Dick Gaylord: The Year You'll Get Involved

NAR’s 100th president plans to use his endless energy and decades of experience to show members why it’s smart to make their voices heard.

January 1, 2008

2008 NAR President Richard F. Gaylord CIPS, CRB, CRS®, GRI
Born: November 25, 1943
Hometown: Raised in Steubenville, Ohio, but for more than 35 years has called Long Beach, Calif., home.
Title: Broker-associate with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif.

Richard F. (Dick) Gaylord’s BlackBerry, loaded with more than 1,000 contacts, gets a workout every day, from early in the morning until well after most people have gone to sleep. If the little communication device isn’t buzzing with incoming calls and e-mails, Gaylord’s using it to make calls and send messages of his own.

“He knows more people than anyone I’ve ever met,” says Joel Singer, CEO of the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, where Gaylord served as president in 2000. “It’s amazing. He’s like a walking contact list.”

Gaylord’s vast sphere of influence ranges from U.S. congressmen to real estate investors in his eclectic neighborhood of Belmont Shore in Long Beach, Calif. In fact, he’s so well-known locally that For Sale signs on the front lawn of his listings need only give his first name.

But Gaylord’s true talent is not simply in networking, Singer says. Anyone can shake hands and collect business cards. Rather, Gaylord has a rare ability to make lasting connections with everyone he meets. The names and numbers in his BlackBerry are more than just contacts; they’re his friends.

“He’ll tell you to call him any time, and he really means it,” says Chuck Bonfiglio Sr., broker-owner of Century 21 AAA Realty Inc. in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and president of the Florida Association of REALTORS®. “He genuinely cares about everyone he meets, and that’s why he’s so tremendous with members.”

As he presides over the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® in its 100th year, Gaylord plans to make even more new friends, spending a good chunk of his time talking — and more important, listening — to members at local and state REALTOR® associations across the country.

One of his goals is to make a convincing case for why more members should pursue leadership roles within the REALTOR® organization. His presidential theme, “All Together,” ties in with his philosophy that the organization is at its best with a diverse cross-section of members active on the local, state, and national levels.

“If we truly want to be the voice for everyone involved in real estate, we need to have all of the voices heard,” Gaylord says. “I want this organization to have input from individuals who ordinarily wouldn’t participate. Every member has something to contribute.”

He’s had success on this front before. As president of the California association, Gaylord met as many members as possible, including most of the association’s 1,000-plus member board of directors. “By talking with so many people, he hears a lot of ideas and gets a great feeling for what the organization’s priorities ought to be,” Singer says. “He changed our culture in the sense that he was able to get more people involved.”

Gaylord’s other national association goals for 2008 are to strengthen the relationship between REALTORS® and consumers, to make NAR the most comprehensive source available of real estate information, and to enhance the professionalism of REALTORS®.

He’ll also use his political savvy to help NAR carry out its top legislative priorities: keeping banks out of real estate, creating affordable health insurance for small businesses, making flood insurance available in high-risk areas, and pushing for consumer-friendly reforms to the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.

Always Inclusive

For Gaylord, a top-producing broker-associate at RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, a spirit of inclusiveness has been a defining characteristic since childhood.

Raised in Steubenville, Ohio, Gaylord lived in a community of immigrants brought together by job opportunities at the nearby steel mills. “There were Irish kids, Polish kids, Jewish kids, and Italian kids like me. It was great — we all celebrated holidays together. You might say it’s where I got my first training in the importance of diversity.”

Gaylord lived in a two-flat with his parents, Joseph and Grace, who are now deceased, and his older sister, Joyce. His aunt and uncle and his grandparents lived so close that he could smell their authentic Italian cooking on Sunday afternoons.

“They were all incredible cooks, just incredible,” Gaylord says. “When I think back to my childhood, I probably have more vivid memories of eating than of anything else.”

Gaylord’s grandparents, on both sides of his family, immigrated to the United States from Italy in the 1890s. Upon moving to the new country, his paternal grandparents changed their family name from Gagliardi to Gaylord.

“I grew up with very little, but I don’t remember anything but happiness,” Gaylord says. “I don’t recall my family saying negative things or talking about people they didn’t like.”

