Academy and the Texas REALTORS® Leadership Program. She is a real estate instructor and the creator of The Dependent Agent podcast.
  • We need to tout our true value as REALTORS® … to show consumers who we really are—that we’re not only out there doing business, but also educating, serving, and advocating.
  • Members may not know about the depth and breadth of the research we have. Our staff and leaders put together stunningly good materials. The things we do in Texas get noticed. You hear it at the national level.
  • I just took the new Risk Reduction CE course. I am really jazzed about that. Take the course when you can.
  • I was taught that real estate is a referral-based business. I’ve always believed in the quality of the relationships instead of the quantity.
  • I got into real estate because Mary Miner, who’s involved in TREPAC, was another mom at the small private school in Austin my sons attended. And she said to me, “How about real estate?” She took me under her wing. I was a marketing manager for her for a year before earning my license. I learned the ropes from her and how to serve clients.
  • Since about 2012, I’ve been a non-competing broker. I do residential sales and leases and refer out everything else. I’ve managed companies as small as eight and as large as 218.
  • I don’t like texting in business. I am a traditionalist. I like talking with people and following up in writing afterward.
  • From age 7 to high school, I was a semi-pro tennis player. I almost went to the U.S. Open one year. Later I joined the Travis County Sheriff’s Department and became the first deputized female park ranger. Whether we’re talking about sports, law enforcement, or real estate, you need to cultivate a mastery of your craft through dedication and repetition, repetition, repetition.
  • My husband, Brian, and I love going out in our RV. It gives me a sense of adventure. I’m working on getting to every state in the union. But you know, just getting in the RV and going to the Highland Lakes is my favorite. I can notice the open spots in my schedule and sneak out there. I like to wander, to get out on the open road, and put on some good music.