From left: Orange County Association of Realtors CEO Ann Garti, Richard Haggerty, deputy executive director of Westchester Putnam Association of Realtors and Bill Thorne, executive director of the Rockland County Board of Realtors
In the face of declining memberships, three Hudson Valley real estate associations
will join forces in the new year, after the last of the boards voted in favor of a merger
The Westchester Putnam Association of Realtors, the Orange County Association of
Realtors and the Rockland County Board of Realtors started merger negotiations earlier
this month, but the tie-up was not official until the Orange County group voted to combine
with the others.
“My members… see the dramatic changes in the industry and see our membership
declining as a result of the conditions in the real estate industry,” said Ann Garti, CEO of
the Orange County association. “Although we certainly didn’t have compelling financial
reasons to do so at this time, [a merger] seemed like a very smart decision to be made
while we still had choices.”
The merger will go into effect Jan. 1, creating one real estate board that will oversee
9,500 members in Westchester, Putnam, Orange and Rockland counties. The group plans
to use the name Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, pending approval from the
National Association of Realtors. A spokesperson for NAR said the organization does not
comment on name changes.
“There’s been a contraction in the real estate market, certainly over the last three years,
and it’s also led to a contraction in the real estate industry,” said Richard Haggerty,
deputy executive director of the 7,500-member WPAR, explaining that consolidation of
the three organizations is necessary to continue providing the same services to members.
Rockland County’s membership levels have dropped, causing a decline in membership
dues and a squeeze on resources, said the association’s president, Bill Thorne.
“With a substantial decrease in membership, it obviously affects the finances and the
ability to provide the services required,” Thorne said. Rockland County is anticipating a
roughly 15 percent decrease in memberships over the next year, he said.
The merger appears to have the support of the vast majority of the groups’ members.
At a WPAR meeting Oct. 24, only six voters of a roomful of 500 members opposed the
combination, Haggerty said. At an Oct. 26 meeting in Rockland, 147 of the 153 members
in attendance voted in favor of the combination, with one abstaining, Thorne said.
Orange County, there were fewer than 20 votes opposing the merger among the 400
members in attendance, Haggerty said.
The goal is also to merge the two multiple listing services now in operation in the area,
WPAR’s Empire Access Multiple Listing Service and Orange County’s Greater Hudson
Valley Multiple Listing Service, the latter which is also used by Rockland County agents.
That could take between 12 and 24 months to implement, since the boards have existing
contracts with MLS vendors. In the meantime, agents will have data sharing access to
WPAR is itself made up of a 2009 merger between Westchester County and Putnam
County real estate associations.