Catholic schooling also shaped his personality, not to mention his hygiene. “If our nails weren’t clean we got our hand slapped,” Gaylord recalls. “To this day, my nails are always immaculate and my penmanship is perfect. I didn’t appreciate those lessons at the time but I’m certainly grateful for them now.”

Although neither of Gaylord’s parents were college graduates, they always stressed the importance of higher education. Gaylord’s father, a steel mill superintendent, didn’t want his son to work as hard as steelworkers do to make a living.

A True Consensus Builder

Gaylord followed his parents’ advice and went to college, but his close acquaintances may argue that he works every bit as hard as a steelworker, juggling his bustling real estate business with his demanding duties as president of the nation’s largest trade association.

And then there’s the volunteer work. When Gaylord talks about the importance of community involvement, he practices what he preaches.

As chairman of the personnel commission at Long Beach City College, Gaylord often handles sensitive staff issues — from disciplinary actions to job classifications. “It’s a thankless job that goes well beyond attending meetings,” says Jeff Kellogg, vice chair of the Board of Trustees at Long Beach City College and former vice mayor of Long Beach. “It requires a lot of dedication to learn the unique challenges of community colleges in California.”

Kellogg has been a close friend, and loyal client, of Gaylord since the late 1980s when Kellogg was preparing to run for Long Beach City Council. “Everyone told me that if I was going to run for public office I had to talk to Dick, just because of the knowledge and contacts he had from his long record of being involved in the community.”

Another cause that’s close to Gaylord’s heart, and just about a block from his California-style bungalow, is the Livingston Park Tot Lot. Gaylord is a key board member of the grassroots Tot Lot Committee, which is raising funds for a $300,000 overhaul of the popular park.

“Dick is a true consensus builder,” says Mike DuRee, Long Beach Fire Department captain and chair of the committee. “Our group is made up of people in the community from all walks of life, and Dick has the ability to bring everyone together on a common goal.”

Involvement Pays Off

Gaylord says his volunteer work — particularly his leadership roles with NAR — goes hand-in-hand with his success in real estate. “I’ve taken back twice as much as I’ve given,” he says.

However, he can relate to practitioners who are hesitant to get involved. Gaylord admits he had some reservations when presented with the opportunity to run for president of the Long Beach District Board of REALTORS® (now called the Pacific West Association of REALTORS®) in 1987.

“I was worried that my business would suffer,” he says. “Once I got into the position, I discovered that I was able not only to maintain my business but to grow it.

He served as president of the local board twice, in 1987 and 1992, which prepared him for leading the much larger state association in 2000 — a landmark year in which he also earned the honor of top-producing salesperson at his brokerage.

“Clients love the fact that I’m involved with NAR and that their real estate agent is a leader elected by his peers,” Gaylord says. Another perk of involvement: By being well-known in the real estate community, you earn respect — and referrals — from competitors, he says.

Bundle of Energy

Of course, keeping business humming while serving as a volunteer leader requires excellent time management, keen organization skills, and endless vigor.

“Dick’s energy level is just amazing,” says Bob Stallings, broker-owner of RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists, which has about 95 practitioners in two Long Beach locations. “He’s up early, and he’s over here taking care of business. If I’m not here by 7 or 7:30, I’ll miss him.”

Gaylord is usually awake by 5 a.m. and quickly out the door of his meticulously landscaped home to take his two beloved chows, Mickey and Minnie, on their own individual walks around the neighborhood (see “Meet the chows”). Then it’s down to business — he’s returning calls, checking e-mail, and off to the office where he lays out his day’s activities and delegates work to his licensed assistant.

Gaylord doesn’t linger long at the brokerage, which is why he opted for a modest, windowless office across from the equipment supply room instead of a larger space with views of the palm tree–lined neighborhood. “I won’t be distracted here. And if my equipment should ever break down, I’m in the right place,” Gaylord says with a laugh.

Connecting with Consumers

Having 30 years of in-the-trenches real estate experience, Gaylord brings a practical insight to NAR’s top post.

“I know the effects of the subprime market. I know the effects of higher interest rates. I know the challenges that members face in a market like this,” Gaylord says. “I think that kind of active involvement is a great advantage to my role as an officer of this organization.”

Gaylord feels strongly that, to gain an edge in today’s market, members should pursue continuing education and take full advantage of all the resources available to them through REALTOR.org and elsewhere as part of their NAR membership.

By accessing research reports or reading a daily news e-mail on market trends, for example, practitioners can do a better job of educating clients.

“We must help consumers understand all that we do — in the transaction, in our communities, in the public policy arena and beyond — because it all benefits them,” Gaylord says.

This is an especially critical point to Gaylord, because even with his impressive accomplishments in REALTOR® association leadership, he still sees his most important job as working with buyers and sellers. “I’m proud of what I do,” he says.

And according to his clients, he has every right to be proud.

David Nilsen and his twin brother, Douglas, were college students when they combined their funds and purchased their first fixer-upper investment property with Gaylord’s help. “Other practitioners were too busy to teach younger guys like us how to buy real estate,” David says.

Seventeen years later, the Nilsens, who own Accurate Fishing Products in Corona, Calif., have accumulated roughly $10 million in real estate, including multifamily buildings and their two homes. And Gaylord has represented them every step of the way.

“He knows everyone and everything that’s going on in the community, so he tells us right away when there’s a property we might like,” David says. “We started so small, and Dick has helped us build this incredible bedrock.”

Gaylord’s Road to Real Estate

Dick Gaylord seems a natural for the real estate business. He’s a problem solver, a people person, and organized to a T. But real estate wasn’t on his radar screen when he began his working life.

After earning a business degree in 1966 from the College of Steubenville — an Ohio private liberal arts school known today as Franciscan University of Steubenville — Gaylord received a job offer from IBM but turned it down for an administrative position at the university.

“I found it very appealing at the time to be on a college campus without having to worry about exams,” he says.

It wasn’t long before points west began calling. A visit to see relatives in Las Vegas in 1970 inspired Gaylord to move to Nevada, where he taught real estate classes at universities and private schools in Las Vegas and then in Reno.

But when he set eyes on southern California in 1972, he knew it would be his home. He had taken a trip to see friends in Seal Beach, Calif., just south of Long Beach. “I thought I would die,” Gaylord says. “I’d never seen a palm tree before, other than in a movie or on TV. I feel so spoiled here.”

He quickly settled in the Long Beach area, where he continued to learn the intricacies of real estate by educating others at California State University, Long Beach. Needless to say, he knew the material extremely well by the time he took the real estate licensing exam in 1978 and began working as a practitioner, achieving his dream of being his own boss.

Gaylord still loves to teach, making time throughout the year to instruct classes for local practitioners earning their Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation. “My mother always told me that being a teacher is one of the highest honors that an individual can have. She was right,” Gaylord says.

Meet the Chows

No, they’re not big teddy bears. They’re chows. And they’re Dick Gaylord’s treasured companions.

Anyone who knows Gaylord knows how much he loves Mickey, left, and Minnie.

Mickey’s full name is actually Mickey II; the original Mickey died in March 2007. “I was beside myself,” Gaylord says. “The house was too quiet, and finally I realized I needed another dog.”

He decided on another chow — a puppy he named in honor of the dog he so missed. It took Minnie some time to get used to the rambunctious little pup, but before long the two dogs were living in harmony. Well, almost. “Of course Minnie loves him, but she’s not afraid to put him in his place,” Gaylord says.

Gaylord brushes his regal dogs every day and treats them to their own walks; since Minnie has seniority, she gets to go first. “It’s my way of making her feel special,” Gaylord says.

Beyond simply putting him in a good mood, Gaylord says his dogs inspire him to enjoy life.

“You know the saying ‘work like a dog’? Most of the time, it means all work and no play,” Gaylord says. “But dogs are actually experts at playing, especially when they’re working. You never see a dog sulking when he goes out to fetch the paper.

“We should all take a note from our pets,” he says. “Make your work fun, and view every day as a new opportunity. It’s not all work and no play.”

Kelly Quigley

Kelly Quigley is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.